A female member of the Morrison government has said she “feels bad” for a male staffer who was sacked for performing a lewd sex act in Parliament House.
The Liberal staffer was sacked on Monday after filming himself performing the solo act on the desk of a female MP in shocking revelations aired by Channel 10.
The footage was reportedly shared with a group of Coalition staffers who filmed themselves committing indecent acts inside Parliament House.
On Monday morning, assistant minister Michelle Landry said the “young fellow” at the centre of t he claims was a “good worker” who “loved the place.”
“I feel bad for him about this,” she said.
“But it’s unacceptable behaviour by anyone and it should not happen in workplaces like this.”
Labor senator Kristina Keneally gave a fiery response during a press conference.
“How about feeling bad for the cleaners who had to come in and clean up after that disgusting mess?” she said.
“How about feeling bad for a female MP whose desk was disrespected?”
Nationals senator Matt Canavan said there “must be consequences” for anyone involved but said the men needed support.
“They have made shocking mistakes that they will pay a heavy price for, but I don’t want to see them ostracised or banished from society,” he told Sky News.
“They need to be supported, too, and hopefully learn from their mistakes and get on with their lives.”
Meanwhile, other MPs have been quick to call on politicians and staffers committing lewd acts within Parliament House to be outed to clean up the building’s “toxic” culture.
The culture within parliament has been under scrutiny following months marred by sexual assault allegations and sex scandals.
Independent MP Zali Steggall said parliament needed to confront its “toxic … cultural issues”, and while the conduct was “shocking”, it was not surprising.
“Words nearly fail you to think of just how disgusting that is,” she told the ABC.
“I’m quite astounded by the psychology of this and the desire to film oneself and share.
“It speaks to a pretty outrageous level of complacency, entitlement, that feeling that one would be so above the rules of decent conduct in a workplace, (and) this would somehow pass the test and be acceptable.”
Channel 10 also aired claims sex workers were brought into parliament, while employees regularly had sex in the building’s prayer room.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the government had moved swiftly to identify and sack the man.
He said the behaviour must be “stamped out” but insisted the majority of staffers were hard working and professional.
“It’s embarrassing, it’s sickening, it’s appalling, and it’s not to be tolerated. That’s the stance we are very clearly taking,” he told Sky News.
But Ms Steggall said the incident spoke to the “broader question of the standards expected of staffers” and called for the government to implement a professional stand of conduct.
“Leadership comes from the top,” she said.
“To say it’s just a small minority is actually not engaging with the problem and taking responsibility for the problem.
“I think there needs to be a much better look at taking of responsibility by the government and the Coalition.”
Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten said there should be “zero” tolerance for the “reprehensible” behaviour and called on anyone with knowledge of other acts to come forward.
“No wonder people hate politics … I am sure Prime Minister Morrison would have done his block on this,” he told Channel 9.
“It should be cleaned up and maybe if there is any good comes out of this, it is that people need to report the behaviour.
“We all need to just say: It is a privilege to work here, and that is the attitude which we should adopt all the time.”
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the culture of Parliament House “reeks with toxicity” and she was “beyond (being) shocked anymore”.
“What is wrong with these people? … This is more like local boy college style behaviour that goes unchecked,” she asked Sky News.
“It’s just absolutely revolting. To treat women in this building like this, your female boss, I just find it absolutely disgusting.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday decried the behaviour as “totally unacceptable” and “not good enough”.
“The people who come to work in this building are better than this,” he said in a statement.
“The actions of these individuals show a staggering disrespect for the people who work in parliament and for the ideals parliament is supposed to represent.”