Graphic images and videos of male senior government staff performing sex acts inside Parliament House in Canberra – and in one instance, on the desk of a female MP – have been obtained by 10 News.
In the weeks since news.com.au broke the story of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape by a colleague inside Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ office, a spotlight has been shone on the sexual harassment, misogyny and bullying many women encounter inside the Canberra bubble.
Now, another Parliament House insider has come forward under the condition of anonymity, telling 10’s Political Editor Peter van Onselen that “the culture needs to change”.
“Now is the time to speak up, now is the time to put it on the record. It is a culture of men thinking that they can do whatever they want,” the man, identified only as Tom, said.
He provided the network with a number of photographs and videos recorded inside Parliament House, depicting male staff proudly filming themselves while engaged in blatant sex acts.
One image shows a man sitting at a desk and exposing himself, with a copy of the Parliament House rule book behind him.
Another showed a male pointing to the desk of a female Liberal MP, before performing a solo sex act on it.
“The fact that it is a female MP only adds to the disgrace that it is,” Tom said.
Other images were “so bad” and “shocking” that they couldn’t be shown by the network at all.
“It is surprising and I think a lot of people will be stunned,” he said, of the fact the acts could take place in a building that’s upheld as a paragon of decency and democracy.
Tom also revealed that a group of coalition staffers routinely swap explicit photos of themselves, saying that he has “received so many that I’ve just become immune to it”.
Government staffers and even MPs would also often use a small room on the upper level of Parliament House – known as the prayer or meditation room – as a place to have “a lot” of sex.
“I can probably say there is very little meditation or prayer going on in that room,” said Tom, confirming that he himself has used the room for that purpose.
Tom also revealed that he knew of female and male sex workers being brought into the building “for the pleasure of Coalition MPs”.
He said “a considerable amount of conservative staffers” were engaging in the acts.
While Tom said he didn’t think the “disgusting, disgraceful, privileged” staffers had “broken any laws, morally, they are bankrupt”.
Kristina Keneally, Labor’s home affairs spokeswoman, told The Australianthe behaviour was “disgusting, degrading and utterly disrespectful of female Members of Parliament”.
“Coming on the heels of Brittany Higgins’ brave revelations, the behaviour of these male staffers, with their depraved mockery of a Coalition female MP’s desk as a prop in their obscene videos, is reprehensible … I’m revolted,” Senator Keneally said.
The day after Ms Higgins’ allegations were made public, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the first two of what is now five inquiries into the workplace culture and support for staffers at Parliament House.
“We must continue to address the environment of this place,” Mr Morrison said.
“I believe over the last few years, since this occurred, there have been changes and there have been improvements. But I’m not naive enough to think – and I don’t think any of you are, or anyone else in this place is naive enough to think – that that is not a position of vulnerability that can still occur, whether it’s here or, frankly, in so many other workplaces around this country.
“So, I hope Brittany’s call is a wake-up for all of us from that point of view.”
A second independent inquiry – led by sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins – will also be conducted into the culture of Parliament House, co-ordinated by Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, who said he hoped it will focus on safety for staffers.
In response to the 10 News story, Minister Birmingham said anyone involved in the videos should “pack their bags and leave the building for good”.
“I’m disgusted and appalled at what I see alleged in relation to that story. It shows a complete disregard for all that our parliamentary democracy stands for,” he said.
“It also demonstrates an enormous disrespect for the employing member or senator in relation to those staff and those offices. It equally shows a complete contempt frankly for the Australian taxpayers who have paid the wages of such staff and in my opinion any individuals who engaged in such activity ought to prepare to pack their bags and leave the building for good.
“They should also think intently about apologising not just to their employing member and senator but to the parliament and to the Australian public.”
With that review now underway, Tom said it’s time for the “privileged boys club” of Parliament House to go.
“It needs to start with the removal of this toxic, powerful, privileged boys club that does what it wants, when it wants, where it wants,” he said.