– How the former Sex Discrimination Commissioner tightened the screws on men at work.
Kate Jenkins may have retired from her job as Sex Discrimination Commissioner, but she’s done a brilliant job in ensuring her future employment. Late last year she was boasting on Instagram about her masterstroke:
“Having recommended the new positive duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment, sex discrimination and other unlawful conduct, I’m now focused on helping employers to meet this duty,” she announced cheerfully.
She’s quite shameless in spruiking masterclasses for teaching corporate boards and executive teams to toe the line, asking, “Who best to fast track your compliance than the people who wrote Respect@Work?”
Respect@Work was the report responsible for pushing all this into workplaces. Jenkins and her team create a fiction of workplaces as cesspits of groping men intent on keeping women in their lowly place. The Jenkins team shifted the goal posts to include discrimination rather than just harassment and then redefined sexual harassment as “gender-based violence,” skilfully bringing the huge domestic violence industry on board. They then came up with 55 recommendations they claim would put things right.
That was back in 2020 and the Morrison government, under siege from the Higgins et al claims of their “women’s problem”, dutifully gave the nod to most of them, only baulking at the really crazy stuff.
But along came Labor’s white knight, Attorney-General Dreyfus, who has shown great enthusiasm for tilting the scales of justice against men – the Family Law Bill being a case in point. Making life impossible for the corporate sector is an extra bonus – hence he embraced all the recommendations including the “positive duty” requirement that the former government had rejected and pushed them into law with great alacrity.
What is this positive duty all about? Well, it places an onus on employers to “take reasonable and proportionate measures” to wipe out sex discrimination and harassment in their workplaces. No tall order, eh?
Now bosses have to meet various ill-defined, open-ended requirements or risk punishment. The Attorney-General’s Department estimates compliance will cost employers $226.4 million a year – which big business will pass on to customers, whilst crippling more small businesses already drowning in red tape.
It’s a mighty impressive effort, forcing the entire workforce to dance to their tune – yet one more demonstration of the power and influence of Australia’s feminist movement.
As always, they’ve got away with all manner of deception and double-talk, with our media intent on celebrating their achievements rather than asking the hard questions.
Airbrushing the truth about harassment
Consider the fact that when this all started it was supposed to be just about sexual harassment. Or so Kate Jenkins claimed when she presented Respect@Work to the Morrison government, claiming it “examined the nature and prevalence of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, the drivers of this harassment and measures to address and prevent sexual harassment”.
From the start, the spin was on. The Respect@Work report included data from their 2018 National Survey which included some awkward results. Almost two in five women (39%) and just over one in four men (26%) said they experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the previous five years – this was mainly low-grade harassment involving minor issues such as suggestive comments or jokes (27%), intrusive questions (23%), and inappropriate staring (19%) rather than the more serious unwanted touching/kissing (19%) or inappropriate physical contact (19%).
The inconvenient truth about the high levels of harassment of men was quickly brushed aside by suggesting women may engage in such behaviour as ‘honorary men’ to ‘fit in’ with the dominant culture. Besides, the report added, there was research suggesting that “women’s and men’s perceptions of sexual harassment by the opposite sex tend to differ, with men typically finding sexual harassment by women ‘to be amusing or at least not serious’”. Oh well, that’s ok then. Good reason to just move on.
And move on they did – onto their real agenda, namely presenting sexual harassment as a form of gendered violence. It’s a tactic that precludes any possibility of men being seen as victims. And it invites all the powerful domestic violence bureaucrats to join the celebration.
So, we find an HR industry magazine late last year quoting Patty Kinnersly, Chief Executive of the government’s key domestic violence body, Our Watch, celebrating the new positive duty on employers. Kinnersly neatly explains their broader agenda: “Sexual harassment can be prevented, and change is possible… For women to be safe, they must be equal. Sexual harassment is more likely to occur where gender inequality is normalised.”
Easy-peasy – workplace sexual harassment morphs into a far larger animal requiring workplaces to promote “substantive equality between men and women” – feminist code for discrimination against men. The Morrison government wouldn’t come at that particular recommendation, pointing out they supported “equality of opportunity”. Dreyfus had no such qualms and implemented this and all other outstanding recommendations soon after taking office.
No wonder Kinnersly is happy. The Respect@Work report pushed through more money for her organisation and other key players in the industry. Our Watch is specifically required to carry out “social change strategies” targeting young people.
All of this is now part of the positive duty on workplaces which includes:
- Employers promoting “recognition that sexual harassment is driven by gender inequality”.
- Before hiring, employers are told to check “a candidate’s support for gender equality”.
- They are required to train board members and company officers on feminist views of gender equality and sexual harassment, and
- They are to take “reasonable and proportionate measures to eliminate sex discrimination”.
So, the broader feminist gender equality agenda becomes the responsibility of workplaces across the nation – how’s that for a breathtaking sleight of hand?
There’s more. There’s always more….
Naturally the Commission has found a role for the hordes of corporate HR women all committed to the cause. Remember I wrote about the robots being used to monitor miners’ bad behaviour last year?
The positive duty now includes a clear requirement on employers to monitor employees closely – small businesses should “continuously monitor conduct in workplaces” and “observe how staff interact with each other and customers”. What a recipe for creating division and suspicion between employees.
Note that there’s also talk of removing “barriers to reporting”, promoting “victim-centred and gender-responsive reporting of sexual harassment” and “trauma-informed support” for those making allegations. Then there are increased sanctions on those accused and increased Workers Compensation payouts for those making allegations.
It’s amazing how blatantly these operators spell out where this is all heading. Jenkins and her mob make it clear they believe employers currently investigate allegations too carefully “taking an overly legalistic approach”. They propose that “criminal standards of proof are not appropriate”. Instead, they encourage a “speedy investigation process” and “adopting a victim-centred approach”, recommending company investigations to use a “trauma-informed approach and have a high level of understanding of the gendered drivers of sexual harassment, the way it manifests and its impacts on different groups of workers”. The report doesn’t mention fairness as a priority but instead calls for “prioritising the rights, needs and wants of victims”.
Here’s their summary of the problem: “Current unfair dismissal provisions unduly favour procedural technicalities over the welfare of victims and safe workplaces”.
Hmmm, now what do you suppose they are really promoting here? Walks like a kangaroo court, talks like a kangaroo court….
Here’s a nice job for the HR ladies: making up their own rules, conducting secretive investigations and determining their chosen outcomes, which can include dismissal of the accused. In fact, to make dismissal easier, the report recommends changes to the Fair Work Act. And they suggest increased protection for those who make allegations and are then hauled into court for defamation or similar.
Don’t forget – every single one of Respect@Work’s recommendations has now been accepted by the Federal government.
Hi ho, hi ho. It’s off to court we go.
Normally, if an employee and their employer go to court, then the loser pays the legal bills. Feminism’s lapdog, Dreyfus, has now surpassed himself by coming up with a bill proposing that if an accusation is false or doesn’t succeed in court, the accuser will not have to pay the employer’s costs. And if only one small part of an accusation is upheld, the employer will have to pay all of the accuser’s costs.
Dreyfus has justified the change on the grounds that it will remove a barrier for those making accusations. Naturally employer groups are up in arms, rightly complaining this removes a disincentive to false accusations and speculative proceedings. Janet Albrechtsen, writing in The Australian fears it will intensify “the cult of disgruntled employees demanding ‘go away’ money”.
She writes that this will guarantee that more disgruntled employees will try their luck at “litigation lotto”. And she puts her finger on Labor’s broader agenda: “Worse, the proposal to protect complainants against costs orders is evidence of something more – an increased desire by the Labor government to place a finger on the scales of justice to tilt them against unpopular defendants.” Like men.
Opposition legal affairs spokeswoman Michaelia Cash said the bill effectively “strapped a ‘rocket booster’ to the litigation industry”. And the stakes are huge – payouts for sexual harassment are currently up to $268k but have been rising constantly.
Having Dreyfus in power has certainly proved to be a lawyer’s picnic – first the new Family Law Bill is pushing fathers into court to try to see their children, and now this. A nice little earner which may help cushion the legal sector from the troubled financial times impacting on so many.