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March4Justice organisers demand transparency from SA Parliament

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The organisers of Adelaide’s March4Justice rally, which attracted 8000 women’s justice protestors to Victoria Square on Monday, have called on Parliament’s Standing Orders Committee to publicly reveal whether it is considering the recommendations of a damning sexual harassment report.

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In a media statement this morning, the organising committee of Adelaide’s March4Justice rally called on Legislative Council President John Dawkins to make a public statement about what is being considered as part of a current review of Parliament House’s standing orders.

They also asked Dawkins, who chairs the committee conducting the review, to reveal whether he is considering the recommendations of the Equal Opportunity Commission’s recent report into sexual harassment in State Parliament.

It comes after InDaily reported yesterday that the committee was yet to act on a request made 18 months ago by SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros to allow MPs to breast and bottle feed their babies in the chamber.

The request was also a recommendation of the Equal Opportunity Commission’s review, which was handed down earlier this month.

The Standing Orders Committee, which is comprised entirely of men, has refused to reveal whether it is considering the Equal Opportunity Commission’s recommendations as part of its review, with committee member and Legislative Council clerk Chris Schwarz telling InDaily that the committee’s deliberations “aren’t able to be disclosed”.

But the five organisers of Adelaide’s March4Justice rally – Jessica Carr, Dr Samantha Battams, Raelene Linden, Tanysha Bolger and Kelly Fern – said the Standing Orders Committee “is the venue for decision making to change exclusionary practices” and should reveal what it is considering.

“We call upon the President of the Legislative Council and Chair of the Standing Orders Committee to make a public statement about what is being considered as part of the current review of Standing Orders,” they wrote.

“Does the current review take into consideration Recommendations of the Equal Opportunity Commissioner’s Report?

“Changing exclusionary policies and practices in our halls of Parliament should be a priority.”

The Equal Opportunity Commission recommended that the Standing Orders Committee conduct a review of of standing orders “for gender neutrality and to ensure that orders do not impede women entering political life”.

It also recommended a gender equity and family-friendly workforce strategy be developed that considered flexible hours, and parental and carers leave.

Dawkins told InDaily that the March4Justice organisers had not contacted him directly and “if they want to call on me to do something they should contact me”.

He said the Standing Orders Committee met on Friday and discussed changing the standing orders to allow MPs to breast and bottle feed in the chamber.

“We are intending to meet again as soon as we can, hopefully in April,” he said.

“If people want to contact me and ask me to do something I’ll consider it, but if someone wants to do that by putting out a press release that’s a bit odd.”

Dawkins said under Parliament House rules, he is unable to disclose discussions of the Standing Orders Committee until decisions have been finalised.

He said “parliament as a whole” was dealing with the Equal Opportunity Commission review, but “as far as the Standing Orders Committee is concerned, I’m not going to say anything”.

March4Justice co-organiser Samantha Battams said the group was a “grassroots organisation” and it didn’t have Dawkins’ direct contact details.

“We started up two weeks ago,” she said.

“We only learnt of the current review and how it may be considering the Equal Opportunity Commissioner’s recommendations through recent media.

“If he (Dawkins) is saying that he is willing for us to contact him directly to raise points we will do that in the future.”

It comes after Parliament yesterday agreed to form a joint committee to address the Equal Opportunity Commission’s recommendations.

The committee will also develop a code of conduct for all MPs.

Battams said the March4Justice organisers wanted the commission’s recommendations to be implemented “as soon as possible with timelines and progress reporting”.

“This has come out of a review, essentially, so we don’t want the committee to be another review process,” she said.

“We would expect there to be appropriate representation of women on that committee.”

According to the March4Justice organisers, 8000 protestors turned up to Monday’s rally at Victoria Square.

“Our inaugural march showed that there is deep anger in South Australia and nationally about gender inequality, widespread incidences of sexual harassment and gendered violence in our workplaces and society,” they wrote.

“We will keep fighting until we see real measurable change.”

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