THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
SENATOR LOUISE PRATT
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR EQUALITY
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR UNIVERSITIES
LABOR SENATOR FOR WESTERN AUSTRALIA
LABOR TASKFORCE TO CRACK DOWN ON UNI SEXUAL ASSAULT
A Shorten Labor Government will give a new independent taskforce strong powers to crack down on sexual harassment and assault at universities and residential colleges.
Penalties may be imposed on universities that fail to take serious action to protect their students. In extreme cases the education minister could even withhold government funding.
All universities will have to publish data on sexual harassment and assault to improve transparency and better track progress.
The taskforce will provide policy leadership and advice on evidence-based prevention measures, track action by universities, and recommend ways responses can be strengthened.
Recent investigations have found disturbingly high rates of sexual harassment and assault at universities and residential colleges.
More than half of university students were sexually harassed in 2016. Only 13 per cent of campus sexual assaults are reported to universities. Some residential colleges have a particularly poor record. That’s why residential colleges will be captured by the taskforce too.
Good work is being done through Universities Australia’s Respect Now Always initiative.
Many universities have taken action and are making progress. But right now we have an opportunity to drive major, long-term change to put an end to this appalling behaviour for good.
The independent taskforce, to be chaired by an eminent Australian, will be made up of experts in sexual assault prevention and response. It will be supported by the university standards body, TEQSA, which will have its operations beefed up with a $1.8 million funding boost.
There have been repeated calls for an independent taskforce to hold universities and residential colleges to account.
In April this year, I wrote to the Liberal education minister urging the Government to establish one.
It is disappointing the Liberals have rejected these calls and refused to work with Labor on this important issue. They are turning their backs on vulnerable students, victims, and survivors of sexual assault.
The taskforce will be set up for a three year period and will provide annual progress reports and recommendations followed by a major report in 2022.
FRIDAY, 30 NOVEMBER 2018