1 June 2023, 12:04
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne
Rachel PAYNE (South-Eastern Metropolitan):
My question is for Minister Pearson in the other place, represented in this house by the Attorney-General. Non-disclosure agreements, otherwise known as confidentiality agreements, are frequently used in settlement of workplace sexual harassment and often take the form of a settlement deed, where financial compensation is offered in exchange for silence and a resignation. It means that victims are forced out of the workplace when it should be the other way around, and it means that employers can duck their obligations to provide a safe workplace and enable repeat offending, all while preventing victims from talking about their abuse. Last year the then workplace safety minister Ms Stitt announced proposed reforms in response to a ministerial task force investigation. So my question is: what steps has the minister taken to progress legislation to restrict the use of non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases?
Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services):
I thank Ms Payne for her question. It is an incredibly important issue, and I do thank the former ministers responsible, particularly Minister Stitt, in relation to the important work that that task force did. They certainly looked at non-disclosure agreements. It is a very complex area of reform. I have had many people talk to me about whether you ban them, whether you restrict them. It is something that the government has committed in principle to advancing. It is something that I am interested in in the Attorney portfolio and Minister Pearson in his workplace safety role, and the Minister for Women is also quite interested. There are ongoing conversations about this topic. It is complex. It does require a lot of continued discussions. I would welcome further discussions with you, and I am sure Minister Pearson would as well.
I thank the Attorney for her response. By way of supplementary, I simply ask: when are we likely to see reform of this type?
I have gone on the record with dates for you previously. I am not going to do it again, because I do not know the answer to it. I do not want to restrict it, but I can confirm it is under active consideration at the moment.