PM urged to do more on sex harassment laws

Scott Morrison has been criticised for not going far enough in tackling workplace sexual harassment.
Scott Morrison has been criticised for not going far enough in tackling workplace sexual harassment.

Scott Morrison remains under pressure to take stronger action against workplace sexual harassment after finally responding to a landmark report.

The prime minister has proposed some common sense reforms in response to the Respect at Work report.

It will soon be easier to sack sexual harassers including federal politicians and judges.

But he has been criticised for refusing to adopt some of the key recommendations, including giving further investigative powers to a national watchdog.

Mr Morrison has also baulked at introducing a positive duty to protect workers from sexual harassment.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, who wrote the report, vowed to continue pushing for the critical change.

"At the moment, the laws on sexual harassment really only come to life if a victim complains. That leaves a huge burden on individuals who have been harassed," she told Nine on Friday.

"That needs to change. The government said they will continue to assess that and I will continue to raise that with them."

The prime minister has also attracted criticism from employers groups about some of the steps taken.

They are worried about increasing from six months to two years the time in which a workplace sexual harassment complaint can be made.

Labor senator Kristina Keneally said while some of the proposed changes were welcome the government needed a concrete plan, not just an announcement.

"There is no legislation, there's no funding attached, there's no reporting mechanism," she said.

"The devil here is in the detail and what do we see in 24 hours, that is the prime minister's claim that he's accepted all the recommendations has been undercut."

Mr Morrison has confirmed all states and territories have agreed to make their own responses to the report by the end of June.

National cabinet will then hold a face-to-face meeting in Darwin in July to examine all state and federal spending programs focused on women's economic security, with an eye to workforce participation and the gender pay gap.

The leaders will then look to develop a national women's economic security plan similar to an existing scheme focused on eliminating domestic violence.

A national women's safety summit will also be held in July, with the location to be announced.

Labor is challenging the prime minister to dump disgraced Queensland MP Andrew Laming if he takes harassment seriously.

Dr Laming is on paid leave to undertake empathy training after being accused of harassing two female constituents and taking a photo of a woman while she was bending over.

He is quitting at the next election but Mr Morrison has resisted calls to dump him because it would plunge the coalition into minority government.

Senator Keneally said Mr Morrison could not be taken seriously while Dr Laming remained a member of government.

Labor is also calling on the government to introduce 10 days of paid domestic violence leave.

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O'Neil said the response did not go far enough.

"It's a road map with big potholes in it, and unfortunately the victims of sexual harassment - many women and some men - are going to fall through those holes," she told the ABC.

Australian Associated Press