Australia Looks to U.S.’ Newly Proposed “Anti-Dating Law” for Inspiration

Katz, Marshall & Banks partner Avi Kumin was interviewed on Australia radio program RN Breakfast about a bill passed this week by the U.S. House of Representatives that would ban sexual relationships between politicians and their employees. This story is of particular interest in Australia, where it was recently revealed that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is fathering a child with his now-former staffer.

Mr. Kumin explained that the proposed rule is a way to avoid unhealthy byproducts of power dynamics: “Many women will feel pressured to engage in a sexual relationship that they don’t want to engage in, and others, if they say ‘no,’ will feel they’re going to be retaliated against. So, this bill says… ‘just don’t do it at all.’”

This proposed bill is a reaction to a number of controversies and scandals in American politics related to relationships with subordinates.

Addressing skeptics of the bill, Mr. Kumin agrees that he “[doesn’t] believe the government should ever be peering into people’s bedrooms.” But as government officials, “it’s normal and reasonable for the government to set rules that affect the workplace.”

The interview also touched on new rules affecting the process that handles complaints made towards a member of Congress. Under the proposal, congressmen will have to pay for their own settlements, and there will be no more mandated confidentiality.

Australian Independent MP Cathy McGowan hopes to copy her American counterparts and outlaw similar relationships in the Australian Parliament.

Listen to the full interview here.