The Sex Discrimination Commissioner says she is appalled by a former Coalition minister's harassment claims.

Australia's newly appointed Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Anna Cody, has expressed shock and concern in response to allegations made by former Coalition cabinet minister Karen Andrews. 

In an interview with ABC's Kitchen Cabinet program, Andrews disclosed distressing incidents of harassment during her time in parliament.

Andrews revealed that a male colleague, whom she did not name, subjected her to unsettling behaviour during Question Time, saying he would breathe heavily on the back of her neck. She also disclosed experiencing crude comments from the same politician.

Commissioner Cody, in a statement to the media, conveyed her dismay at these allegations. 

While acknowledging some progress in making Parliament House safer for women, she emphasised the need for further action.

“It appals me that any woman, any person, would have to experience that breathing down the neck,” she said

“There is change that needs to happen and I think there is a commitment to doing that change.”

It comes after North Sydney MP Kylea Tink also shared her unsettling encounter with an opposition MP who allegedly yelled aggressively at her following a division in parliament. 

Although Tink did not reveal the identity of the MP, Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has downplayed her concerns, citing the adversarial nature of parliamentary debates.

Commissioner Cody stressed the importance of maintaining respect and ensuring the safety of all individuals within the political arena, even during robust discussions.

The recent disclosures come in the wake of the Set the Standard report by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, which revealed that one in three parliamentary staffers had experienced some form of sexual harassment, and nearly 40 per cent had encountered bullying. 

Dr Cody commended Jenkins for her report, describing it as a crucial step forward.

In her interview with Annabel Crabb, Karen Andrews also highlighted the isolation she felt as a backbencher when speaking out about incidents within her party. 

She expressed concerns about the slow pace of change in the treatment of women in federal politics during her lifetime.

Responding to the allegations, former colleague and Liberal senator Simon Birmingham stated that he had never heard of such incidents before. 

He pointed to the recently established Parliamentary Workplace Support Service, which provides an independent, impartial, credible, and confidential process for addressing improper actions.

Dr Cody expressed optimism about the Parliamentary Leadership Task Force, which has received support from all political parties. She sees it as a promising sign of bipartisan commitment to bringing about change within the parliament, while acknowledging that progress may involve setbacks.