I rise to share some brief reflections on Parliamentary Workplace Reform (Set the Standard Measures No. 1) Bill 2022, which has my support and commendation. This bill is a first step in the implementation of all recommendations of the Jenkins review into parliamentary workplace culture filed last November.
Specifically, this bill improves the existing provisions of the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 to ensure it’s crystal clear that the unfair dismissal, anti-discrimination and workplace health and safety laws that apply to all other workplaces in this nation apply hereto in this parliament.
That should not be a novel concept. This parliament should be a model workplace that operates on principles of decency, respect and integrity. Our democracy is worse for it if not.
The government has taken the first step, but we have only just begun the work needed to improve the culture in this place. Apologies lose their meaning without action and results. The brave and impressive Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins reminded us of that just last week.
I welcome this bill, the statement of acknowledgement last week and the establishment of an implementation task force to action the rest of the Jenkins review recommendations. But I will not stop fighting until each one is implemented in full.
I want to note in particular recommendations 21 and 22, which call on this parliament to establish a code of conduct for all MPs and their staff, and an independent parliamentary standards commissioner to enforce the code of conduct. The review specifically recommended that the commissioner be empowered to investigate and make findings of fact about alleged breaches of the code of conduct and recommend sanctions of our political leadership or we, as a parliament, can impose to resolve a breach.
In November 2020, I introduced the Commonwealth Parliamentary Standards Bill to this House, which has many of the same features as this recommendation. I was pleased to share detailed information with the Jenkins review about that proposal, and I implore the government and all other leaders in this place to do the work to ensure this parliamentary standards commissioner comes to fruition. No-one—be it a parliamentarian, a staffer, a journalist, a public servant or a contract worker—in this building should be left with nowhere to go if they experience misconduct. Our position as elected officials should never trump the safety of people who come to work in this place.
From hospitals to university departments—I’ve worked in many, many workplaces in my career where robust codes of conduct offset the risk of power imbalances between colleagues and toxic and harmful work environments forming. This workplace should be no exception.
I thank Commissioner Jenkins for her work to ensure this bill has found passage through this place, and I thank everyone who contributed to the work that formed that report. I now call on my colleagues here and in the other place to join together and see this through as soon as possible.