Click here to watch this speech.

I am really pleased to have the opportunity to speak briefly on these very important bills, the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service Bill 2023 and related bills, and reform for this parliament. Like so many others who have been in this place for some time now, I have been very clear that we need to do things differently here—that we cannot have a parliament that tolerates or allows for instances of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault to occur in this building and in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces around the country. Fixing this is part of what this bill will do, so it is very, very important work for this parliament. It is important work about how we must do better.

I want to be really clear to people in this place and to people in the Australian community that it is not okay for people in this parliament to think this is something that Australian people don’t really care about—that actually, as long as we’re getting on with passing bills and making laws, they don’t care what our standards are and they don’t care what our behaviour is. It’s just not true. I also want to tackle the assumption that some people have put forward that this is such a special and unique workplace that we couldn’t possibly have the types of rules and standards that other workplaces have in place. In fact, this is a special workplace. This is the workplace that sets the rules for workplaces around the country. That’s one of the reasons why it is so important that we hold ourselves to the highest possible standards and that we have the structures in place to help us hold ourselves to the highest possible standards, and that’s what this bill will do.

I know that Australians are with us as we continue to call out the failures, the mistakes, the terrible things that have happened in this parliament in the past, and as we commit ourselves to the changes that this parliament needs to see. This must be a safe workplace for all people. It must be a place where people feel they can contribute, behave appropriately and be safe.

I pay tribute to people across the parliament who have done a wealth of good work to get us to this point, particularly the Minister for Women, the member for Newcastle and many others who have championed this reform and the work that is yet to come. I pay tribute to the people outside of this parliament who shared their stories, who raised their voices, who demanded change, who made sure that we could not leave things as they were. I thank the former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins for giving us a blueprint for reform. It is because of all of these people standing up and doing the good work that they have done that we are going to have a better parliament and that we are going to be representatives who do our jobs in the manner in which they should be done and in the manner in which the Australian people should expect us to do them. The Australian people can have confidence, and workers and staff in this place can have confidence in going about their work, that they are in a better environment, one that does hold perpetrators of bullying, harassment or assault to account.

We have made progress, and there is more to come. We need fundamental cultural change in this parliament, and I still believe that that will only happen when we have stronger structures in place to protect women, when there are strong consequences for men’s actions and when we get the subsequent behaviour change from that piece. This piece that flows from the Set the standard report, which comes from the hundreds of individuals who shared their experiences of working in parliament and in other Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces, is so important. That report heard that for too many people these workplaces have not been safe environments. That has been driven by power imbalances, by gender inequality, by exclusion and by a lack of accountability. These experiences have left a trail of devastation for individuals and their teams, and they’ve undermined the performance of our parliament, to the nation’s detriment. That is part of what we are trying to address here today. It is important.

I want to briefly address the work that still needs to happen. In addition to the great addition of the PWSS, which we are putting in place with this bill, we also need to work towards the introduction of another part of the Set the standard report’s recommendations—the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Commission. This is a key part of making sure that we are held to account for poor behaviour. It is a key part of making sure that there are consequences and that people know there is an independent structure that will deal with complaints and issues brought against parliamentarians and other people in this workplace. It is not beyond this parliament to hold ourselves to account. It is not beyond us to have consequences for members and others in this place who do not behave in the way they should in this workplace. This is a fundamental standard that we must hold ourselves to. This bill does good work on the way to putting in place some of the structures and reforms we must have, but there’s more work to do. I look forward to joining with colleagues and the government as we do so.

Scroll to Top