Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall speaks in support of Set the Standard Annual Report

8 February 2023

I rise on behalf of the crossbench as its representative on the Parliamentary Leadership Taskforce and I welcome the motion today in respect of the code of conduct for parliamentarians. The annual statement on the progress of the implement of the Set the Standard report is an important milestone, but it is one that we should not be complacent on, because there is still so much work to do. The code of conduct for parliamentarians today is an important step and it is progress—something I and many others in this place have been calling for. I was astounded that such a code did not exist, whereas in my varied career, from sports to law and so many other workplaces, I was always expected to agree to a code of conduct, and those in so many others in workplaces are.

I'd like to thank the members of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Standards and, in particular, my independent colleague Kylea Tink, the member for North Sydney, who I know has been passionate about establishing the code of conduct for parliamentarians and behaviour standards for Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces. The code of conduct and behaviour standards will be binding on all—parliamentarians, staff—and on any parliamentary work environment, and there will be consequences for breaches.

The draft behaviour standards and codes require us to act respectfully, professionally and with integrity, to encourage and value diverse perspectives and to recognise the importance of a free exchange of ideas; to recognise your power, influence and authority and to not abuse them; to uphold laws that support safe and respectful workplaces, including antidiscrimination, employment, work health and safety and criminal laws. Bullying, harassment, sexual harassment or assault or discrimination in any form, including on the grounds of race, age, sex, sexuality, gender identity, disability or religion will not be tolerated, condoned or ignored, and breaches of this will be actioned.

The Set the standard report was such a milestone in the history of this place in first recording and identifying the systemic and vast problem we had in this place in relation to our workplace standards, and the incredible work of Kate Jenkins in the Set the standard report put forward so many important recommendations. As has been said today, we have had significant progress. Six recommendations have been implemented, four have been partially implemented, 17 are in progress and one is pending. But what's important to recognise is that these are ongoing measures; we must remain constantly vigilant and work on it. There's a lot of work to do. Most significantly, the establishment of the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service will be a huge change to the way in which employment of staff is managed. I also note and welcome the review of the MOP(S) Act, which was a recommendation. It governs all employment in parliamentary workplaces.

I specifically note recommendation 3, which called for a review of the principles to be considered by the Prime Minister in determining staffing allocations and for a further review into the workloads of staff, particularly electorate office staff, and I take this opportunity to thank the so many dedicated and committed staff around the country who work passionately and tirelessly on behalf of all of us and our communities. I look forward to the Prime Minister updating the parliament on this recommendation, recommendation 3, and review.

This year should also see the establishment of a staff consultative body to inform the work of the Parliamentary Leadership Taskforce and the implementation of the Set the standards report recommendations. Ultimately, this reform is aimed at improving the experience and conditions of staff working in support of parliamentarians. It will be a mechanism through which staff can regularly provide feedback on the progress, the implementation and the effect of the recommendations, because—let's be real—ultimately, if they're not improving the workplace and the standards then they are not working. Staff will need to have that access.

As a member of the task force charged with implementing the 28 recommendations of this vital review, I thank Kerri Hartland, who was chairing the task force until December, and I look forward to working with the new chair and all staff involved, who have been incredibly dedicated and committed to making this a safer workplace. I reiterate my commitment to ensuring that all 28 recommendations are implemented in full.

We have a responsibility in this place to ensure a safe and respectful Commonwealth workplace and to set the standard for all workplaces. It's incredibly important, especially as we had an International Women's Day breakfast today, to remember respectful conduct in relation to all in this place. I note the comments of the Leader of the Opposition and I can assure him that all women of the crossbench—and, I'm sure, members of the government and Labor also—have received a revolting amount of vitriol and abuse online. This is abhorrent and unacceptable, regardless of political allegiance or views, and it's beholden on leaders such as the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to set the standard of tone and respect that is required.