Thursday, 25 March 2021
Archives and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021; Second Reading
I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill and move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Archives and Other Legislation Amendment Bill supports the independent review into the workplaces of parliamentarians and their staff that is led by Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Kate Jenkins. The government announced this review on 5 March 2021. Its aim is to ensure that all Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces are safe and respectful and that our national parliament reflects best practice in the prevention and handling of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault. The review must bring about cultural and practical change in our parliamentary workplace.
It is of paramount importance that parliamentarians and staff both current and former can freely participate and have their say. This bill will strengthen the confidentiality of information provided to or created by the independent review. It does this in two ways. Firstly, it will exclude a right of access under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 to all documents provided to or created by the independent review. Secondly, it will provide that these records not come into the open access period under the Archives Act 1983 until 99 years after the year the record comes into existence. These proposed amendments would not prevent the independent review from publishing such information as it considers appropriate. The amendments are intended to encourage individuals to come forward to the independent review and give information that is relevant to its terms of reference. This information could include accounts of a deeply personal and sensitive nature as well as allegations about the conduct of other people.
The bill supports the objectives of the Sex Discrimination Commissioner's review. In particular, it will support the review in understanding the experiences and expectations of current and former parliamentarians and staff as well as other staff working within the Parliament of Australia. I thank members for their contribution to this debate and I look forward to hearing their contributions. I commend the bill.