Thursday, 25 March 2021
Archives and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021; Second Reading
I rise to support the Archives and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021. These amendments will ensure that the review conducted by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, is effective and not hampered by the legitimate privacy concerns that have been raised by staff and former staff, victims and survivors.
I wrote to the Prime Minister last Tuesday calling for this legislation. He wrote back to me at the time saying he was supportive of that and requesting that we put forward this legislation, pledging government support. As it is, some procedural changes have altered that but with the same outcome. It's an outcome that we've been after here. I'm very pleased that this legislation will be supported by government members, opposition members and crossbench members. That is a good thing indeed.
Our staff and members of parliament have made it plain from the outset that they welcome the Jenkins review. Indeed, Labor called for this review in a joint media release from myself as Labor leader and Tanya Plibersek as the shadow minister for the status of women on 16 February in response to the reported sexual assault of Brittany Higgins in the office of the Minister for Defence in 2019 and other issues. This review is an important opportunity to bring about the cultural change that is needed, to get the resources and protections needed, to transform the parliament into a safe workplace. This should be a safe workplace for everyone who works here. As a Labor parliamentarian I say that Labor have a particular special duty to our staff, but I think every member of parliament has a duty to ensure their staff are properly protected.
This review must listen to those who come forward. They should be able to come forward in the confidence that any statements or submissions they make will be confidential, and that they won't be put in a difficult position in a year's time or 10 years time or 20 years time or 30 years time. That is what this legislation is aimed at. The fact is every workplace in Australia should be safe—every recreational venue, every home. We know, thanks to the courage of people like Brittany Higgins and the thousands of women and men who marched last week, that this workplace isn't the safe workplace it should be.