Thursday, 12 November 2020
Labor won't be supporting this suspension this morning. If I can just address that point first: we were advised by the Greens at about 9.28 this morning that they were intending to do this. That didn't allow us the time, or the respect, frankly, to deal with the issue they have raised and the argument they have put this morning.
That leads me to agree with the government that the decision by the Greens isn't actually about dealing with the substance of the matter but is more about getting a five-minute speech up to show that they are the only ones taking this issue seriously. That is a problem, but it says everything about the Greens in this place—the fact that they don't give courtesy to the people that they need to work with in order to successfully get this up; they decide at the last minute to do this and then they seek to take an issue that has caused some considerable distress to people who work in this building this week and choose to deal with it this way. I think that is really unfortunate, because the Greens will have had the same conversations that we have had this week in light of the issues that have been raised. They will know that there are people who work in this building who have not found it to be a great workplace at times. That is the issue that all of us in this place should be looking to resolve and to improve upon.
For the Greens to think that they can deal with the issue seriously through a suspension of standing orders at the last minute on the final day for a bill that they could list for substantive debate says everything about the Greens, unfortunately. I do like working with you, Senator Waters, but this has really disappointed me, because as someone who works in this place, you will understand what the allegations this week have done. The message to me is to look at how we can we work as leaders in this place to make sure that our workplace is the best it can be. I don't think the way to deliver that is through a political stunt by suspending standing orders. I actually think there's a more serious discussion that we should be having and that we should be taking the lead on—not necessarily us, as women, but all of us in this place, as colleagues who employ people in a large workplace. We should be dealing with it. There are many other ways to progress that and I would welcome the engagement.
I know that there are discussions happening across the building about how to deal with it—not to pretend that there aren't issues in this workplace, because there are, and we all know about them. That is the issue we should be dealing with, not manufacture and create some kind of stunt—and I'm trying to look for another word, because I hope it's not a stunt, but that's what it looks like to me—as a way for the Greens to grandstand and pretend they're the only people standing up for integrity, 'The major parties this and the major parties that, they never stand up for you'. It's just simply not true. We have supported, and do support, a national integrity commission; we have supported legislation in this place and we do believe the government is dragging its heels on that. But the Greens have tied that to an issue about workplace culture and standards, tagging it to the Four Cornersprogram and using it for political expediency. I reject that.
I would welcome a discussion with you, Senator Waters, about how we can actually deal with some of the issues and make sure this workplace changes, and changes for the better. It is a serious message that was sent through the Four Corners show, and one that challenges all of us. We shouldn't just sweep it under the carpet and pretend that there's nothing going on. I don't agree with that. I think we should be responding to it, and responding to it in a way that gives hope and confidence to the people who work in this building—that they can come to work, be safe and be treated with respect. I think that, for the large part, that is what happens in this workplace. But, where there are outliers, we need to be dealing with those and putting in place a framework that ensures that this workplace is the best in Australia and that it sets the highest standards. Bit is that going to be delivered by this suspension? No, it's not, and it was never intended to be. It was intended to give the Greens 10 minutes to try and point the finger at everybody else.