Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Parliamentary Transparency Charter
Parliamentary Transparency Charter
Transparency is essential for a well-functioning democracy. The (House of Representatives and the) Senate commit to pursuing the following transparency reforms to improve the integrity of, and public confidence in, our national government.
National Integrity Commission
Establish an independent National Integrity Commission to oversee the activities of public officials and empowered to conduct public hearings and make public findings of fact.
Real-time disclosure of political donations above $1,000
Amend political donation laws to require disclosure of donations above $1,000 by recipients in as close to 'real-time' as practical.
Enhanced freedom of information arrangements
Boost funding to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and FOI units within departments and agencies and improve FOI review processing times.
Enhanced whistleblower protections
Further consolidate the whistleblower protection regime and enhance existing whistleblower protections.
Overhaul lobbyist rules
Legislate lobbying code of conduct and require lobbyists to disclose who they meet with and the subject matter of their meeting on a monthly basis. Expand lobbyist register to include in-house lobbyists.
Conduct standards for parliamentarians
Develop a Statement of Parliamentarian Standards, modelled on the Statement of Ministerial Standards, applicable to all parliamentarians.
Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner
Establish an independent Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner, empowered to enforce standards of parliamentary conduct, oversee interest disclosure requirements and deal with allegations of misuse of public funds, blatant falsehoods in political advertising, and breaches of lobbyist rules.
(2) That this resolution be communicated to the House of Representatives for concurrence.
I seek leave to make a short statement and to table a document.
Public confidence in our federal politics is at an all-time low. With scandal after scandal involving corruption, misuse of public funds, political donations, unregulated lobbyists and attacks on whistleblowers, it's no wonder people are fed up. My parliamentary transparency charter aims to improve the integrity of, and public confidence in, our national government. It represents common sense, achievable and deeply needed reform.
Sixteen crossbenchers from both the House and the Senate, representing different ideological backgrounds, have signed the charter and committed to pursuing its reform. The public should know who they are: Cathy McGowan; Andrew Wilkie; Adam Bandt; Senators Griff, Patrick and Burston; and all nine senators from the Australian Greens. If the crossbenchers can put aside our differences and recognise that this reform is needed in our politics, why can't the major parties? To be clear, this motion would pass if just one of the major parties voted for it; we would have the numbers. In the lead-up to the election, the public will know who in this chamber is committed to meaningful reform that will restore belief in our federal politics and who is not. I implore my Senate colleagues to realise— (Time expired)
The opposition will not be supporting this motion. The opposition understands the intent of the motion by Senator Storer and his passion for parliamentary integrity. That is why Labor is committed to establishing a national integrity commission, lowering the disclosure threshold for political donations to a fixed $1,000 and progressing real-time disclosure of donations. It is why Labor forced the government to ban foreign donations from our system and protect against foreign influence. However, this motion contains a number of provisions that require detailed policy consideration and further consultation prior to introduction. As such, we will not be supporting this motion.
This is not my first speech. There are some problems with Senator Storer's motion on transparency. Firstly, it seeks to set up an integrity commission with public hearings. Public hearings are not necessarily a good idea; they can involve the chamber becoming a star chamber. There are technical suggestions about reducing thresholds for public donations. The main point to make about public donations is that parties' policies are on the public record, and the voters determine which parties they want in this place. There's a suggestion for more funding for freedom of information. We don't necessarily know that we need more funding; there could be a need for a shift of funding. With regard to enhanced whistleblower protections, what particular enhanced whistleblower protections? Some whistleblower protections go too far. There's a suggestion we need to control lobbyists more. Lobbyists need to be able communicate with the public; otherwise we all end in one big echo chamber. Finally, to the idea that we need a code of conduct for politicians, voters are our bosses—no-one else.
I rise to just note and welcome this motion. It consolidates probably 10 years of Greens work on integrity measures. We're in full support of all of the points in this charter. In fact, the ICAC legislation was first proposed by Senator Bob Brown in 2009. We welcome the fact that other parties have now, after many years of denigrating the suggestion, adopted it as their own and we certainly hope that many of these other parties likewise do a 180-degree and decide that it's their policy also; however, we won't hold our breath on that. I note that, on donations, not only do we support the lowering of the disclosure threshold but we want to see donations capped, by everybody. Big money should not be running our politics anymore; this is not America. It is time for people in this place to represent their constituents, not their donors.
(a) the Senate—
(b) Senator Anning be suspended from the sittings of the Senate and its committees for a period of one day.
Mr President, it's really important to get a few facts on the table here. I note there is some commentary, informed by your statement made today, that such a motion may be unconstitutional. As I said earlier, it's disappointing that that commentary is now running. Your statement didn't refer to any specific motion that we were putting forward, and it would have been helpful had we discussed the very nature of our motion, because this motion makes it very clear that we are seeking a suspension of Senator Anning based on not just his efforts to attribute blame to the victims of the Christchurch massacre outside the chamber but indeed his invocation of the final solution, something he did while he was in the chamber. Further, the motion has been revised to make it very clear that it relates also to Senator Anning's response to the censure motion. His response to the censure motion only a short time ago further sought to blame the victims of that terrorist incident and to vilify people on the basis of religion. I won't go into it, but when you have somebody saying that importing Sudanese migrants wholesale was a failed policy or that Muslim migrants are driven to violence, which leads to increasing violence and terrorism here in Australia, that is the sort of speech that deserves not just condemnation but suspension.
Let us be clear on that first, technical point: this Senate has the power to suspend Senator Anning. Let's be really clear on the second point: we need to decide what standards we are prepared to accept in this chamber. I was suspended from this chamber for calling out sexism. We are now saying that somebody should be suspended for the same period of time for their inflammatory and divisive remarks, comments which amount to hate speech and were made in this chamber. If you ever needed proof of why a suspension is necessary, have a look at the response from Senator Anning to the censure motion. How seriously do you think Senator Anning has taken this censure motion? Indeed, we heard that horrific contribution from Senator Georgiou, reading out a prepared statement effectively backing him in, not supporting a censure motion. We need to go further and make a clear and unequivocal statement; 1½ million people have now signed a petition to say, 'How on earth does this man get the platform that he has in this chamber?' Many millions more Australians are asking the same question.
Senator Bernardi in his pathetic contribution to the debate talked about hate speech and where you draw the line. I'll tell you where a good place to start is. When you talk about the Final Solution in your speech—how about we start from there? When you seek to blame the victims of a massacre, of a terrorist incident—how about we start from there? That's a good place to start. We're open to a debate about where you draw the line. Lines are drawn all the time. Through the course of the debate against the amendments to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, we made a clear-headed decision about where that line should be drawn. Some people wanted to shift it. Some people thought that people had a right to be bigots, but we were concerned that, if you say that someone's got a right to be a bigot, it's only a small step to them acting on that bigotry, and the Australian community came together and said, 'This is where we want that line drawn.' Well, they are coming together right now and saying to us: 'Make a statement. Don't just use empty words but act.' You don't defeat fascism and you don't defeat the parliamentary representative of an emerging Neo-Nazi movement by simply waving your hand and saying what they've said is bad. You do something about it.
We have the power to suspend Senator Anning from this chamber. We could kick him out for the rest of the day. That's all we're asking for. We have amended this motion to say that, in the context of him referring to the 'final solution' in the Senate chamber and in the context of his response to the censure motion, he deserves, at the very least, to be suspended from this chamber for a period of 24 hours. Let's not forget that, only a short time ago, this chamber voted to suspend someone for calling out sexism. How is it that we can have a set of rules that allow this chamber to suspend someone for calling out sexism and yet we haven't got the courage to come together and make a unified statement to say, 'Those views are not welcome on the floor of this parliament'? This is a sacred place. We are elected here to represent the community. We've got our differences—of course we do. We've got differences over the economy; we've got differences over how we address climate change. We have those debates in the chamber all the time, but the one thing that unites us all is that we do not seek to use hate speech to divide our community on the basis of race or religion. We don't do that. That's not what Australia is.
Well, how about this parliament makes a statement now? How about this parliament says to the 1½ million people who signed the petition given to Senator Faruqi to table in this place that we're with them, not with One Nation and not with those other voices of hate? Why don't we tell them that we are with the Australian community and we come together at this moment not just to wave our finger and say 'tut-tut' but to take concrete action to deny this attention seeker the platform that he craves? We can do that right now. All it would take is a simple vote of the chamber and he would be suspended. If the censure motion we debated today had any force, we would have seen some contrition from that senator. We didn't see that. We saw him double down. We saw him use the tactics of the NRA: when you're attacked, go on the offence, offence, offence. It's about time that we as a chamber and as parliamentarians representing the Australian people say enough is enough. It's time to boot this bloke out. It's time for us to make a stand.
The coalition will be supporting part (a), for the reasons so eloquently presented by Senator Birmingham in his contribution this week, but we do not support part (b) of this motion, for the reasons that were outlined by you, Mr President—because we believe that suspension is not the relevant sanction under these circumstances. So we seek for this motion to be divided and ask that parts (a)(i), (ii) and (iii) be separated from part (b).
I rise today to speak with a sense of disappointment and a deep and abiding feeling of anger. I'm disappointed because once again we find ourselves here condemning the actions of one or two senators who've sought to use hate speech in the recent atrocities overseas to promote their divisive and dangerous political agenda. I know that these feelings of disappointment and anger are felt not only across the political spectrum in this place but also in the hearts of millions of Australians who rightly expect better from their community leaders.
I would like to make clear that I and the entire Labor Party stand strongly and defiantly against the statements and actions of Senator Anning following the recent attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. We stand united against people who seek to divide our nation, particularly at a time when Australia is craving leadership, stability and harmony. And I acknowledge the important contribution of Senator Wong in articulating in her speech this morning the point of tension between celebrating the democratic freedom of speech and the right to that freedom of speech with a principled rejection of hate speech, because to do otherwise undermines our democracy.
I would like to state that the opposition will not be supporting this motion today—certainly not part (b) of it—as we've taken a position on this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the actions that this motion essentially seeks to address took place outside the chamber.
It is a well-asserted principle that this chamber should act where breaches are committed inside the parliament. I will take the interjection from Senator Di Natale, who protests. In the shape that it's finally arrived here in the chamber, at 11.45, after having not been shown to us in any form until after 10 am this morning, it has a modesty veil to try to pretend that it's about action here in the Senate. But everybody knows that you are riding a wave of genuine anger across this community, which we accept, but using a device that I think is quite deceptive.
It was only a matter of weeks ago that we saw this very Senate vote to suspend a member of this place for words and actions that took place in this chamber. It was proper and appropriate action but very different to the scenario that we have before us now. I repeat: that action was for behaviour inside this chamber, and that action is absolutely in accord with the rules and established practices that govern the Senate. Senator Di Natale has, at the last minute, informed the chamber that this motion is actually regarding comments made in this place. I have to question the motives of Senator Di Natale. This motion could have been circulated to all senators in this place with an appropriate level of notice that afforded people the time to reflect on its content and make an informed decision, but he chose not to do that.
In reality, the situation that's before us is that Senator Di Natale has only sought to bring this motion to the chamber today on the eve of an election and following comments made by Senator Anning in the wake of the horrific events in Christchurch. Senator Di Natale has said today that his moves to try to suspend Senator Anning are based on comments made in this chamber, but I don't think that is believable or credible to try to convince members of this place. Senator Di Natale had the chance to move to suspend Senator Anning at the time that the comments he refers to were actually made. He did not do that. Senator Di Natale had the chance at the time to take the level of action he believed necessary. He did not do that. Senator Di Natale is within his rights to move this suspension motion today, but let's call it for what it is. This is a motion that he's chosen to raise in the aftermath of the New Zealand terrorist attack and it is something that is seeking to deal with the comments and actions of Senator Anning in response to this horrific incident, which I remind him were made outside this chamber.
Today we as a Senate have banded together to condemn Senator Anning. His comments and actions were deplorable and pathetic. He's seeking to capitalise on some people's darkest hours for his own political gain. We stand against these views and we stand against this man. We have done what the Australian people expect of us. We've defiantly voted to condemn Senator Anning and to support harmony and unity over division and hate. Labor has taken our position on this motion that is before us right now because we believe that progressive voices need to be protected in this place. It would be a dangerous precedent to set where suspensions of this nature become yet another political procedural tool by conservative members in this place to silence those with progressive views. I would warn those on the Greens bench, who sometimes engage in somewhat radical political discourse and a lot of indignant posturing, against setting a benchmark that they may well be unable to meet themselves.
The motion that the Greens political party have put before the Senate today is seductive. It appears, at first glance, to be a way to vent our collective disgust, a quick-fix method to lance the boil that is festering in our nation in the form of Senator Anning. We all just want to be rid of it. Indeed, 1.4 million Australians have let us know that they feel the same. But we should not let the seduction of the undertaking of such a cathartic action blind us to the risks to democracy that lie in following the path that the Greens political party has laid out before us in this motion to suspend Senator Anning today. As parliamentarians, we are certainly servants of the people of Australia: every day, we serve the people of Australia. In this matter, I say to the 1.4 million Australians who signed that petition: we do hear you.
As we take our places on these benches, we must remember that, if we're judicious, we will also hear the wisdom of those who have served here before us, and we will acknowledge established, tried and true traditions for the sustainable practices of the parliament. I acknowledge, Mr President, your contribution this morning, which was to provide some clarity around that. We cannot act today with wisdom if we ignore the wisdom of those who have preceded us in this place. On the suspension of senators, their advice was well articulated by the President in his statement: we should not suspend senators except in the very specific circumstances that are clearly identified for us in standing orders 203 and 204. Our actions today with regard to this motion have portent beyond this day, and could fundamentally change the precedents of the Senate with regard to the suspension of senators. If we overstep the mark, what we do will likely be subject to legal challenge. I cannot see how that achieves the will of those who are, rightly, outraged by Senator Anning and yearn to see him gone from the political landscape. This parliament is one constant in a world of political turmoil that rises and falls like a tide across the history of this nation. The stability of the institution, its processes and procedures have, for the most part, served us well.
This motion and its outcome is not just a matter for today. This is not just a matter of great interest to those 1.4 million Australians who have asked us to suspend Senator Anning because of his appalling behaviour. It's of interest to every voting Australian. What we do today in this matter reveals to Australians the power of their vote to determine who comes into parliament. If we reject the Greens' motion before us, it will reveal the enduring value of the vote of each and every Australian who accepts and enacts their rights and responsibilities as citizens to determine the formulation of our parliament. Our response today matters. It shows people that we get in this place who the Australian people vote for, and we're stuck with one another. Our determination today on this motion will show one of two things: either that your vote as a citizen is very powerful and long-lasting in its impact; or that your vote as a citizen is an indication of who you want in the parliament, but senators can remove the people that you elect.
I remind senators that—despite the churning of senators we have seen through this place as the implications of section 44, the constitutional qualification, washed through here—the elected government has continued to govern and the parliament has continued to function. It has not functioned particularly well, in my view, but it has continued despite that chaos. The stability of our parliament in the changing times is something of value that we should consider here today.
Labor's decision on this motion before us has not been made lightly. This is a weighty and serious issue, and one that has been considered carefully and at the highest levels of the opposition. There has only been one occasion where this kind of action has been taken by the Australian parliament. That occurred in 1920. Mr Hugh Mahon was expelled by then Prime Minister Billy Hughes for his views on British policy and remarks about the monarchy and the British Empire. I should note that, following changes to the Parliamentary Privileges Act, neither of the houses has the power to expel. However, given the outpouring of despair that we have seen reflected via so many Australians asking us to suspend Senator Anning, it is warranted that we view a decision like the one before us today with considerable rigour. As a responsible party of government, the Labor Party does not believe that behaviour or conduct outside of the Senate chamber should be punished in this way by the Senate unless the Senate is acting in compliance with the standing orders. What the Greens are seeking to do today is to blur the boundary. They are seeking to assume a dangerous position of moral righteousness in the limelight of a looming election.
Let's be clear: I understand that the Greens have a political purpose here today. I also acknowledge that the decision the opposition have taken today may well be used by our political opponents in the course of the upcoming election. However, unlike the Greens political party, Labor are seeking the endorsement of the Australian people to form a mature and responsible government—a government that carefully ensures the value of each vote cast at an election is retained for the whole course of a parliament. Today, our decision is in keeping with those attributes.
I would like to clearly reinforce that our decision to oppose this suspension motion in no way means that we endorse the views or actions of Senator Anning. His utterances and actions are disgusting. They are dangerous. They are, quite plainly, divisive and unworthy of a person given the honour and privilege of serving our nation in this parliament. Senator Anning's opinions that have surfaced in recent weeks have no place in our community, let alone here in our parliament, and people will have their chance to speak loudly with their vote in just a few weeks time.
People with divisive views and extreme ideologies like Senator Anning, who entered this place on the coat-tails of Pauline Hanson's One Nation party, need to be sent a strong and enduring message: it will not be tolerated. The Australian people need to stand ready to deliver the admonishment that Senator Anning deserves.
I had hoped that I wouldn't have to make a speech of this kind. I had hoped that some lessons may have been learned about the negative and dangerous impacts of hate speech. I strongly urge Senator Anning to reflect deeply on his views. They are completely at odds with any civilised notion of humanity.
We are a strong community. We are a proud multicultural nation. We are a tolerant and open-minded society that warmly embraces different cultures and religions. We can clearly say today that this Senate condemns you, Senator Anning. We condemn your actions. We condemn your words. We condemn your attempts to divide Australia.
I say to Queenslanders: use your vote and reject this man and any others of his kind. The power of the vote of Australians is firmly in the hands of those who have the right to determine the character of this place. I have confidence in the Australian people.
I didn't want to speak on this motion, because Senator Di Natale very eloquently expressed the views of the Greens, including mine, but I can't remain silent after the speech by Senator O'Neill. I do need to respond to some of the comments she made. The first one was that this motion asks for the suspension of Senator Anning based on his comments outside of this chamber and that, procedurally, that can't happen, which is an inaccurate statement. If Senator O'Neill reads the motion, it very clearly says that it is also about invoking 'the final solution' while speaking in the Senate, which does not reflect the opinions of the Australian Senate.
The Greens moved a motion at that time to censure Senator Anning, which both the Labor Party and the Liberal and National parties voted down, so please don't stand here and tell us that we didn't do anything at that time. We did.
This is a pretty straightforward motion. Even if you had seen it five minutes ago, which you didn't, you can see exactly what it says. So, again, don't come and stand here and tell us that we didn't give you enough time to look at this motion.
Senator O'Neill interjecting—
I want to also talk about Senator O'Neill's accusations that the Greens are doing this because of some political imperative. This is completely and utterly about a moral imperative, Senator O'Neill, and you know that. Standing up here and criticising the Greens every time, whether you actually agree with us or not at this time, is the political imperative that you have. That's what you're trying to do. We have been standing here strongly for years against racism, against xenophobia, no matter which community it is done against or no matter who spouts that language. That's what we are doing today. So, to both the Labor and Liberal parties: if you have any guts, stand with what you were saying yesterday and what you have been saying this morning. Don't just talk the talk—walk the walk. This motion is about suspending the senator who stands in here and spouts fascist speech, hate speech. He stands out there as well doing exactly the same. So, walk the walk. This is a suspension. This is not about a democratic thing of elected politicians. If politicians spout hate speech in here, then we have every right to suspend them for a day. You have done this before. You have done this to Senator Richard Di Natale, who was actually standing up against sexism. Surely, you can do it for someone who has racist, bigoted views and who spouts them in this parliament.
This is not about the Greens. This is about racism. This is about a situation where we could have this society deteriorate to the same situation as we have in the worst areas of the United States. For the Greens to stand up here and do as they always do in that they are purer, they are better, they have got all the knowledge and all the wisdom is just another example of why they will never get more than seven, eight, nine or 10 per cent of the voting public in this country—because they just don't get it.
You want to turn this into being about you. It's not about you. It's about making this place a better country. I'm just sick and tired of the Greens at times, getting up here when we could be making clear and unequivocal statements about where we head as a nation. That the Greens suddenly turn it into a political position to try and promote their deteriorating electoral position in this country is just disgusting. It's absolutely disgusting. We had an opportunity today to be a combined Senate—a Senate that was dealing with the issues. But you couldn't let that go. I've watched you now for 11 years. It's always about the Greens. It's always about some political advantage. It's just not good enough today. You should have actually accepted that the Senate was certainly considering this in an appropriate way and made the appropriate points—but it wasn't good enough for the Greens, not pure enough for the Greens.
Senator Di Natale, if you could get your own house in order then you might have some credibility when you come in here. But the Greens political party has got no credibility. If you could just get your house in order then maybe someone would take you seriously, because no-one does at the moment.
Order! There being no further contributions, I am going to make a contribution, as I indicated earlier.
Order! Senator Di Natale, you made the observation earlier that you would have appreciated my advice earlier. I was at no point given a draft motion about a suspension while this has been subject to public debate, and I thought it appropriate to frame the debate in the Senate, given the public commentary about that. But at no point was I given advance notice of a specific motion or term of motion. I made—
Senator Di Natale, I listened to you quietly. You could return some courtesy. At no point was I given a draft motion. I therefore thought it appropriate, given the public commentary, to outline, with the advice I had taken from the clerk, the powers of the Senate. Now, to this matter, my statement earlier today confirmed the ability of the Senate to suspend a senator in relation to disorder in the chamber. I don't believe that the conduct outlined in this motion, reprehensible though it may be, meets the test that has been set for a breach of the standing orders or disorderly conduct. I also think it clearly does not meet the test that I outlined earlier—the statutory test of contempt.
Senator Di Natale, you referred to the period where the Senate suspended you. You were suspended for a refusal to respect the authority of the chair, not for the comments that you made. And it is unfair, and unreasonable and incorrect, to conflate the two incidents. Standing orders can always be amended to create further notions of disorderly conduct. That is within the power of the Senate. But the conduct outlined in this motion, to my mind, does not meet the test of disorderly conduct.
This isn't a debate about accepting or otherwise what Senator Anning said. The Senate has, in my view, rightly expressed its view earlier today that those comments are inappropriate, appalling, reprehensible, divisive and utterly unrepresentative of the Australian people we represent. Respectfully, Senator Di Natale, opposing this motion does not mean that I or any other senator are with those who express such views. And I think it is unfair to characterise opposition to part (b) of your motion in any such way.
Furthermore, I don't agree that to use a phrase that I think you did—if a censure had more force—or you did allude to those terms, then we wouldn't see this senator doubling-down. I've made the observation before that I think it is a sad element of modern politics that some seek attention through outrage. I firmly believe that to suspend a senator on these terms, when it is not a formal breach of the standing orders and disorderly conduct, and does not meet the test of contempt, would be a bad precedent. It would be a further step down a political path I don't think this chamber should represent and I don't think this chamber, when it's at its best and represents the views of the Australian community, and a deliberative approach to politics, should seek to represent.
I will therefore divide the question, according to the request of Senator Ruston. The first question is that part (a)(i), (ii), (iii) moved by Senator Di Natale be agreed to.
Question agreed to.
I also note there were no dissenting voices.
The question is that part (b) of the motion moved by Senator Di Natale be agreed to.