Senate debates

Thursday, 18 March 2021



4:15 pm

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I move:

That today—

  (a) the hours of meeting be 9.30 am to adjournment;

  (b) following the tabling (only) of committee reports, the routine of business be the introduction and consideration of the Archives and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021;

  (c) if, after 30 minutes, consideration of the bill has not concluded, the questions on all remaining stages be put;

  (d) paragraph (c) operate as a limitation of debate under standing order 142;

  (e) divisions may take place after 4.30 pm; and

  (f) the Senate adjourn without debate on the motion of a minister

This motion has been circulated. In moving it, and as I indicated earlier in the day, the government is bringing forward legislation—the Archives and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021—which will seek to achieve the very important outcome of guaranteeing to any individuals who participate in the inquiry and review into parliament's workplace practices that is being undertaken by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Commissioner Kate Jenkins, through the Australian Human Rights Commission that their participation can be done with the utmost confidence in its confidentiality. This legislation will be able to provide any existing or former staff member in this place, or indeed any other individual seeking to make submissions, with the confidence that, if they make a submission and participate in any way in that review and wish for their information to remain confidential, it will remain confidential.

I thank various parties for their advocacy in relation to this matter. It was certainly the government's intention at the outset, in using the Human Rights Commission, that we believed there were sufficient protections in place to guarantee confidentiality. This legislation will, if you like, provide an absolute additional way to safeguard that, such that I hope everyone can engage in it. The government recognises the urgency of passing such legislation to give the confidence, and hence the hours motion that I'm proposing.

4:17 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll just flag that whilst we don't like the practice of last-minute hours motions, given the content of the bill that is sought to be passed through this chamber today—and, we understand, in the House early next week—and given that it will facilitate staffers and former staffers to provide confidential evidence to the Jenkins culture review, on that basis alone we will support this. I might add that we've been seeking this fix to be drafted all week, as has the opposition, as I understand it. We look forward to actually seeing a copy of that draft bill, which I would very much like to receive very soon, and then we will agree to this hours motion.

4:18 pm

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I wouldn't mind if Senator Birmingham would clarify one thing. I haven't seen the bill either and I don't know the text of the bill. I'm broadly in support of it, but I would like to know, in the circumstances that the bill carves out all submissions made to the Human Rights Commission, whether the government would give an undertaking that a government submission would be released administratively?

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Birmingham can seek leave to make another contribution now, or he can close the debate now and answer that question later. There will also be an opportunity to debate the bill, albeit briefly, at the time it comes forward, Senator Patrick.

4:19 pm

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll close the debate. I'm seeking to make sure that details of the bill are shared with minor parties and crossbench senators and, indeed, all senators, as quickly as possible. I trust that will be the case. Of course, Senator Patrick, once it is shared with you, I will happily engage in relation to any details or concerns you may have. It's certainly the government's intention that any individual who wishes to make public their submission retain the right to do so. In relation to any government submissions, I would anticipate that they will be made public, barring any features of particular personal confidentiality or the like that may be contained within.

Question agreed to.