Senate debates

Thursday, 18 March 2021


Archives and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2021; First Reading

5:18 pm

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

Pursuant to order, I move:

That the following bill be introduced: A Bill for an Act to amend the Archives Act 1983 and the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and for related purposes.

Question agreed to.

I present the bill and move:

That this bill may proceed without formalities and be now read a first time.

Just for a brief bit of context, I appreciate that it's unusual for a bill to be presented and proceed through all stages at this time on a Thursday afternoon without having been previously laid on the table. But, of course, this bill is an important one to ensure the effective operation of the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces. This review is a historic opportunity for all of us across this parliament to work—and, ultimately, a report will be produced independently by Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins—to ensure that our workplace is an exemplar for the nation in terms of the way in which it prevents bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault and the way in which it ensures that we have leading practices not only for the prevention of such acts but also for the handling of such acts where they occur. I am very grateful to senators and members right across the parliament, across all parties and all Independents, who have engaged with me and the government over recent weeks to appoint Commissioner Jenkins to undertake this work and to establish terms of reference that provide very clearly for a comprehensive review and provide clear autonomy and independence to Commissioner Jenkins and the Australian Human Rights Commission to undertake the work.

At the time of releasing the terms of reference for the review, I made clear that it was the government's expectation that staff, former staff and, indeed, any other participants in the review, would and should be able to participate with complete confidence that they could do so with their privacy and their confidentiality being respected. We brought forward this legislation to respond to concerns that, although the Human Rights Commission could have used existing FOI provisions such as the privacy provisions to protect submissions around participation in the review, such protection would be appellable. Given the fact we wish to ensure that every single staff member, former staff member or any other individual who wants to make a submission to this review can do so safely and confident in the knowledge that their privacy will be respected, we worked across the parliament to bring forward this legislation and provide those guarantees. I thank the Senate for its cooperation in enabling this legislation's early consideration and swift passage this afternoon.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a first time.