Senate debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces

3:43 pm

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Birmingham) to a question without notice asked by the Leader of the Australian Greens in the Senate (Senator Waters) today relating to the report on the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces.

I rise to take note of the answers given by Senator Birmingham in response to questions asked by Senator Waters in relation to the Jenkins review, which of course we know was handed down and tabled today. It's a very important report that includes 28 thorough recommendations. It's disappointing to see already that the government is stalling on taking swift action to implement these recommendations. We don't need any more talk here. We know what the problem is. A lot of work has gone into this. A lot of suffering has occurred for people to come forward and to tell their stories. Now what we need is the government to work with all sides to get it done. We need a commitment from the Prime Minister this week that he will work to implement every single one of these recommendations. That's what the Greens want to see. That's what survivors and victims-survivors—both in this place and those who have already left—want as well.

I want to say very clearly just how grateful, as a woman in this place, I am to the bravery of so many women—many of them staff but others members of parliament—who participated in this process. They told their stories, were brave and sacrificed a whole lot of suffering, pain and trauma in order to help improve workplace conditions in parliament. Of course, this is important not because parliament is a place that should be better than anywhere else in and of itself. It is important because the standards that we set for ourselves are standards that should be set for the rest of the country. If we can't have a safe workplace for women in Australia's parliament, how on earth can we expect a safe workplace for women and girls and Australians in every other workplace?

While I stand here reflecting on these recommendations and urging the government to act, not defer these recommendations, I think it's important that we acknowledge the specific contribution that was made by Brittany Higgins in calling out the treatment that she suffered as a staff member in this building. I know that there will be lots of people digesting these recommendations, watching the news tonight, listening to how parliamentarians respond to this. As I know Senator Birmingham has already mentioned today, there are some who we will never know the names of but who were brave enough to come forward and tell their stories. I thank them. We should all be thanking them. It is their bravery that has pulled this forward. But it will be in vain unless this government acts and commits itself to implementing every single one of these recommendations this week, unless the Prime Minister gives that commitment this week.

It was only a matter of hours after the tabling of this report that, during question time, when we had another female member on her feet—Senator Lambie—asking questions of the government, that we heard growling and dog sounds coming from the government side of the chamber. Now, one of the key reflections in this report is that parliamentarians have to behave better. We have to take accountability for our own actions and clean up behaviour across the board. Culture starts at the top, and if we expect staff to feel safe and behave respectfully towards each other then MPs and senators have to do the same. I was appalled that, only a matter of hours after the Prime Minister was on his feet, growling was coming from his side of the chamber. It's a disgrace.

Question agreed to.