Monday, 11 September 2023
Parliamentary Workplace Support Service Bill 2023, Parliamentary Workplace Support Service (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2023, Members of Parliament (Staff) Amendment Bill 2023; Second Reading
That these bills be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows—
PARLIAMENTARY WORKPLACE SUPPORT SERVICE BILL 2023
This Bill advances the Government's commitment to implement recommendations of the Australian Human Rights Commission's Set the Standard Report directed at making Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces safe and respectful.
Implementation of all 28 recommendations from that Report is a shared responsibility across the Parliament, and has been overseen by the Parliamentary Leadership Taskforce.
The Parliamentary Workplace Support Service Bill implements recommendation 11 of the Set the Standard Report, which is a key structural reform. Once established, the proposed Parliamentary Workplace Support Service will carry forward work to implement another six recommendations.
The Bill is the product of extensive consultation with members of the Parliamentary Leadership Taskforce and its staff consultation group. This recognises that the proposed Parliamentary Workplace Support Service would have functions to provide human resources and other employment related support to parliamentarians and their staff.
The Set the Standard Report found there was an absence of an adequate and authoritative people and culture function for parliamentarians and their staff, and a lack of standardised people management processes.
The Report therefore recommended that an independent body should be established to provide a foundation for a professionalised, safe, supportive and respectful workplace.
These are objects of the proposed Parliamentary Workplace Support Service.
The proposed new entity will integrate the functions of the existing Parliamentary Workplace Support Service. Since its establishment in September 2021, that body has been a trusted source of advice and support on behavioural conduct to people who work in Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces.
The proposed new Parliamentary Workplace Support Service would continue the support, complaint resolution and review functions of the existing Service.
It is intended that the review function, which is akin to a complaint investigation mechanism, would be performed by the proposed new Service pending establishment of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Commission.
The Commission is the other main structural reform recommended in the Set the Standard Report. It would have a main function to investigate complaints of breaches of Codes of Conduct which were endorsed, on an interim basis, by both Houses of the Parliament in February this year.
The Codes introduce clear standards of behaviour to support a parliamentary workplace that is professional, safe and respectful. It is one of the functions of the new Parliamentary Workplace Support Service to provide advice on the Codes.
Representatives of this Parliament need to work together to get these structural reforms implemented. We have been working intensely across the Parliament to bring forward this legislation to establish the new Parliamentary Workplace Support Service. As the next step, the
Government will move forward with establishing the Independent Parliamentary Standards Commission as a priority.
The Set the Standard Report set out guiding principles for the new human resources entity, namely that it should:
The Parliamentary Workplace Support Service Bill stays true to those principles.
The new Service would be headed by an independent office-holder. The Bill makes clear that the Chief Executive Officer of the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service cannot be directed by any person in relation to the performance of their functions or exercise of their powers. Importantly, the CEO will be able to obtain expert advice from an Advisory Board, and will also be able to obtain views from parliamentarians and staff whom it services, through a consultative committee.
The PWSS will have an education and training function to support parliamentarians and staff in their employment relationship. It will provide training on the Codes of Conduct to a broader cohort of people that work in the parliamentary workplace.
It is important that people can see that progress is being made in maintaining a professional, safe and respectful parliamentary workplace. With that aim in mind, the proposed new PWSS will report annually on key indicators of cultural change, such as gender and diversity characteristics, and progress in preventing misconduct like bullying and sexual harassment.
Where needed, the PWSS will be able to make policies and training programs mandatory. This would require the approval of the PWSS Advisory Board.
The PWSS will be able to publicly report on non compliance with mandatory training by a parliamentarian. But, it ought to be the commitment of every parliamentarian and staff member to comply with any mandatory measures.
This Bill is the product of close and extensive consultation across Parliament. The Government thanks parliamentarians and staff for their input.
The Parliament is a unique workplace, but it is also one of Australia's most prominent workplaces. The people that work here should have the systems they need to go about their work in a professional, safe and respectful environment.
PARLIAMENTARY WORKPLACE SUPPORT SERVICE (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS AND TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS) BILL 2023
The Parliamentary Workplace Support Service (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2023 would provide for consequential amendments and transitional arrangements to support the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service Bill 2023.
This Bill proposes amendments to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and to the Archives Act 1983 to restrict public access to documents of the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service.
Many records held by that entity will concern employment related information that is personal information. In addition, these measures will give people greater confidence to engage with the PWSS's support and complaint related functions.
The Bill also amends the Parliamentary Service Determination 2013 to repeal a provision that establishes the existing Parliamentary Workplace Support Service. This is because the proposed new Parliamentary Workplace Support Service will integrate the functions of the existing entity.
The Bill also ensures that the proposed new Parliamentary Workplace Support Service can continue to deal with matters currently dealt with by the existing Service.
This Parliamentary Workplace Support Service Bill package is the product of close and extensive consultation across the Parliament. The Government thanks parliamentarians and staff for their input.
MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT (STAFF) AMENDMENT BILL 2023
The Members of Parliament (Staff) Amendment Bill 2023 will amend the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 (MOPS Act) to modernise, improve transparency, and clarify the employment framework for parliamentarians and their staff.
The Bill will implement recommendations of the Review of the MOPS Act which was delivered by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in October last year. Measures in this Bill will also contribute to the cultural change in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces envisaged the Australian Human Rights Commission in the 'Set the Standard Report' on Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces.
The MOPS Act establishes a framework for parliamentarians and office- holders to employ people on behalf of the Commonwealth. The Act has been in effect for 39 years. The Australian employment law landscape has evolved considerably in this time. Until now, the MOPS Act has not been substantially amended to keep pace with these changes.
The 'Set the Standard Report' recommended a comprehensive review of
the operation and effectiveness of the MOPS Act to ensure consistency with modern employment frameworks.
This Review resulted in 15 recommendations which were agreed in principle by the Government and supported by the Opposition. The Bill would implement 11 of those 15 recommendations. The remaining recommendations will be implemented by the proposed new statutory Parliamentary Workplace Support Service to be established by the Parliamentary Workplace Support Bill 2023.
The measures introduced in the MOPS Amendment Bill are intended to ensure that the employment framework for MOPS Act staff is fit for purpose, reflects contemporary employment settings, and supports a safe and respectful working environment.
The Bill clarifies the roles and responsibilities of parliamentarians, office- holders, and employees, including their obligations under other workplace laws.
The Bill introduces employment principles to set expectations about the workplace for parliamentarians and their staff. The principles articulate the desired organisational culture in the workplace and will be an important touchstone for parliamentarians, staff and the new Parliamentary Workplace Support Service when formulating policies.
The Bill will also enhance transparency of employment arrangements with a new requirement that the determination of terms and conditions for employment under the Act are made publicly available on the Federal Register of Legislation unless they identify individuals.
The Bill includes requirements intended to guide decision-making by parliamentarians about employment matters, and to support fair outcomes and processes when making significant employment decisions.
Parliamentarians would be required to recruit employees based on their assessment of a candidate's capability to perform a specified role. This requirement reflects the value of establishing clear expectations at the start of employment and that can be met, while preserving the parliamentarian's ability to specify the role and skill requirements. It is anticipated the PWSS will provide guidance and support to parliamentarians to fulfil this new obligation.
Parliamentarians would also be required to consult with the new PWSS prior to making a decision to terminate the employment of a staff member or suspend a staff member without pay. This measure will support parliamentarians to meet their legal obligations when making those decisions.
A new provision for temporary suspension of employment will offer an alternative to termination of employment. It would be another mechanism to address risks in the workplace.
The Bill would also enable the PWSS, with the agreement of an employing parliamentarian, to suspend a MOPS employee in limited, specific circumstances.
The Bill also allows the new PWSS to take action to address other gaps in the employment framework, including the power to exercise limited employer functions in cases where there is no employing parliamentarian.
Some proposed amendments will streamline the MOPS Act, including by reflecting categories of employment used in practice, and removing obsolete provisions in the Act.
Proposed amendments to the Act's automatic termination provisions clarify the intended operation of these provisions, and will increase job security for electorate staff of parliamentarians who occupy particular offices such as Ministers and party leaders.
As recommended by the MoP(S) Review the Bill also provides for a further review within 5 years of the amendments commencing.
The amendments made by this Bill are the product of extensive consultation with parliamentarians and staff across Parliament, including through the Parliamentary Leadership Taskforce and its Staff Consultation Group, and union representatives.
Since the amendments implement recommendations of the MOPS Act Review, they are also informed by the contributions of current and former MOPS Act employees, parliamentarians, academics, unions, parliamentary departments, Commonwealth government agencies, and state and international jurisdictions conducted during the course of the MOPS Act Review.
The Government thanks every person who has engaged with the development of this legislative reform. Through collaborative effort to implement the Review's recommendations we can deliver safer and more respectful parliamentary workplaces.
The Government believes the changes in this Bill will underline the responsibilities and obligations of members of parliament as the employer. This Bill is an important part of the reforms the Government is progressing to support a professional employment framework for staff of parliamentarians.