07 November 2022

Parliament of Australia

President of the Senate

Senator the Honourable Sue Lines








In these opening remarks I want to cover off on three areas: the demise of the Crown, the building condition statement, and an update and my observations on where we are up to with the Jenkins report.

I want to acknowledge the significant contributions of DPS staff over the ceremonial arrangements following the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

For two weeks Parliament House was at the heart of tributes to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's life.

DPS staff supported arrangements for flag protocols, gun salutes, public condolence books and floral tributes, as well as the proclamation of a new sovereign and a national memorial service.

Auspic photographers captured all official proceedings, and Parliamentary Broadcasting provided live coverage to ensure that all Australians were kept up to date with the proceedings.

DPS staff displayed exemplary commitment to service, going above and beyond their normal duties. Much of the fortnight involved long hours across evenings, weekends and on a public holiday.

I also thank colleagues in the departments of the Senate and House of Representatives and other agencies, including the Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor General, the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Australian Defence Force, the National Capital Authority and the ACT government.

The Speaker and I sincerely thank all involved.

Today I also table the Presiding Officers' eighth annual statement on the condition of Parliament House. This statement provides a high-level update on Parliament House's capital works program and building maintenance program.

The senators will be familiar with the Set the standard report from Commissioner Kate Jenkins, which laid bare the extent of sexual harassment and other inappropriate workplace culture in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces and the urgent need for change.

All political parties and Independents accepted the report's recommendations.

Implementation work started under the previous government and continues to date.

The Speaker and I have oversight of the implementation task force.

The first annual parliamentary discussion on the implementation of the report is expected to be held in early 2023.

To give some examples of changes made already, the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service has now expanded, offering service and advice to all within Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces.

Reforms to employment practices for MOP staff have been done, along with a clarification of work, health and safety responsibilities.

Our government has made changes to Senate and House sitting times to make it easier for those with family responsibilities.

Parliamentary departments have been working on implementing those of the recommendations which apply to them.

I have given evidence to the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Standards about the need for a code of conduct for parliamentarians, their staff and all those working in the parliamentary precinct.

My submission can be found on the committee website.

My experience as a Presiding Officer is that a code of conduct is required to give us a basis on which to enforce standards of conduct in the chamber, but drafting codes of conduct will not by itself create cultural change.

In her report, Commissioner Kate Jenkins identified what she called a leadership deficit and stressed that change must come from the top.

With this in mind, I want to emphasise the importance of recommendation 4 of the report.

It calls on parliamentarians and senior staff to set expectations of conduct and create safe reporting cultures, and it reinforces the message that those individuals who engage in this conduct will not be protected or rewarded.

It is crucial that all members and senators reflect on our own responsibility to conduct ourselves in ways which promote respect in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces.

Party leaders bear a particular responsibility to challenge unacceptable conduct, both in the chamber and elsewhere, and to ensure accountability for those who choose to engage in it.

This is not a one-off job.

We need to do this, day after day and time after time, to achieve the cultural change that all of us have agreed is necessary.

The rules and behaviours by which we conduct ourselves must change with the times.

Parliaments must be gender-sensitive to be fit for purpose.

Women should never have to face the additional challenge of staring down sexism when they choose to enter public life, and the personal characteristics of parliamentarians should not be regarded as fair game in so-called political debate.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where violence against women in politics is a global phenomenon. I, therefore, call upon all parliamentarians to play their own part in ensuring everyday respect both within the chamber and outside of it.

Thank you, Chair.