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senate vote 2020-11-12#1

Edited by mackay

on 2020-11-27 10:24:35


  • Business Rearrangement
  • Business - Rearrangement - Let a vote happen


  • <p class="speaker">Larissa Waters</p>
  • <p>I seek leave to move a motion relating to the consideration of the National Integrity (Parliamentary Standards) Bill 2019.</p>
  • <p>Leave not granted.</p>
  • The majority voted against a [motion]( to suspend the usual parliamentary procedural rules - known as [standing orders]( - to allow a vote to happen. This means the motion failed.
  • ### Motion text
  • > *That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent me moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to provide that a motion relating to the consideration of the [National Integrity (Parliamentary Standards) Bill 2019]( be moved immediately and determined without amendment or debate.*
  • <p>Pursuant to contingent notice standing in my name, I move:</p>
  • <p class="italic">That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent me moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to provide that a motion relating to the consideration of the National Integrity (Parliamentary Standards) Bill 2019 be moved immediately and determined without amendment or debate.</p>
  • <p>This week we've heard some revelations about activities that many people have known for a long time have gone on in this building. It is long past time that women in this building are safe and that exploitative relationships between ministers and their staff end. We've called on the Prime Minister to show some leadership and to take action. All we've heard is that this isn't his problem, that these issues are in the past and that there's a process. We took a good look at that process, and it's full of holes. The process does not have any implications for the alleged abuser. There is no power for the finance department to discipline a member of parliament or a MOP(S) Act employee who is found to have sexually harassed, bullied or intimidated an employee in this building. This government has held up a process that is entirely inadequate and does not protect women.</p>
  • <p>Sadly, there is a legacy of poor behaviour in this building, and it's not just about sexual harassment. We've seen sports rorts and dodgy, doctored documents. The list of conduct, which is either corrupt or getting pretty close to it, is as long as your arm. That is not only why we need a federal integrity commission&#8212;which this Senate agreed with and passed my bill on more than a year ago, which has been languishing on the House <i>Notice Paper</i>s&#8212;but also why we need an integrity commissioner and some parliamentary standards. At the minute, those ministerial standards are not only weak but discretionary. The Prime Minister chooses to turn a blind eye on so many occasions. They're not independently administered, and so frequently no consequences flow. That is why we need a code of conduct that is independently enforced, that has teeth and that actually applies to all MPs and their senior staff.</p>
  • <p>We have a suggestion&#8212;the process set out in the National Integrity (Parliamentary Standards) Bill 2019, which has been inquired into by this Senate. Surprise, surprise! The big parties said they didn't think it was needed. The government even went so far as to say, 'We should look at the existing process, and, if there are gaps, we should fill them.' The gaps are obvious. The gaps are that women have no recourse, their careers are over and they don't get to work in this town again. The MPs often get a promotion, and the women get blacklisted. The process that currently exists is weak and is an insult. It is making the problem worse.</p>
  • <p>We would like the Prime Minister to show some leadership and to fix the process. We've seen nothing from the Prime Minister this week&#8212;no leadership, no proposals and no acknowledgement that there is even a problem. We've put forward a suggestion for the Senate to consider. It's gone through inquiry. It would address not only sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse; it would address those other dodgy conducts that are not quite dodgy enough to be considered technical corruption, because our other bill will address that. So this is a sister bill to clean up the conduct of MPs in this building. We would like this matter addressed.</p>
  • <p>For too long, MPs have gotten away with abusing their power. So often it's the young female staffers that suffer the consequences. It's their careers that end, not the MP's. This building is not a safe workplace. We even saw the head of the ACTU yesterday describe this building as a high-risk workplace. The Prime Minister refuses to acknowledge there's even a problem. The process that does exist is discretionary because the Prime Minister's ministerial standards are completely up to him to enforce and they only apply to ministers. The Department of Finance's complaints process doesn't lead to any outcomes. It doesn't have any implications for MPs, because it's beyond their jurisdiction. This is a process that's been through inquiry, could be rolled out and would help address the cultural problems in this building. It would help clean up this toxic workplace and make sure that the standards that apply in other workplaces apply here too. It's not too much to ask. This is the parliament's 'Me Too' moment, and it's incumbent on all of us to be part of the solution. I hope that this national integrity bill, which is a counterpart bill to my ICAC bill, is taken seriously and I hope that we see the Prime Minister acknowledge the problem and do something about it.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Simon Birmingham</p>
  • <p>Serious issues have been raised in the course of this week. Serious issues deserve serious investigation and serious consideration, and there are processes in place to deal with them. Sadly, all too often in this building when serious issues are raised, people also seek to turn those serious issues into political opportunism, political stunts and political tactics, and that is what we are seeing from the Greens this morning. Rather than respecting processes that are in place for individuals to work through&#8212;the Department of Finance or other legal avenues and opportunities that are available to individuals&#8212;if they so choose, instead, based on some media reporting, the Greens decide that it's time to pursue political opportunism.</p>
  • <p>The government won't support the Greens in their politically opportunist approach. The government won't support the Greens when they choose to simply grandstand on issues. The government won't be bowing or buckling to the idea that the Australian Greens have some sort of moral authority that is superior to everybody else in this building.</p>
  • <p>Senator Waters is trying to change the government program for the day, and the government program for the day includes legislation important to the nation. The first order of business for the day is the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Strengthening Banning Orders) Bill 2020. I note the fourth order of the day&#8212;the Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill 2020. These are important policy issues, and important issues that affect all Australians who look outside and beyond the politicking of this building and who look outside and beyond the types of gestures that we get from the Australian Greens; these policy issues actually deal with helping the day-to-day lives of Australians.</p>
  • <p>Our government is getting on with dealing with the day-to-day issues that affect Australians. In the midst of a global pandemic, Australia has managed to stand tall. We've responded with a health response to keep Australians safe. We've managed to stand tall with an economic response to ensure economic security for Australians. Just last night we were dealing with, again, cheap politicking from the Australian Greens, and at that time the Labor Party as well, in relation to support we were providing to try to get young Australians into work, into jobs. What all of these issues&#8212;our health response to the pandemic, our economic response to the pandemic, the JobMaker program, NDIS legislation, and recycling and waste reduction legislation&#8212;have in common is a government focused on policies that matter for Australians.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Larissa Waters</p>
  • <p>Women's safety matters to Australians.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Simon Birmingham</p>
  • <p>I'll take Senator Waters's interjection, because women's safety matters enormously to this government as well. That is why our government has invested significantly in support for all Australian women in terms of the type of policies that have been pursued by Senator Ruston and by Senator Payne in their respective portfolios, which I am sure Senator Ruston will seek to touch on in this debate. It's why, throughout the pandemic, we have been mindful of providing additional financial support and services. When we saw there was a potential risk of domestic violence or other circumstances arising during lockdown phases, during high-stress phases for Australians in the pandemic, we provided the extra mental health support and we provided extra assistance. We were proactive in addressing those types of issues.</p>
  • <p>We take issues raised in relation to the operation of this building seriously as well. They're not to be dismissed, but nor for the sake of supporting political points should they be elevated, as the Greens propose to do, above the issues that are important to Australians in their day-to-day lives. We as a government will continue to pursue all of our policies in relation to supporting Australian women in the workplace, to supporting them in their homes and to supporting Australian families, but we're not going to be distracted in this place by insider tactics ahead of our NDIS legislation, recycling legislation or other matters of great importance.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Katy Gallagher</p>
  • <p>Labor won't be supporting this suspension this morning. If I can just address that point first: we were advised by the Greens at about 9.28 this morning that they were intending to do this. That didn't allow us the time, or the respect, frankly, to deal with the issue they have raised and the argument they have put this morning.</p>
  • <p>That leads me to agree with the government that the decision by the Greens isn't actually about dealing with the substance of the matter but is more about getting a five-minute speech up to show that they are the only ones taking this issue seriously. That is a problem, but it says everything about the Greens in this place&#8212;the fact that they don't give courtesy to the people that they need to work with in order to successfully get this up; they decide at the last minute to do this and then they seek to take an issue that has caused some considerable distress to people who work in this building this week and choose to deal with it this way. I think that is really unfortunate, because the Greens will have had the same conversations that we have had this week in light of the issues that have been raised. They will know that there are people who work in this building who have not found it to be a great workplace at times. That is the issue that all of us in this place should be looking to resolve and to improve upon.</p>
  • <p>For the Greens to think that they can deal with the issue seriously through a suspension of standing orders at the last minute on the final day for a bill that they could list for substantive debate says everything about the Greens, unfortunately. I do like working with you, Senator Waters, but this has really disappointed me, because as someone who works in this place, you will understand what the allegations this week have done. The message to me is to look at how we can we work as leaders in this place to make sure that our workplace is the best it can be. I don't think the way to deliver that is through a political stunt by suspending standing orders. I actually think there's a more serious discussion that we should be having and that we should be taking the lead on&#8212;not necessarily us, as women, but all of us in this place, as colleagues who employ people in a large workplace. We should be dealing with it. There are many other ways to progress that and I would welcome the engagement.</p>
  • <p>I know that there are discussions happening across the building about how to deal with it&#8212;not to pretend that there aren't issues in this workplace, because there are, and we all know about them. That is the issue we should be dealing with, not manufacture and create some kind of stunt&#8212;and I'm trying to look for another word, because I hope it's not a stunt, but that's what it looks like to me&#8212;as a way for the Greens to grandstand and pretend they're the only people standing up for integrity, 'The major parties this and the major parties that, they never stand up for you'. It's just simply not true. We have supported, and do support, a national integrity commission; we have supported legislation in this place and we do believe the government is dragging its heels on that. But the Greens have tied that to an issue about workplace culture and standards, tagging it to the <i>Four Corners</i>program and using it for political expediency. I reject that.</p>
  • <p>I would welcome a discussion with you, Senator Waters, about how we can actually deal with some of the issues and make sure this workplace changes, and changes for the better. It is a serious message that was sent through the <i>Four Corners</i> show, and one that challenges all of us. We shouldn't just sweep it under the carpet and pretend that there's nothing going on. I don't agree with that. I think we should be responding to it, and responding to it in a way that gives hope and confidence to the people who work in this building&#8212;that they can come to work, be safe and be treated with respect. I think that, for the large part, that is what happens in this workplace. But, where there are outliers, we need to be dealing with those and putting in place a framework that ensures that this workplace is the best in Australia and that it sets the highest standards. Bit is that going to be delivered by this suspension? No, it's not, and it was never intended to be. It was intended to give the Greens 10 minutes to try and point the finger at everybody else.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Larissa Waters</p>
  • <p>It's on the agenda so they don't sweep it under the carpet like they want to&#8212;</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Scott Ryan</p>
  • <p>Order. Senator Waters you've had your opportunity to contribute.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Jacqui Lambie</p>
  • <p>I am glad we are talking about respect this morning. I am going to show my respect to a very important woman who lost her son, who was a veteran, through suicide. As I was saying, Julie-Ann Finney was here in this building to make sure that the 20 years of service her son, Dave, gave to this country&#8212;</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Scott Ryan</p>
  • <p>Senator Lambie, I do need to ask you to speak to the motion before the chair, which is Senator Waters's motion to suspend standing orders to deal with this particular motion.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>