REVIEW OF HARASSMENT IN THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT WORKPLACE

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Premier, Attorney-General, Minister for Planning and Local Government) (11:04): I move:

1. That in the opinion of this house a joint committee be appointed to inquire into and report on the recommendations arising from the equal opportunity commissioner's report into harassment in the parliament workplace and how they are implemented.

2. That, in the event of a joint committee being appointed, the House of Assembly be represented thereon by four members, including the Speaker, of whom three shall form a quorum of assembly members necessary to be present at all sittings of the committee.

3. That a message be sent to the Legislative Council transmitting the foregoing resolution and requesting concurrence thereto.

In supporting this motion—and I understand that other members may wish to consider some amendments to it, and I am happy to address that as soon as we have notice of what they may be from members—it is the position of the Liberal Party that we need to read, absorb and consider the recommendations of this report as a parliament. I would hope and generally expect that the Legislative Council will similarly have done that and will do the same.

It is the position from this side of the house that we do need to address it. It is not a new principle to consider or action plan to have under review. In the time I have been here in this parliament, there have been investigations into harassment, predatory behaviour and discrimination in the workplace, and we have had reports here of others before. I mention just one, namely, the police inquiry because it was a very considered report by the then equal opportunity commissioner, who embarked on a significant program of behavioural reform in that workplace.

Only last night, I was reading her report, in a final consideration after over two years of investment, into assisting the police to become a better workplace, a safer workplace and a place where particularly women in the workforce had an opportunity for advancement and promotion. It is not new, but it is something that has not for a very long time been addressed by this parliament.

Back in 2012, in this parliament we considered the question, for example, of whether we needed to have a code of conduct. The Hon. Bob Such, a member of this house, presided over a committee and provided a report to the then parliament that there should be a statement of principles endorsed by members of parliament. By late 2014, the former Premier the Hon. Jay Weatherill accepted that we should have a statement of principles and that we should all sign up to it.

It was disappointing to note that, at that stage, it took a very considerable time—in fact, not until 2016—before it was advanced but, nevertheless, as a parliament we signed up to that statement of principles. It is interesting for members who are following the consideration of what we do in relation to this report that other jurisdictions have done the same. Some have moved to have a code of conduct, some have not, in the parliaments in Australia, but this report is with us, it is pressing and we must deal with it.

I think it is fair to say that the question of whether we need to review the question of our statement of principles and advance to a code of conduct is a matter we must consider and discuss. It is not a matter for government, it is not a matter for individual members of this house, it is a matter for all of us as a parliament, with the Legislative Council, to give serious consideration to these recommendations and look at those matters, including other jurisdictions and how they have addressed these matters.

Since 2012, we have seen the development of a number of integrity bodies around the nation, including in South Australia, and that in itself brings further overlays of responsibility and accountability, and we are no exception. I am proud to say that this parliament endorsed the government's move last year to introduce judges and members of parliament to the process under the Equal Opportunity Act.

I am proud of that and I am proud of our parliament in passing that legislation. I am equally proud of our Premier who, upon receiving this report—although not even being in the bulk of the recommendations but a piece of advice from the equal opportunity commissioner that the Ministerial Code of Conduct, which we have had for a number of years, should also be upgraded—acted and imposed that obligation into the Ministerial Code of Conduct. That is what is important when it comes to commissioning a report and acting on it, and I am very proud that he did that.

If there is consideration given by this parliament for us as members of parliament to have a committee, which is the usual process, I am happy to indicate to the parliament the composition that I would recommend. This is a matter entirely for the parliament, but I recommend that we do act. It is something that the public expects of us, that we give serious consideration to the recommendations, that we work out how we are going to implement the recommendations that we accept, that we act on them and that we employ whatever we sign up to.

That is what is critical to us. That is what the public expects of us, that is what our constituents generally expect of us, and that is what I think we should expect of each other in our civilised behaviour in this parliament and within the precinct of it, to ensure that those who work with us, those who come to visit us and those who present petitions to us are dealt with in the same, respectful manner.

With that, can I indicate to the parliament that I suggest the recommended joint select committee consist of four people from each of the houses of parliament. I suggest we nominate four from this house and, similarly, four from the Legislative Council and that the committee be vested with the responsibility of considering these recommendations and coming back to us as a parliament to consider how we are going to implement any recommendations or, indeed, if there are any that we think we should do more of or less of.

It is a matter for the committee to consider that it be comprised, from each house, of the Speaker and the President. Sir, obviously you are the gatekeeper, arbiter and protector of this parliament in many ways. We recognise that. I would suggest that it is responsible of us to have the Speaker and the President of the other place to be on the committee, if it is their wish, and that the other representatives from each house include a member of the Liberal Party, the Labor Party and a representative from the crossbench.

I understand the practice in the Legislative Council, which has had a long history of representation of Independents in that house, works on the basis that its respective parties select a nominee for joint select committees and that it is a matter for the Independents themselves to nominate their representative.

I have had an indication that the member for King will propose that she be a member of the committee. We endorse that she, as a member of the Liberal Party, be part of that. I have had an indication that a member of the Independents will indicate that they are willing to undertake a role in that regard, and I have invited the Labor Party to nominate someone. I invite a representative of the Labor Party, the opposition, to indicate who they would wish to have.

If there are any amendment aspects that have not been considered, I am happy to receive those, even if they are being currently prepared by any other member, before we conclude this debate. I think—I am confident, in fact—that the public expects us to act promptly and responsibly in this matter and to exercise whatever we decide in a timely manner.

Ms HILDYARD (Reynell) (11:13): I support the motion and rise to move an amendment. I move that a new paragraph 2 be inserted, as follows:

That it is the opinion of this house that a code of conduct for members of parliament be introduced and that this committee draft this code of conduct for the consideration of this house.

As evidenced by the overwhelming response to yesterday's March 4 Justice around the country, it is abundantly and absolutely clear that Australian women have had enough and are demanding action, and that they will not stop marching and demanding action until meaningful change is made and until gender equality is achieved in every aspect of life, in our economy, in every aspect of community life, including ensuring that gender equality in terms of representation in this place exists. They will not stop until every woman and girl is safe wherever she works, wherever she chooses to go, at whatever time of the day or night, until women are believed and until we have justice for those who have been raped, harassed or discriminated against.

Women and all who support them will no longer tolerate workplace culture, nor culture in any other place, that enables disrespect, harassment and violence towards women. This includes our parliaments, where Australians, including South Australians, rightly expect the highest standards to be upheld but which too often have been found to be amongst the worst and most resistant to societal change.

As prescribed in the equal opportunity commissioner's recently released Review of Harassment in the South Australian Parliament Workplace, change must include a code of conduct being established for members of parliament. The acting equal opportunity commissioner's review clearly and shockingly showed it to be the case that violence, harassment and sexism occurs in this the South Australian parliament workplace.

As Our Watch sets out, we as a parliament must, as a matter of urgency, play our part and examine the way our structures enable violence to occur and also think about what part we can play in influencing attitudes, behaviours and social norms. It is absolutely imperative that in doing so we develop a code of conduct for members of this parliament.

Mr MALINAUSKAS (Croydon—Leader of the Opposition) (11:17): I rise to speak in support of the amendment that has been moved by the member for Reynell. I think the entire nation has been deeply moved by the events we have seen transpire, particularly around our nation's capital in recent weeks. That was particularly evident yesterday with the March 4 Justice rally that so many members in this place had the opportunity to attend, as was the case around the country.

There are undoubtedly a number of forces at play that contributed to such an extraordinary turnout in terms of the number of people present yesterday at such short notice. Certainly, one of the drivers and I think motivating forces here is a genuine expectation from the Australian community, and indeed the South Australian community, that parliamentarians, leaders of our communities and community, act in a way that is consistent with the expectations that I think we all subscribe to and would seek to uphold.

I think the South Australian public and the Australian community generally find it incredibly disconcerting that there are allegations of very serious sexual harassment occurring within the parliament. We have seen those allegations take place in the federal parliament and then unfortunately the Equal Opportunity Commission report revealed that there are serious allegations of criminal sexual harassment occurring within this workplace.

Indeed, there is an allegation contained within that report of criminal sexual harassment against a member of parliament. That alarms the community, as it reasonably should, and I think South Australians expect action in that regard. I welcome the Attorney-General's resolution moved this morning seeking to introduce a joint house committee to address some of the issues raised within the Equal Opportunity Commission's report and to look at the recommendations.

I think it is important to get on the record this house's view, specifically in regard to the issue around the code of conduct. As the Deputy Premier referred to in her earlier remarks, the code of conduct is something that has been considered and debated within the South Australian community and the South Australian parliament for some time, but I think we have now arrived at the point that it is no longer okay to kick the can down the road on this in a way that does not eventuate in a code of conduct being introduced.

Nothing irritates the public more than a sense that somehow it is one rule for everybody else in the workplace but a different rule within the parliament. That inconsistency is something that we can no longer allow to exist up in lights. The South Australian community expect there to be a code of conduct for this workplace just as there is for theirs. I can say from some experience that almost every private sector and public sector workplace now is subject to some version of a code of conduct, yet that is not the case for members of this chamber or the other; it is not the case for the parliament.

We cannot allow this and can no longer sit by and say it is one rule for everybody else and a different rule for members of parliament, which is why this house, right now, should definitively decide that enough is enough and put on the record our support for a code of conduct applying to members of parliament. The establishment of that code of conduct undoubtedly does bring with it a degree of complexity. This is a unique workplace.

There are circumstances that prevail in our system of Westminster democracy that are not true in other workplaces. This is an adversarial workplace. There is always a contest between major political parties and individual MPs. We do not seek to diminish that, and we would not want a situation where an MPs' code of conduct was being used somehow as a political weapon to unfairly undermine one of our adversaries.

I believe it is within our collective capability to develop a code of conduct in a way that acknowledges the uniqueness of the Westminster system and the role of members of parliament but also acknowledges the substantial responsibility associated with that, to set an example for the rest of our community. We have it within our capability to develop a code of conduct that does not just enjoy bipartisan support but hopefully enjoys unanimous support, not just across this chamber but also in the upper house. We can do this, but we need to work together.

The motion from the Attorney-General to establish a committee I believe is the best vehicle to establish what that code of conduct looks like and how that code of conduct would be applied and, indeed, policed. We can do this together to make sure that we get the balance right between acknowledging the substantial complexity of a workplace like this and upholding a standard that the South Australian community reasonably expects.

I invite the Premier to support this resolution. I invite the government to support this amendment. It is a step in the right direction, and it is a step that would ensure that South Australian people generally understand that their calls are being heard, that their parliament is responding accordingly, that the idea of sexual harassment occurring in this workplace is not to be tolerated and that, indeed, enough is enough.

The Hon. S.S. MARSHALL (Dunstan—Premier) (11:23): I rise in order to support the motion and the amendment that has been put by the member for Reynell. I think that most of us in South Australia were shocked by the recent report that was commissioned by our parliament looking into workplace standards and practices within the South Australian parliament. We thank the acting equal opportunity commissioner for her report. We look forward to working on all 16 of those recommendations, and I strongly support the establishment of a parliamentary committee to do the work so that we can have recommendations that come back to the parliament.

Every single person in South Australia should feel safe and respected within the workplace, and we here in the South Australian parliament should be modelling the highest of standards. We have had in place for an extended period of time a set of principles that we abide by. In the cabinet, we have the Ministerial Code of Conduct.

One of the recommendations that we have before us is to consider having a code of conduct for all MPs. I think that the committee that we establish should look very hard at this and look at what happens in other jurisdictions—what are the benefits, what are some of the pitfalls with some of the other models that exist—and come back to this house with their recommendations.

I think that it is time for us to make sure that we are a model for all of South Australia. The report by Emily Strickland shines a light on parliamentary practices and, quite frankly, I do not like what we have seen. I know that many members say that there have been significant improvements but what this report tells us is that there are many more improvements that need to be made. We on this side of the house are absolutely focused on making sure that occurs.

Dr CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (11:25): I move to amend the amendment by deleting the words to be inserted by the member for Reynell's amendment and inserting the following:

After 'implemented' in clause 1 insert:

and that the committee draft a code of conduct for members of parliament for the consideration of both houses.

This is a tidying up of the language which was necessary by virtue of the haste with which we have been seeking to amend the terms of reference that were provided just an hour or so ago to this side of the house. The intent remains the same as was indicated both by the member for Reynell and also by our leader that a code of conduct be drafted by this committee and that that code of conduct then be able to be considered by both houses of parliament.

The intent remains the same, as I said, that a code of conduct is now beyond time and that for us to wait, yet again, for more consideration and an inquiry and reporting will simply take too long. We need to acknowledge that that is now necessary and we need to move quickly.

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (11:27): I rise to support the motion from the Deputy Premier. Obviously, while the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has only now identified an amendment to the amendment previously moved by the member for Reynell, to which previous amendment the Premier has indicated agreement, in the coming minutes we will just double-check the wording that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has now amended the amendment to.

I want to talk about the substance briefly, though, while some of that consideration is underway. Emily Strickland, as the acting equal opportunity commissioner, gave every member of this house and every member of our staff and every member of the people who work in the parliament the opportunity to contribute to the survey about workplace practices that are related to this parliament. While a number of our staff and possibly members did not, a great many of our staff and members did, and I want to thank those who did so.

There has been some discussion about the specific examples raised by the acting equal opportunity commissioner in her report. I would hope that the bipartisan nature of this debate today—in fact, not just bipartisan but it includes all the crossbenchers in both houses as well—and the broad spirit of welcoming the report by all sides of parliament will give confidence to those individuals who have reported atrocious behaviour; some examples being criminal as identified.

It will give confidence to them that they will have their accusations taken deeply seriously and be supported throughout the process of making representations to appropriate authorities. I think that the sharing of those stories—story after story—in a report such as this of significant weight certainly does shine a light, as others have identified, on the opportunity for us to improve as a parliament.

I look forward to this committee putting forward recommendations. I look forward to it, I imagine, putting forward a sensible way forward in relation to a code of conduct. I do not want any member of parliament to labour under the misguided idea that this committee is going to be doing all of the work or indeed even the implementation. The decision to implement the recommendations of this committee will be enough. It is on every individual in this parliament—everyone who works for us, everyone who is part of the culture of any workplace—to be a part of that solution in the way that we conduct ourselves at all times.

Not committing a criminal act is not enough. Not just identifying that you are not transgressing against anything in a code of conduct or a statement of principles is not enough. I hope that all members of parliament will take an active responsibility in promoting an actively positive culture in their own workplaces, in this building and indeed in this chamber in the way that we conduct ourselves every day, and I hope that all members will take that encouragement in the very serious spirit in which it is meant.

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Premier, Attorney-General, Minister for Planning and Local Government) (11:31): I want to thank all members for their contribution and indication of support for this motion. I think it is very important that we advance this course for all the reasons that have been said, and we will indicate the composition of the committee shortly. But can I just reflect on a couple of extra matters that have been raised, particularly via the amendment and then the amendment to the amendment, and indicate formally that the amended amendment, or substitute amendment—I think it has to be an amendment to the amendment—is acceptable.

By saying that, we are making a provision that provides for the committee to draft a code of conduct for members of parliament for the consideration of both houses of our parliament. Implicit in the motion is that obligation to provide the means by which we do consider recommendations. Ultimately, it is entirely a matter for this house to determine under what rules we conduct ourselves.

That said, it is very clear that it is not the responsibility of the committee to make a decision about what we do to move towards having a people and culture unit, having a code of conduct, developing a framework, having a strategy, introducing policies and providing personnel to support that—all of the other worthy recommendations that are under consideration by this committee. Therefore, it is important that, if we are to implement those, as per the recommendation, we have some guidance from the committee. We will be looking for that to be presented to us as a parliament so that we can make the ultimate decision. I wish to make that abundantly clear.

I want to make clarifications in relation to three of the recommendations. The first recommendation proposes the establishment of a human resources unit. I will not repeat all of the reasons for it, but it is important. Obviously, it would require ultimate consideration of a government to consider the resourcing of such a recommendation.

I want to make it absolutely clear that two things are happening. One is that our Treasurer, who currently has responsibility for a number of industrial matters and provision of services to this parliament and the employment of a number of our staff, is already looking at how that may be implemented. I want to assure the house that, as a member of the government, he is looking at how that might work because, as members would appreciate, there are very different terms of employment for people who work within this precinct and in our electoral offices and in our ministerial offices. So it is a little bit complicated, but he has started that body of work.

In relation to the final recommendations, which are 11 and 15 from memory, they ask me, as Attorney-General, to look at amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act and to do two things, which I will paraphrase: streamline the process of reporting and investigation of complaints of harassment, and that includes sexual harassment and discriminatory harassment. Do not forget that in this exercise. This is broader than just a sexual harassment report and I am looking at that as we speak.

Secondly, it was recommended that there be the question of the duty or obligation of an employer to positively implement protections in relation to antidiscrimination and harassment in the workplace. That is also under consideration. I commit, and the government commits, to provide what support we are called upon to support the parliament to consider these matters, including the provision of information.

To complete that, can I say that there are two other things in this report; one is a recommendation that our political parties also develop and employ protections, procedures and guidelines to do that. I can proudly say that the Liberal Party did that early last year. As I understand in public comments, the Labor Party are progressing that.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: At the moment—that is excellent. There are other political parties and—

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order!

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: —obviously that needs to be considered. I advise the parliament that I have written to both the Speaker and the President inviting them to make inquiry with all registered political parties in South Australia as to what they have in their guidelines, policies or principles.

I think it is important that, having received this recommendation, although it is not directly in the purview of a parliament, many of us do represent political parties and are proud to do so, but we also want to be participatory in and members of political parties that sign up to a process to ensure that we act to protect volunteers, members, persons who are involved, candidates, etc., in that.

The final matter, which relates to the recommendation of the Premier in relation to a ministerial code of conduct, has already been acted upon and I am proud to say, of course, that he has done that. That is as per the recommendation, that is, the direct introduction in the Ministerial Code of Conduct to ensure that there is a workplace where sexual harassment and discriminatory behaviour is prohibited. For those of us who have either been ministers or are ministers, we all know what the ultimate sanction of that is: you can be out. I think it is very important—

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order!

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: —that we now, as a parliament, progress this motion to enable us to actually get to work and that would be number one, to invite the Legislative Council to join us in that regard. I indicate that in addition to the Speaker, the member for King, the member for Mount Gambier, and I am happy to note whoever might be the member for the Labor Party—I am getting a smile and a nod.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order!

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: I am just saying, I am happy to indicate that for a resolution today. If we do not have that at this point from the Labor Party, then I am happy to progress with this membership on the basis that the Australian Labor Party will present a nomination in due course as to who they will have on the committee. I am getting a nod in that regard. I am happy to seek a further notation that the Speaker, the member for King and the member for Mount Gambier be members of the committee, noting that it is proposed there will be a further member of the committee to be nominated by the Australian Labor Party.

The Hon. A. Koutsantonis interjecting:

The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: I would expect, notwithstanding that rude interjection from the member for West Torrens, that they will understand the urgency of us dealing with this matter, and will appreciate that, and look forward to presenting their nominee for the approval of this parliament.

Dr Close's amendment to amendment carried; motion as amended by Ms Hildyard's amendment as amended carried.