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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1286


Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (20:05): I will also very shortly be foreshadowing an amendment, but I just want to say—

Senator Dastyari interjecting

Senator WHISH-WILSON: You can wait a little bit longer, Senator Dastyari. As my colleague Senator Di Natali has just pointed out, the Greens are relieved to see the old parties, except perhaps the oldest member of the coalition, Senator Macdonald, finally coming to some common sense on the need to fix this broken system that we have all been stuck to in recent years, which is clearly not working for the Australian people. The best way to fix this problem is to shine some light on it. It may look like this is a short-term political reaction—some might even say a knee-jerk reaction—to some bad publicity for a couple of high-profile politicians. We have heard stories here tonight about ex-member Bronwyn Bishop and, of course, former Minister Sussan Ley.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Tony Burke.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Yes, Tony Burke. All the names have been raised in here. For those listening tonight, this kind of legislation takes a long time and it takes cooperative effort amongst political parties, including the crossbench, and it takes a lot of hard work by a lot of individuals to lead on this issue. I would like to acknowledge Bob Brown, my predecessor, when he was here. We have heard about Bob Brown's boat from Senator Macdonald today, but he did many great things in parliament, including, of course being very heavily involved in the restructuring down progressive lines of MPs' pays and entitlements and bringing them in line with community expectations. A gap still exists between the expectations of the community and what actually goes on here. I would also like to acknowledge the work of Senator Christine Milne before she left, Senator Di Natale and especially Senator Rhiannon—this is her portfolio area—who has consistently worked to raise this in the public profile, and worked in the committee system with MPs and senators to get these bills to where they are tonight. These are important reforms but they are not the end of the story. They will go some way to establishing a healthier culture in parliament and, hopefully, to cementing that perception among the public.

We have had an important debate in this country in recent weeks around executive pay. The Greens, including once again Senator Brown, who previously put up legislation to cap executive pay, feel it is necessary to not only close once again the gap between the expectations of the public and well-paid senior executives in this country but to lead by example. Supporting this kind of legislation tonight and showing the Australian people that we will lead by example on these issues is very important.

The amendment that I foreshadow is very important. Essentially it asks that the investigative work completed by the authority is reported in six-monthly reports. We want these reports to come to parliament to be tabled so they can get an airing in the chambers of parliament, be debated and peer reviewed so that the public has information on the authority's work. If the authority does good work, which we hope it will, no doubt it will hold us all to account. So if that is kept secret and there is no transparency then, Senator Ryan, unfortunately it is an obvious conclusion to draw that that public perception about us pulling up our socks is not going to change. So we would like to see support for that amendment so that these things are released every six months and so that, if there has been bad behaviour and misuse of entitlements or rorting, those things are put out into the public domain.

It is only through this resetting of culture around allowances, us being seen to walk to walk the walk and us being open to scrutiny that we will have hope of restoring trust in the institution of parliament, which is essentially why we are here tonight. On behalf of the Australian Greens, I foreshadow that I will be moving an amendment.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator O'Sullivan ): Thank you, Senator Whish-Wilson. That is noted.