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Wednesday, 9 February 2022
Page: 160


Senator DUNIAM (TasmaniaAssistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries and Assistant Minister for Industry Development) (16:22): I table the explanatory memorandum relating to the bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

On 30 November 2021, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Kate Jenkins, provided her report—Set the Standard: Report on the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces to the Government.

The Jenkins Report sets out a comprehensive set of recommendations to improve the culture of Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces and ensure all those working in Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces are safe and respected. A number of the recommendations require legislative change to implement.

The Parliamentary Workplace Reform (Set the Standard Measures No. 1) Bill 2022 would make initial changes to four pieces of legislation in order to implement recommendations 17 and 24 of the Jenkins Report. The Bill would progress important and significant reforms to help ensure that Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces are workplaces where expected standards of behaviour are modelled, championed and enforced, where respectful behaviour is standard, and in which any Australian, no matter their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, disability or age, feels safe and welcome to contribute.

This Bill would be the first of what we anticipate will be further legislative changes to implement the Jenkins Report.

The Bill would amend the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 to strengthen and clarify the employment rights of MoP(S) Act employees. The amendments implement recommendation 17 of the Jenkins Report.

The Bill would make it clear that the Fair Work Act 2009 applies to MoP(S) Act employees. While this has always been the case, the Bill removes any doubt by making this explicit. This would support employees to exercise their rights under the Fair Work Act.

The Bill requires a parliamentarian to provide reason where they dismiss an employee from employment. This recognises that employees have a right to know why they have been dismissed and ensures dismissals under the MoP(S) Act follow best practice.

The Bill would amend the Work Health and Safety Act to clarify that parliamentarians are officers of the Commonwealth for the purposes of the WHS Act. This would clarify that parliamentarians must exercise due diligence to ensure the Commonwealth is fulfilling its duties under the WHS Act. The amendment also implements recommendation 17 of the Jenkins Report.

The Age Discrimination Act 2004 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 provide important frameworks to protect against discrimination in the workplace and encourage diversity. The Bill would amend the Age Discrimination Act 2004 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 to clarify that these laws apply to persons employed or engaged under the MoP(S) Act to put beyond doubt that these employees have protection from age and disability discrimination. These amendments implement recommendation 24 of the Jenkins Report. This amendment would bring these Acts in line with amendments made to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 by the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 in relation to MoP(S) Act staff.

In summary, this Bill would provide additional protections to MoP(S) Act employees and provides a clear intent that the Government is committed to implementing the recommendations of the Jenkins Report. Significantly, the reforms in the legislative package would ensure Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces are safe and respectful and that the nation's Parliament serves as a model workplace for our nation and strives for best practice in the prevention and handling of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of this bill be adjourned to the first sitting day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.