MPs urged to support own code of conduct

Committee chair Sharon Claydon [right] says a code of conduct has been on parliament's agenda for decades.

Committee chair Sharon Claydon [right] says a code of conduct has been on parliament's agenda for decades. Photo: AAP

Parliamentarians are being urged to adopt a code of conduct for their workplaces and complete a task half a century in the making.

The parliamentary standards committee presented its final report, which included a proposed code of conduct and standards for Commonwealth workplaces.

The code would cover all who work in parliament house – including ministerial, departmental and press gallery staff – as well as electorate offices across the country.

Committee chair Sharon Claydon said the Australian parliament had long tried to implement a code of conduct and had considered the matter for nearly 50 years.

String of failures to introduce code

She noted a report from 1975 that recommended a meaningful code of conduct for parliament, and said MPs had tried and failed to introduce one in 1993, 2008, 2011 and 2012.

“The 47th parliament has a unique opportunity to make good on past mistakes and to leave a legacy for future generations who work in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces,” Ms Claydon said.

“We cannot waste this opportunity.”

Liberal senator and former minister for women Marise Payne said she was proud to have worked to right past wrongs, admitting parliament had not been a safe and respectful workplace.

“What we have seen and have had to address in the last year has had a very significant impact on the perceptions of the parliament itself,” she said.

“And I find that profoundly disappointing.”

‘Brave disclosures’ will help protect others

Senator Payne thanked the people who came forward to tell their stories and inform the landmark report, saying the “generous, brave disclosures” will help protect others.

“We heard you, we believe you, we are responding to you,” she said.

A draft code recommended by the committee puts respect, integrity and professionalism at the heart of its guidelines.

It also stipulates people covered by the code must “recognise your power, influence or authority and not abuse them”.

The code and standards for parliamentarians would apply to all aspects of their roles, including at social events, interactions outside of business hours, as well as communication in person and via social media.

Alcohol consumption no excuse for breach

It also stated alcohol consumption would not be accepted as an excuse for the breach of standards.

“The reports of bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault in our parliament have justly shocked the nation and highlighted the need for urgent reform to ensure all parliamentary workplaces are safe and respectful places to work,” Ms Claydon said.

“I implore the Australian parliament to take this opportunity to seek to put in place what previous parliaments have failed to.”


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