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Parliament endorses code of conduct to lift standards

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the government is about to receive the major defence report.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the government is about to receive the major defence report. Photo: AAP

Federal politicians have endorsed a new code of conduct for themselves and their staff as the prime minister promises Parliament House will lead workplace behaviour standards across Australia.

The landmark Set the Standard report by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins recommended a code of conduct for all staff in parliamentary workplaces be established.

Ms Jenkins’ 2021 review lifted the lid on parliamentary misconduct and found one-in-three people surveyed working across the federal parliament reported being sexually harassed on the job.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Parliament House would never be a typical workplace but it must always be safe.

“These codes will set and enforce a better standard of integrity, dignity and mutual respect,” he said.

“Building a better culture in this place will mean we can draw in a broader range of perspective and experience and I’m sure get better decision making as a result.

“This is a chance to do more than just catch up to the expectations of the community … this is a chance for parliament to lead.”

Minister for Women Katy Gallagher said parliament had acknowledged it had a problem with the treatment of women.

“The problems the (Jenkins) report identified brought into light what had been a lived experience for too many, for too long,” she said.

“The work hard, play hard culture at Parliament House had left some, particularly young women, vulnerable to exploitation and sexual assault.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the Jenkins report had shone a light on “repugnant” behaviours and there had been agreement across the political spectrum to ensure things changed.

But Mr Dutton said parliament must also make online reforms to protect people who wanted to enter parliament.

“A factor which can discourage women from pursuing political office is the reprehensible treatment that several female politicians have received online,” he said.

“Women of centre-right views are subjected to some of the most disgusting vitriol online and social media dominated by the extreme left.”

Independent MP Zali Steggall said women from across the political spectrum received a “revolting amount” of vitriol and abuse online.

“This is abhorrent and unacceptable, regardless of political allegiance or views, and it’s beholden on leaders such as the prime minister and the leader of the opposition to set the standard of tone and respect that is required,” she said.

Ms Steggall noted the work had only just begun for parliament to be a safer and more inclusive workplace, including establishing a workplace support service.

“These are ongoing measures, we must constantly remain vigilant and work on them,” she said.

“There’s a lot of work to do.”

– AAP

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