THE HON SHAYNE NEUMANN MP, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR BLAIR
Federal Member for Blair Shayne Neumann has tabled a report recommending a raft of measures to improve behaviour and workplace culture in Parliament House.
Mr Neumann is the Chair of the House Standing Committee on Procedure, which released its report Raise the Standard on Monday based on the landmark Set the Standard report by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.
Set the Standard followed a comprehensive review of Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces in the wake of the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins in Parliament House in 2019 and other allegations of sexual misconduct.
Mr Neumann said the Procedures Committee inquiry into key recommendations of Ms Jenkins’ review recommended six changes, including eliminating offensive and discriminatory language in Parliament and harsher penalties for MPs behaving badly.
“The Committee has proposed changes to Standing Orders – the rules for how Parliament is run – that would bar discriminatory, sexist and exclusionary language being used in the chamber,” he said.
“The Parliamentary chambers are unique working environments. Freedom of speech and the robust exchange of ideas are core principles of parliamentary democracy, however that does not mean that our debates should not be respectful.”
Mr Neumann said giving the Speaker the option to lengthen the time MPs can be ejected from chamber for continued or escalating disorderly behaviour could act as a deterrent against bad behaviour.
“Presently the Speaker’s powers are limited to a one hour “sin bin” or naming a member resulting in suspension for at least a day.
“A three-hour ‘sin bin’ would mean a badly behaved member was more likely to miss speaking opportunities and important votes, and should help the Speaker address serious disorderly conduct.”
Mr Neumann noted Australia’s diverse demography and geography means that some MPs spend a lot of time travelling to and from Canberra, and long periods away from their families.
“While the Committee did not make any recommendations to change sitting hours, we will maintain a watching brief to monitor the careful balance between making the most of Members’ time in Canberra and maintaining wellbeing and safety, and a more family-friendly work environment.
“Changes introduced by the previous and current governments have significantly improved sitting hours and flexibility, including avoiding school holidays and late night sittings, which is important for Parliament House staff as well as MPs,” he said.
Mr Neumann was disappointed that LNP members of the Committee rejected Ms Jenkins’ recommendation to establish a separate parliamentary group or committee to examine gender equality, diversity and social inclusion.
“Having a parliamentary body on gender equality and diversity, like the United Kingdom House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee, would set up a critical institutional mechanism to place these issues at the heart of decision-making, and provide a useful forum for discussion and learning.”
Mr Neumann called for Parliament to consider making parliamentary language gender-neutral, however Liberal and National members of the Procedures Committee failed to support the recommendation.
“Sadly, this just shows how out of touch the LNP is from mainstream community standards,” Mr Neumann said.
Over the coming months, the House of Representatives will consider the report recommendations and whether to make any changes to the Standing Orders.
The Raise the Standard report and further information about the inquiry can be found on the Committee’s website at: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Procedure/Setthestandard10and27