Parliament conduct watchdog 'no panacea'

·2-min read

Bodies enforcing a code of conduct for parliamentarians and their staff won't be the cure-all for systemic cultural issues in Parliament House, an inquiry committee has heard.

The first hearing into such a code in Canberra was told it will go some way to driving cultural change in the building.

However, Department of Parliamentary Services secretary Rob Stefanic told the inquiry more clarification was needed on how the new enforcement body for the code would work alongside other agencies in parliament.

"I don't believe the creation of new entities necessarily is the panacea, it's more the policies and the training and reforms that sit under that, that I think are more important," he said on Monday.

"Clarity will be important about what exactly that service does ... the code of conduct is the important foundation, but it's all the cultural work that stems from that, that will be the critical element."

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese committed to implementing the code of conduct following recommendations from a landmark review of workplace culture in Parliament House by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

Ms Jenkins told the hearing the code for parliamentary staff should be consistent with other codes for federal public servants.

"Establishing these codes of conduct with enforceable sanctions is a key step to ensuring a safe and respectful environment, free from bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault," she said.

"A piece of paper isn't necessarily on its own the thing that changes things, but it should be supporting that and support those other recommendations we made about diversity, equality and inclusion."

The inquiry is also examining whether the new standards body could impose sanctions on MPs and senators without interfering with the functioning of parliament.

Ms Jenkins said while it was unlikely the commission would be able impose sanctions or compel the expulsion of an MP from parliament, there were other ways actions could be enforced if a parliamentarian was found to have breached the code.

"The consequences that we came up with that would not interfere with the operation of parliament ... were to attend training or to perhaps give an apology," she said.