The Australian Federal Parliament has passed three bills to establish the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service (PWSS) as an independent statutory HR agency and revamp employment arrangements for parliamentary staff. This legislation responds to a report by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, which found that one-third of parliamentary staffers reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment.
The PWSS will review complaints about alleged conduct, but this power will eventually transfer to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Commission (IPSC), which will be established in forthcoming legislation. The IPSC will be a permanent body responsible for investigations and sanctions related to complaints.
The budget has allocated $51.7 million in new funding over four years, starting in 2023-24, to establish and operate the PWSS as an independent agency.
The PWSS will provide professional development, training, and support to parliamentary staff, aiming to create a safe, respectful, and accountable workplace. It will also establish a framework for employing individuals who assist parliamentarians and office-holders and define categories of employees.
Overall, these bills aim to address workplace issues in the Australian Parliament, including harassment and misconduct, by establishing independent oversight and support mechanisms.