Fair Agenda Blog

Opening statement part 1, delivered by Renee Carr, Executive Director of Fair Agenda:

Fair Agenda is a national, independent campaigning organisation advocating for gender equity. We have over 43,000 members around the country that are jointly working for a future where we can all have safety, security and agency over our lives and bodies - no matter our gender.
 

Our members are active across a range of gender equity issues. In recent years our movement has helped to decriminalise abortion in Qld, NSW and SA; pushed dozens of university residences to improve their training to prevent sexual violence; and advocated for state and federal reforms to improve responses to gender-based violence.

Our members have expressed significant dismay and distress at the crisis of gender-based violence across the country and across our communities and  have campaigned for improvements to prevention and responses to gender-based violence.

We know that to prevent gender-based violence at a societal level, we must address gender inequality - including attitudes of disrespect and power imbalances.

We welcomed the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s recommendation that parliament should approach this reform process with an expectation that federal parliament set the standard for workplace culture.

Given the responsibility and power of the federal parliament in making decisions that affect all our lives; we believe we need a system that holds our parliamentarians to a standard that reflects the responsibility they have over the lives of the Australian community. 

In preparing our submission to this Committee we asked our members a series of questions, including: how the many allegations made against parliamentarians last year made them feel, why they considered integrity in Parliament is important, and what are the values they would like elected leaders to exhibit. 


We had nearly 200 responses with members collectively contributing over 36 hours of time to answer those questions. We have reflected the responses of our members in word clouds and quotes within our submission. 

A quote from our members, which we feel captures a lot of the sentiment expressed is as follows: “A person who acts with integrity is trustworthy. We must be able to trust our MPs to work for the national best interest, and to represent Australia to the rest of the world.”

 

Opening statement Part 2, delivered by Alyssa Shaw, Campaign Manager at Fair Agenda:

Fair Agenda’s submission has been drafted with a focus on a Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians. Noting that we support the Set the Standard recommendations for three Codes for Parliamentarians, Parliamentary staff and the Parliamentary precinct. 

In approaching this, we have tried to think through a strengths based frame of what a Parliament that upholds Australian values, and public expectations, would look like. 

Fundamental to this is a Code that articulates strong values, as a basis to ground and guide behaviours and attitudes within Parliament. Creating cultural change is challenging, but we believe enunciating clear and consistent values that everyone understands and upholds, will support this process. 

 

Regarding the content of the code, our key recommendations are that The content of a Code should include:

  • General principles of good conduct and character  should apply to all parliamentarians. A code should also articulate values that underpin all conduct in Parliament. Values such as respect, inclusion and honesty came up as prominent values to include for Fair Agenda members. 
  • We also support specifying behaviors that should be explicitly prohibited. Including behaviours that relate to gender-based violence, inequity and discrimination. This includes the explicit exclusion of sexual harassment, sexual assault, bullying and harassment, and discrimination such as racism and homophobia.  


Regarding enforcement of the Code - how it is investigated and the role of sanctions

  • Fair Agenda supports the establishment of an Independent Parliamentary Standards Commission (IPSC) to investigate, report and make recommendations of sanctions for any breach of the Code. 
  • We believe it is critical that in investigating and enforcing the Code, the role of parliamentarians with additional responsibilities, such as Ministers, should be considered and inform any sanction or recommended response
  • Fair Agenda believe there should be an expectation of public reporting regarding breaches of the MP Code, however this also needs to consider the nature of the allegation e.g. sexual assault, and the consent and confidentiality of victim-survivors.
  • We also believe it is important that when the IPSC makes findings about breaches the IPSC can also recommend a broad range of sanctions; and for this to be reported in a way that supports transparency and public accountability. Our recommendation is that a norm be set that overall findings and recommendations about any breach of the MP Code be made public. 


Regarding the process for implementing the Code

  • We believe that the Code should be under the purview of the Parliament as a whole and should therefore be legislated
  • That there should be a review period as part of this current process to ensure the Code has a high degree of rigour. 


Regarding how to apply the Code in practice:

  • We believe it is critical that the scope of the code includes both professional and personal conduct. Specifically, Fair Agenda asks the Committee to consider a Code that applies to any personal conduct that is relevant to a members’ parliamentary duties and responsibilities. 
  • We have provided comments to the Committee that aim to support how the Code will interact and sit alongside existing rules around parliamentary conduct, such as parliamentary privilege and standing orders
  • Fair Agenda has also provided a test, or thought experiment, which we believe reflects our member’s expectations around the efficacy of a Code and its investigation of alleged breaches.
    In line with our member’s desire to see a proper and consistent process in place to deal with all allegations of gender-based violence and misconduct; we believe that the Committee should ensure that the substance of the MP Code of Conduct would - if it were in place during the last parliament - have provided an avenue for independent investigation of those allegations against MPs, as a potential breach of the Code. To be clear, we do not believe the Code should apply to conduct of those no longer in this parliament - but rather propose this as a test of whether the Code’s substance and investigation powers are effective; and meet public expectations. Last year our members were particularly dismayed and galvanised about the inadequacy of the process to deal with the allegations that were made against then Attorney-General Christian Porter. We want to ensure that the lack of clear, consistent and independent process for review of such allegations is addressed.

 

In addition to our submission, Fair Agenda has spoken and read a number of other organisational submissions, and reviewed previous sessions of the public hearings for the Committee. As such, there are some additional comments we would like to make to the Committee which we hope might be of help in your deliberations. 

 

Regarding the role and function of the IPSC - it’s interaction with other rules, bodies, support services and drawing a distinction as to when matters are referred to this body:

  • We reiterate that we consider the IPSC should sit as a puzzle piece alongside other rules, such as standing orders - and expect that to an extent enforcement of the Code is decentralised to leaders within parliamentary spaces e.g. President in the Senate or the Chair of a Committee. 
  • Not withstanding this, we believe there should be scope for actions and behaviours considered a breach of the Code to be referred to the IPSC if they are egregious, consistent or particularly targeted in nature.
  • We expect the IPSC would interact with the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service. We understand that complaints that have been brought through the PWSS have had a high success rate of being resolved. We would like to note that it is important to tease out how the PWSS and IPSC will interact, and to ensure that this interaction, particularly when it comes to supporting people who have experienced sexual assault or other traumatic events is consistent with best practice and trauma-informed. We support this being extended to bullying, harassment and other misconduct. 


Regarding sanctions

  • Fair Agenda supports a breadth of sanctions. This is important so that sanction recommendations and action can be proportionate to the issue, and consider the role of the parliamentarian.
  • At this stage we do not expect  sanctions that would include expelling parliamentarians from the parliament. There are other organisations that have made submissions that will be better placed to comment on the nuances of this, but our understanding is that this throws up constitutional issues and goes to concerns about the role of democratically elected representatives. In resolving these issues, however, we would like to see parties provide a greater focus on ensuring accountability on these issues, including in pre-selection processes which we understand is outside the scope of the Committee’s terms of reference.  

 

Regarding how the Code should be implemented: 

  • We believe the Code should be legislated for by the Parliament. We do not believe it should be administered only by Standing Orders embedded within each chamber. We believe this is important to ensure consistency and clarity across both chambers, as standing orders can change with a majority vote in the relevant chamber, where legislation would apply to both chambers and be agreed to by a majority in both chambers. We do not want to have a situation where there are effectively different standards for different parliamentarians. 
  • We believe the Code should have a level of detail that is more “high level” in what it articulates e.g. specific values, and specifics around behaviour that is prohibited, including gendered violence; and other forms of disrespect and discrimination that are contrary to the values of respect and inclusion. The details and definitions for this should sit below the Code in policy or similar so that it can be changed to adapt with time, and run less of a risk of being outdated. This is part of the reason we are calling for a review as part of this process, to ensure that all the necessary values and behaviours contained in the Code reflect what is needed. 



You can read Fair Agenda's full submission to the Committee here. 

Written by Renee Carr
29 September 2022

Fair Agenda has asked all candidates for the federal election to take the Pledge for a Safer Future. The pledge reads:

As a candidate for federal parliament, I pledge to:

  1. Do what it takes to end all forms of gender-based violence within a generation
  2. Champion strong action to prevent all forms of gender-based violence by addressing its drivers and enablers, including gender inequality. 
  3. Push for proper funding of specialist sexual, domestic and family violence services - to ensure everyone affected can access the support they need, and that perpetrators’ abusive behaviours are reduced. 
  4. Vote for better legal and institutional responses for victim-survivors to ensure people seeking support are helped, not hurt, by systems that should support them.
  5. Vote for safer workplaces by supporting full implementation of the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s [email protected] recommendations to address workplace sexual harassment. 
  6. Champion reforms for a safer parliament - including full implementation of the recommendations in the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s ‘Set the Standard’ report. 

 

As of the Pledge's launch on the 14th April, 65 candidates had taken the pledge. Those were:

Name

 

Party/ Independent 

Electorate/State

Andrew Wilkie MP

 

Independent

Clark 

Nicolette Boele

 

Independent

Bradfield

Kylea Tink

 

Independent

North Sydney

Kim Rubenstein

 

Independent

ACT

Sen. Peter Whish-Wilson

 

Australian Greens

TAS

Alana Galli-McRostie

 

Australian Greens

Goldstein

Alex Breskin

 

Australian Greens

Isaacs

Apurva Shukla

 

Australian Greens

Werriwa

Asher Cookson

 

Australian Greens

Aston

Bill Pheasant

 

Australian Greens

Menzies

Brendan Clarke

 

Fusion Party

Berowra

Catherine Robertson

 

Victorian Socialists

Fraser

Cecily Rosol

 

Australian Greens

Bass

Celeste Liddle

 

Australian Greens

Cooper

Chetan Sahai

 

Australian Greens

Sydney

Colleen Bolger 

 

Victorian Socialists

Melbourne

Danielle Mutton

 

Australian Greens

Blair

David Deex

 

Australian Greens

Spence

Dominic WY Kanak

 

Australian Greens

Wentworth

Elijah Suares

 

United Australia Party

Bendigo

Ethan Hrnjak

 

Australian Greens

Mackellar

Gilbert Wilson

 

Australian Labor Party

Wannon

Greg Elliot

 

Australian Greens

Mayo

Jack Boddeke

 

Australian Greens

Lalor

Jade Darko

 

Australian Greens

Franklin

James Haggerty

 

Fusion Party

Grayndler

Janet Murray

 

Australian Greens

Hunter

Janine Rees

 

Australian Progressives

Ryan

Jennifer Cox

 

Australian Greens

Kennedy

Jeremy Carter

 

Australian Greens

Boothby

Jerome Small

 

Victorian Socialists

Calwell

John Photakis

 

Australian Greens

Kingston

Kathryn Savery

 

Australian Greens

Bean

Katie McCusker

 

Australian Greens

Sturt

Kelly Guenoun

 

United Australia Party

Petrie

Kim Grierson

 

Australian Greens

Shortland

Kristyn Glanville

 

Australian Greens

Warringah

Liz Chase

 

Australian Greens

Jagajaga

Mandy Nolan

 

Australian Greens

Richmond

Mat Morgan

 

Australian Greens

Monash

Max Chandler-Mather

 

Australian Greens

Griffith

Max Martucci

 

TNL

Hawke

Melissa Stevens

 

Australian Greens

Lilley

Nadia David

 

Australian Labor Party

Indi

Natasa Sojic

 

Australian Greens

Fenner

Neil Cotter

 

Australian Greens

Rankin

Nicole Thompson

 

Australian Greens

Wright

Patrick Deegan

 

Australian Labor Party

Page

Piers Mitchem

 

Australian Greens

Kooyong

Rebecca Galdies

 

Australian Greens

Adelaide

Sarah Jefford

 

Australian Greens

Wills

Sarah Russell

 

Independent

Flinders

Scott Hardiman

 

United Australia Party

Kooyong

Sonya Semmens

 

Australian Greens

Higgins

Steph Hodgins-May

 

Australian Greens

Macnamara

Stephen Bates

 

Australian Greens

Brisbane

Suzette Rodoreda

 

Australian Greens

Gellibrand

Tim Hollo

 

Australian Greens

Canberra

Victor Kline

 

TNL

North Sydney

Andrea Leong

 

Fusion Party

NSW

Brandon Selic

 

Fusion Party

QLD

David Kennedy

 

Fusion Party

SA

Drew Wolfendale

 

Fusion Party

SA

Felix Dance

 

Socialist Alliance

VIC

Tim Viljoen

 

Fusion Party

WA

 

Written by Renee Carr
14 April 2022

Today, gender equality campaigning movement Fair Agenda launches a one-stop shop for voters on women’s safety this election, with 200+ candidates already committed to take some action. 

65 candidates, including high profile independent community candidates Nicollete Boele, Kylea Tink, Kim Rubenstein and sitting parliamentarians Andrew Wilkie and Peter Whish-Wilson have fully taken the Pledge for a Safer Future, and made explicit commitments to the transformative change needed to end gender-based violence.

 

Fair Agenda’s Executive Director Renee Carr, says:

“Going into this election, people want to know that the politicians they elect will take action to stop violence against women. A hundred thousand of us marched for justice during the last parliament; we’re taking those same concerns to the ballot box. 

“We deserve a parliament that will prioritise our safety. Advocates have been calling for transformative change for years. Solutions exist: the pledge shows which candidates are willing to commit to what’s needed.”

“Everyone who cares about women’s safety should ask, have my candidates taken the pledge? Are they willing to do what’s needed to create a safer future?”

The Pledge for a Safer Future contains six specific commitments, and is endorsed by Rosie Batty AO and a range of organisations including the National Association of Services Against Sexual Assault, Australian Women’s Health Network, Australian Women Against Violence Alliance, Women With Disabilitiies Australia and Change the Record.

 

Former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty AO says:

“It’s now more important than ever that our politicians act for our safety. Solutions exist, experts have laid them out - we need everyone standing for the next parliament to make meaningful, transformative action a priority.“

The Vote For Safety website includes information about parties’ track records in the last parliament; as well as their commitments to future action. The analysis notes the alarming record of the Coalition on systems reform - highlighting the Morrison Government’s abolition of the Family Court, decision to proceed with a parliamentary inquiry into family law opposed by safety advocates; and decision to shelve a taskforce to address sexual violence at universities. 

“We need leadership on women’s safety. That means: strengthening prevention efforts, properly funding services, reforming systems that harm survivors, championing safer workplaces, and doing what it takes to end gender-based violence.” Ms Carr said.

“We all want to be safe at school or university. We all want our workplace to look out for our safety. We all want a friend or loved-one who needs service support to be able to live safely, recover from trauma, and access specialist and timely support. The next parliament has the ability to unlock that future - but we must demand it of them.” Ms Carr said.

 

The website also collates a list of allegations of gendered misconduct against MPs in the last parliament, which Fair Agenda says highlight the need to prioritise implementation of the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s Set the Standard recommendations.

“Australians deserve a proper process that ensures all allegations of gendered misconduct by parliamentarians are put through a consistent, independent process. We need a system that holds our parliamentarians to a standard befitting their office and the responsibility they have over our lives and communities - including the national epidemic of gender-based violence.” Ms Carr added.

The website will be live from 9am Thursday at: https://www.voteforsafety.com.au/

Written by Renee Carr
14 April 2022

In the lead up to the Women's Safety Summit in September 2021, Fair Agenda joined with a group of peak bodies, advocates and leading organisations representing and working in specialist family, domestic and sexual violence services - to highlight core priorities for the next National Plan.

The group urged the Taskforce on Women's Safety to ensure 12 recommendations were incorporated into the next National Plan:

  1. Expanded support for primary prevention, with an evidence-based, whole of community approach
  2. New, specific investment in early intervention as a priority
  3. Increased and longer-term investment in tertiary victim support services
  4. Significantly expanded focus on sexual violence
  5. Shifting the disproportionate burden from victim survivor to people using violence
  6. Recognising children and young people as victims in their own rights
  7. Greater research to support evidence-based interventions
  8. Reform to ensure a safe and effective family law framework
  9. Prioritising initiatives led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  10. Recognition that everyone has different life experiences and backgrounds and require different responses
  11. Expansion of victim survivor choice and control through appropriate pathways for support, intervention and accountability
  12. Strengthened workforce supported by sustainable funding arrangements.

You can read the letter and 12 priority asks it highlighted, here.

Written by Renee Carr
23 September 2021

Fair Agenda and End Rape on Campus Australia are extremely concerned that the Morrison Government’s Good Society website is still littered with harmful and inaccurate content.

We are deeply worried about the distress and harm this content is likely causing to rape survivors; and that it may be promoting confusion and misconceptions in young people who have been calling out for proper consent education.

Specific content that we are concerned about, and urge the Department to remove from the website immediately, includes:

The suggestion that stillness and looking away should be seen as anything other than a no; or that smiling or laughing should be seen as a yes are horrifying. The suggestion that these actions could be seen or justified as amounting to consent is incredibly distressing and traumatising. Think of how many young women laugh and smile to try and navigate unsafe situations or inappropriate behaviour.

The safety and trauma of survivors should be a central consideration at the centre of every program. Right now this website is actively harmful. Every single piece of content the government is putting in front of young people on this issue should be signed off by experts who actually understand the drivers of sexual violence, and the need for a trauma-informed approach for the students in these classrooms who have already been sexually assaulted.

We are extremely concerned that promoting the current website does more harm than good.

We urge the Government to take down the website while it is reviewed by experts in violence prevention and comprehensive sexuality and relationships education. And to resource experts to build the capacity of educators to deliver effective content and prevention initiatives in schools.

Written by Renee Carr
03 June 2021
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