Federal politicians could see their pay docked for misbehaving under new rules

Federal politicians could see their pay docked for misbehaving under new rules
  • PublishedApril 2, 2024

Federal politicians could have their pay docked by up to five per cent for serious breaches of workplace rules, under draft laws set to be considered by parliament.

The federal government is working with Liberal, Nationals and Greens MPs to establish a new standards body within the parliament, responsible for investigating incidents and enforcing codes of conduct for MPs and staff.

Parliament’s new codes of conduct, which were adopted early last year, set out rules against behaviour like bullying, harassment, discrimination and sexual harassment or assault.

Documents leaked to Nine Newspapers indicate the cross-party working group is considering empowering the new standards body to hand down a range of sanctions to politicians it finds have breached the rules.

It suggests sanctions for MPs could include a reprimand, training or professional development, or a fine of between two to five per cent of their annual salary.

A five per cent fine would be worth more than $10,000 to an ordinary backbench MP.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Commission (IPSC) could also recommend parliament itself impose further sanctions, like dropping politicians from committee roles, or even suspending them from the parliament.

However, only the parliament itself has the power to make those sorts of decisions about an MP.

Government still working on ‘finer’ details

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher, who is leading the government’s efforts to establish the new body, said it was disappointing details of the draft bill had been made public.

Senator Gallagher said finer details — like whether five per cent is an adequate fine — will continue to be worked through.

“We put a proposition on the table, we’ll get feedback about that,” she said.

“Obviously, the rate of sanctions, whether there are financial penalties, what is the publication of complaints if complaints are substantiated – they are all, I guess, mechanisms that could be used to make sure that people are held to account for their behaviour in this place.”

The bill will need to pass through both houses of parliament, and Ms Gallagher said she is confident broad agreement can be found.

“I’m very confident that we will have parliamentary agreement to it,” she said.

“What the final form of that looks like is still to be determined, but I’m working across the parliament with independents, the Greens, the opposition, to make sure that we get this landed.”

The establishment of the IPSC was a key recommendation from the Set the Standard report by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, looking into behaviour and culture within Parliament House.

That report suggested financial penalties as one possible sanction the new IPSC could impose on politicians.

Ms Jenkins recommended the body be established within a year of the report’s release in late 2021, however after a number of delays, the government is hoping it can be up and running by October this year.


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