House of Assembly: Thursday, March 09, 2023


Parliamentary Committees

Standing Orders Committee

The Hon. K.A. HILDYARD (Reynell—Minister for Child Protection, Minister for Women and the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing) (16:12): I move:

That the report of the committee be adopted.

I am really pleased to move that the house implement the recommendations of the report of the House of Assembly Standing Orders Committee on changes to standing orders, implementation that is really important to progress. I understand that there are four main areas of change to the standing orders recommended by the Standing Orders Committee. They are to ensure all language is gender neutral, except for reference to Chairman of Committees; make permanent the sessional orders around maternity leave and the bringing of infants into the chamber; remove redundant standing orders; and allow electronic attendance at committee meetings in certain circumstances.

I am advised that the last major review of the House of Assembly standing orders was undertaken in 1989 by the Standing Orders Committee. This was of course many years ago at a time before any of us were elected to represent our communities, at a time when many of us were engaged in quite different pursuits and at a time when some amongst us had not yet entered this world.

The world and a range of social norms and community expectations have rightly significantly changed during the past 34 years. Whilst it is so important that we strongly protect a range of important parliamentary rules and traditions, it is crucial also that from time to time the standing orders and sessional orders be updated to reflect the current operations of the parliament, the composition of our members and the social norms and community expectations of our time.

Members here would remember that, only last year, the government advocated for changes to the standing orders to ensure an ongoing inclusion of an Acknowledgement of Country at the start of our proceedings. This was rightly adopted by the house, and this important, respectful acknowledgement of Kaurna people and their relationship with this land on which we meet is undertaken each day.

The committee has recommended the use of gender-neutral terms in the standing orders in most instances, except where there is conflict with the Constitution Act of 1934. As I mentioned, I understand this refers to the proposed continued use of the terminology 'Chairman of Committees' in the standing orders as it is referenced in the Constitution Act.

On this side of the house, we now proudly have a majority of women in this place. In making the change before us, recommended by the Standing Orders Committee, we acknowledge this progress and we respect that women in their numbers are now taking their rightful place in this house. Gender equality in decision-making makes for better decisions, decisions that are much more reflective of community expectations. Our parliament should be an exemplar of equal representation. It should be representative of the diversity of our community, and our standing orders should reflect that there are men and women in this place.

My heart swells with pride when I see the numbers of extraordinary women who have joined us in this house—women who do make our parliament a better, a stronger and a wiser place. We can assume that there are roughly equal numbers of women and men of merit in our community. When gender equality is not represented in our parliament, we have to take positive action to smash through any barriers that prohibit women from taking their rightful place in this house. I am so proud that the Labor Party has taken that positive action. We can all be proud that those women who fought collectively, tirelessly and fiercely 129 years ago to successfully ensure that South Australian women could vote and stand for parliament would utterly approve of that action and would utterly approve of our actions today.

This government is profoundly committed to creating a state in which your gender has no bearing on the opportunities available to you. We want to be a state that is renowned for equal opportunity for girls and women, that empowers women and girls to live their best possible lives and that realises the benefits for all that an equal future creates.

This wonderful increase in gender representation here in our parliament is one of the strongest signals we can send to the community about the importance of gender equality and diversity in decision-making, and we hope to encourage even more women to stand for public office. Every member should absolutely be reflected in the language used in this place. That is the right thing.

The committee has also recommended that sessional orders for maternity leave and bringing infants onto the floor of this place be formalised within the standing orders. These sessional orders were adopted by the house in March 2021 and were re-adopted with the commencement of this Fifty-Fifth Parliament. Today we ensure they are enshrined in our standing orders. This important step speaks to this place being one of welcome and inclusion and one that recognises the diversity of families, and the members who are part of those families, in this place.

I understand the committee have recommended adoption of changes to allow for the publication of public evidence to select committees prior to the release of the final report. Currently, standing orders are required to be suspended to allow for publication of evidence prior to a final report. The committee have also recommended changes to notices of questions and answers to questions to align with morning sittings of the house, in particular, to allow notice of questions and answers to the current practice of 12 noon on a sitting day rather than two or 2½ hours prior to the commencement of proceedings of the house.

In addition, I understand the Standing Orders Committee has made recommendations to allow for any select committee to meet remotely via electronic means. This will mean that select committees can meet remotely in certain circumstances, much like standing committees were provided for in response to COVID-19. Finally, I understand the Standing Orders Committee has recommended redundant standing orders that refer to the Joint Committee on Subordinate Legislation, which has been superseded by the Legislative Review Committee.

In closing, I thank members of the Standing Orders Committee during the Fifty-Fourth Parliament, as I understand much of the work of this report was completed by the committee during this time. I also thank the current members of the Standing Orders Committee for their really important work. I thank the Hon. Dan Cregan (the Speaker and Chair of the committee), the member for Giles, the member for Schubert, the member for Elizabeth and the member for Unley.

I again commend the Standing Orders Committee and absolutely welcome the adoption of the report's recommendations—recommendations that uphold our traditions and speak to progress in our community and in our parliament.

The Hon. D.G. PISONI (Unley) (16:21): I am pleased to rise to support the motion. I will not go through all of the detail that the minister has just gone through but, rather, the purpose and the need for rejuvenation of the standing orders. If we look around us in this place, we will see echoes of the 1300s, even—in the very early days that the common people shared an audience with the King and those who had property and money in the UK, which of course was the beginning of the Westminster system.

As that Westminster system grew, we saw the formalisation of meetings; rather than being ad hoc when it suited the King they became scheduled, and then, of course, we saw them in chambers such as this. In those chambers, we are reminded by some of the things that we see here today how violent those chambers could have been in those early days. Remember, it was the House of Commons and consequently it was the common man as opposed to those who used to be in a decision-making process: those who had influence, those who had a connection to royalty, those who had some title or land. Predominantly, those early debates were about taxes and, for example, how to fund the wars that England was engaged in.

That aside, as the common man entered the parliament, often there were arguments or debates that could not necessarily be articulated well enough just with the debate. Consequently, men were wearing their swords and they drew their swords, and often that could lead to a violent confrontation in the chamber. A blood line was introduced and a rule was brought in that you could not speak unless you were standing behind that blood line. The blood line was designed to be two sword lengths apart so that those swords could not connect.

If you look at parliament today, we are the only parliament in Australia, as far as I am aware, that still symbolises the blood line, but every parliament in Australia still has elements of that positioning rule that was put in place to manage members of parliament. That is that it is out of order, against standing orders, to actually speak from anywhere other than our allocated seat. That is a more sophisticated version, if you like, of the blood line. So I am out of order if I speak from the member from Morphett's seat or if I speak walking around the gallery and quite rightly the Chair at that time, whether it be the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker, would be within their rights to pull me up and tell me that I was breaching the standing orders.

With that in mind, that is where we are today with the updating of the standing orders from 1989, the last time they were done. It is an evolving process. As the minister said, it is important that we continue to understand and recognise our history: where it started, where we are now and how we got here because we have moved into a very civilised way of having debate. It is the rules in this place, the standing orders, that enable us to have that debate in a civilised manner and ensure that everybody has the opportunity to be heard and consequently then represent their constituents, the people they are elected to represent in this place.

In closing, I support the first report of the House of Assembly Standing Orders Committee, the changes to standing orders, for the very reasons that I share with the minister and my colleagues on that committee.

Mrs PEARCE (King) (16:26): I, too, rise to speak to the consideration of the Standing Orders Committee First Report helping to identify moving forward how we can be more reflective of our state's modern and changing community, which our parliament represents. I am very supportive of ways to ensure that language within our standing orders is gender neutral to encourage this parliament to be a more supportive and inviting environment and to be an environment that is as efficient as it can possibly be.

Creating a more family-friendly chamber will send a clear message to our community that this is not just a place for the blokes. It will make stepping into this place less of a daunting ask for women and, as such, it will help to further boost women's representation in our parliament, particularly mums with young families or women who want to have a family down the track, who also want to stand up and make a change for the better by pursuing a life in politics. A family-friendly parliament tells them that they, too, can represent their community here and that having kids should not, nor should it ever, be to the detriment of their position in this place.

We should always have in our mind how we can further improve the decisions made in this parliament. One way that we can do this is by ensuring that this parliament is reflective of the diversity found within our community that we seek to represent. Be it the diversity of gender, culture or disability, the strength of decisions made here are only improved when we are reflective of the communities that we represent.

I believe that as our parliament develops to reflect the diverse community that lies beyond this chamber, this parliament will be an even more productive, thoughtful and effective parliament, one that the community will have greater trust in. When there is a diversity of voices in this room, each sharing their own unique perspectives, it allows for ideas to be shared which may have otherwise been neglected to be considered.

The resulting debate that comes from that and the decisions that make their way out of this place are therefore all improved. It does not just lead to better decisions being made, it also better reflects the demands of our community and we in turn receive greater levels of trust in the decisions we make here in this chamber, boosting the integrity of our democratic processes.

We know that where we have greater participation of women in the workforce, positive impacts flow on from this, both to productivity and workplace cultures. At the end of the day, we know that a more diverse parliament is something the electorate wants to see more of.

We know very well what happened at recent elections, where voters turned out to support more women in parliament, both here at a state level and also on a federal parliament level. This is evident in the seats won by this side of the house and across our federal parliament, where we have seen a record number of women take up seats across the country.

I understand that it has been the practice of the Legislative Assembly of the ACT for many years now to allow members to breastfeed on the floor under standing order 210, with this not being tied to a member being required to attend during a division. In 2018, women were permitted to breastfeed in the Queensland parliament and last year members in WA's Legislative Assembly were also permitted to breastfeed on the floor of parliament.

A baby should not be a stranger in this place. They should not be blocked from being with their mum at such a crucial point in their life, and we do not need to stand in the way of a mum trying to do their job whilst also fulfilling caring duties to their child because of an outdated way on how we view a workplace should operate—an outdated, patriarchal view of how a workplace should operate that is so old it may even pre-date a woman's ability to even stand in this place as a member.

Many reports in recent times have detailed the important work that is required to make our workplace safer. This is one of the glaringly obvious ways our parliament can be brought into the present day. We can start today to ensure a more family-friendly workplace that we can continue to work on improving, and we can take that first step by amending the standing orders to make permanent the ability for members to bring their infants onto the floor of parliament.

As the report from the House of Assembly Standing Orders Committee details, making this change permanent will align the house with contemporary social values, allowing for the full participation in proceedings by all members of the house. Still, though, there is much work to be done to ensure an even friendlier work environment here in parliament that deserves further attention as we move forward.

I am acutely aware that language matters and of the positive influence that gender-neutral language can have in a workplace, and we have a responsibility to lead by example. It is no secret that this workplace and environment is male dominated, and it has been for some time. But as this place becomes more diverse, change is stirred, making it that more appealing for the next person to consider putting their hand up to represent their community.

As a result of its history, the language used in this place does not always reflect the gender and sexual diversity outside this chamber, outside the doors of this parliament and found in our community. It also does not promote a great feeling of inspiration when reading through these documents feeling, instead, that many of these positions are written in such a way that precludes half of our community because so many roles are highlighted to be 'his'. It will not always be 'His Excellency', and not all chairmen are men, so why do we persist in propping up these naming conventions when options like 'chair' are more than fine?

In some areas it does go both ways. For example, removing gendered references to the sovereign or governor—including 'Her Majesty', 'The Queen' and 'His Excellency'—to 'sovereign' are also sensible amendments to make. It will help to show that gender is not portrayed as a prerequisite for the role. It is also important to note that these changes are in accordance with the guidelines for accessible and inclusive content for gender and sexual diversity, as set out in the Australian government's Style Manual.

Other amendments to the standing orders will provide greater clarity for members and staff. Firstly, clarity on the deadline for questions on notice, which I understand has not been amended since the introduction of morning sittings in 2007, has caused some confusion. Questions and answers are currently accepted until 12 noon on a sitting day, and the committee has recommended amending these standing orders to reflect current practice.

Inconsistencies between the powers of select committees established by the house and standing committees established by the Parliamentary Committees Act 1991 have also been addressed by the committee—namely, standing order No. 339. There is a provision for the ability for committees to meet remotely in certain circumstances, as we have all come to embrace, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is another change that brings our parliament into line with the rest of working Australia. It has been a game changer, and it has played a huge role in allowing governments to continue progressing with business during difficult times, and I have no doubt it will continue to support the effective delivery of this parliament's functions and responsibilities.

I am absolutely open to ways that we can make our parliament as accessible as possible. I want a parliament that inspires all in our community, a parliament that reflects our modern society and make-up of our great state and I believe that these changes in this report are good measures to get the ball rolling.

Ms HOOD (Adelaide) (16:34): I, too, rise to speak on the Standing Orders Committee First Report. As the member for King was saying, words matter. I think we saw this last year when I was proud to join with students in my local community at Prospect Primary to change the parliament forever by renaming the Strangers Gallery in this chamber to the Public Gallery, something that the Hon. Emily Bourke MLC in the other place was also able to do recently on her side of the house.

The reason this happened is because the students came to us and said why do we have a parliament, our parliament, that is not necessarily inclusive? Why are they the strangers when this is their house and that we work for them? It was something I was incredibly proud to be a part of to rename the Strangers Gallery to the Public Gallery, because as I said words matter.

If we are to lead by example, if we are to be the place where we create the laws by which South Australians are governed, our workplace should really reflect what is expected of us in society. That is why I rise to support the recommendations of this report.

In 1989, the Standing Orders Committee undertook a complete review of the standing orders to ensure that they were 'meaningful and appropriate for the conduct of the house's business and expressed in plain language'. As part of that review, the house directed that the standing orders be expressed in gender-neutral terms. Thirty-three years later, acknowledging that social norms as to what constitutes gender-neutral terminology has changed in that time, the current committee undertook another review.

The committee's detailed examination has recommended several changes to the standing orders' terminology, that all references to 'he', 'she', 'him', 'her' and gender references to the Sovereign or Governor, including 'Her Majesty', 'The Queen' and 'His Excellency', be removed and replaced with 'they' or 'their' or 'the Governor' or 'Sovereigns'; that terminology of 'Chairman' for select and estimates committees be replaced by the word 'Chair'; however, the terminology of 'Chairman of Committees' will remain to ensure consistency with the Constitution Act 1934.

It is surprising in this day and age that, given we are in 2023, we did still have the terminology of 'Chairman', particularly given that for the first time following the state election women make up the majority of this chamber, which is quite—

Ms Stinson: On this side. Only on this side.

Ms HOOD: Yes, on this side—which is quite remarkable. I know my colleagues in the chamber will agree that when we do parliament tours we always are really proud to talk about how we were such a progressive state in being the first to offer women the right to vote and run for parliament, but when you actually then add up the decades that it took to not just elect the first woman in Joyce Steele followed by Molly Byrne but then how it took us until 2022 to reach majority on this side is quite remarkable.

As part of the review, the committee has identified other anomalies and has taken the opportunity to recommend changes there. They recommend that sessional orders adopted by the house in 2021, which provided an automatic entitlement to maternity leave for members and for members to bring their infants on the floor of the chamber, be made permanent. Again, given that a few of us here are mothers to very young children, this is something I very much welcome and would love to see perhaps in the future a few little babies in the chamber.

An honourable member interjecting:

Ms HOOD: Not you? You're out? Further, the report recommends allowing electronic attendance of select committee hearings in certain circumstances. Again, given the events over the last few years with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is wonderful that this place is headed into the 21st century in allowing those flexible workplace arrangements.

The committee also recommends that joint standing orders 19 to 31 pertaining to the joint standing committee on subordinate legislation are no longer valid as the joint standing committee has been superseded by the Legislative Review Committee.

I am very proud to be part of a parliament that is focused on making our office a more inclusive and flexible workplace for everyone. I would like to thank the members of the committee for their recommendations, including the Chair of the committee, the Speaker, the member for Kavel, Dan Cregan; the member for Giles; the member for Elizabeth; the member for Schubert; and the member for Unley. I welcome the swift adoption of the report's recommendations.

Ms STINSON (Badcoe) (16:39): I rise to support this First Report of the Standing Orders Committee. I note that while my title may change due to this—I will no longer be the 'Chairman' of the ERDC or the 'Chairman' of the select committee into access to UTI treatment—yours will stay the same, sir. You will continue to be the Chairman of Committees and that is obviously because your title is the one that is in our constitution.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: What can I say?

Ms STINSON: What can you say, indeed. Note to self, and for all of us here in this parliament: the next time we change the constitution that will be a task for us, to complete that last little change of language to ensure that we have the 'Chair' of committees. I am not sure there has been a female chairman of committees—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Yes, there have been.

Ms STINSON: Sorry?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: There was.

Ms STINSON: There was? There you go; I am reliably informed that there was.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: We had a Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively.

Ms STINSON: Excellent. Hopefully we will update the language for the next woman who comes along and occupies that role. In the meantime, I am pleased that we are changing the language that applies to the rest of the Chairs in this place, so that we will be known as 'Chair'. It is probably worth noting, though, that for quite some time I think people in this place have been referring to those positions as 'Chair' rather than 'Chairman.' I did not even realise that it was 'Chairman' of several different committees until reading this report.

Really, I think this brings into line what our practice has been in this place for some time now, to refer to each other as 'Chair' regardless of gender, but it is good to have that formalised. As other speakers have said, it certainly reflects how important language is, how that language is changing, and the fact that these particular standing orders have not been reviewed for something like 34 years. Quite a lot has changed in 34 years, so it is nice to see that we are now making those updates to the rules that govern us in this place.

The other change that is recommended by this report—there were two others that I wanted to make particular note of. We are, of course, making permanent the sessional orders around maternity leave and bringing infants into the chamber. There are members of parliament who have little ones at the moment on each side—maybe not infants—but we may well see with such a young parliament in so many respects, children in future, little infants, and they will of course be able to accompany their mothers in here—or fathers, for that matter, because we are gender neutral now, aren't we? I think that is a great thing.

It is quite surprising that we find ourselves in this situation. Quite a few parliaments around Australia updated their rules quite some time ago, including the federal parliament. Although we have had this change in our sessional orders since about 2021, I think, now this is formally coming into our rules, which is an excellent thing, although a bit surprising. I think we are on the tail end of updating our rules there.

That is, of course, a welcome thing, and we should ensure that this is a welcoming place for women at all stages of their life, but also maybe as importantly or possibly more importantly, we should make sure that men feel that they can engage in caring responsibilities as part of their work, and that that is encouraged in this place as well. I personally would love to see that scenario in future if it arises. I think men should be encouraged to take on those caring responsibilities, just as much as women should feel comfortable in doing that in our workplace as well.

Really, if we are not giving that example here in this place then what does that mean for the example that we are setting to the rest of our community? I think that these measures are really a sign of the times and bring us up to community expectations, but also are in themselves a good example to our wider community about how we see things as parliamentarians and as a parliament itself, and the expectations, I suppose, that we have of how we deal with gender and equality in wider South Australia.

Lastly, I want to note the very practical improvement of allowing electronic attendance at committee meetings under certain circumstances. This particularly applies to select committees, to allow them to meet remotely via electronic means. As I mentioned, as the Chair of the select committee into access to UTI treatment, that will certainly be something that will assist my committee in doing our work.

Unfortunately, we still do have COVID in our community, but on top of that there are of course valid reasons from time to time, including caring responsibilities, that sometimes mean that we would like to be able to conduct our committee work remotely using the modern technologies that we have. That is a great advancement, as is formalising it. I would just like to congratulate those who have been involved with this report. These are very necessary and helpful changes that I think will ensure this place runs much better.

Motion carried.

The Hon. A. MICHAELS (Enfield—Minister for Small and Family Business, Minister for Consumer and Business Affairs, Minister for Arts) (16:45): I move:

That the alterations to the standing orders and joint standing orders as adopted by this house be laid before the Governor by the Speaker for approval pursuant to section 55 of the Constitution Act 1934.

Motion carried.