MPs should face sanctions for bad behaviour in their parliamentary workplace, the Jenkins review of parliamentary culture has been told.
Current and former MPs, staffers and experts in parliaments and workplaces who gave their input to a submission from ANU's Global Institute for Women's Leadership and the Australian Political Studies Association were unanimous in support for an independent umpire with teeth to manage complaints about MPs and oversee anti-bullying efforts.
The submission urged mandatory workplace training and a legislated code of conduct that would apply to anyone in the Parliament, including visitors, staff, interns, volunteers and journalists.
"If codes are to be taken seriously there also needs to be sanctions for noncompliance," the submission states. "The European model of disqualifying parliamentarians from participation in official delegations is well worth considering in the Australian context."
The proposed code emphasises courtesy, mutual respect and valuing diversity - none of which is covered by the current ministerial standards issued by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Endorsed by Professor Elizabeth Reid - ex-staffer to former prime minister Gough Whitlam and the world's first adviser on women's affairs to a head of government - the submission says Parliament of Australia should be a model workplace.
The institute's Blair Williams, who researches gender-based violence reporting, said the recent revelations surrounding the Parliament painted a damning picture.
"A Parliament where to be a woman not only puts you at a disadvantage but can put you in danger," she said.
"This must stop and Parliament must do better. Anything less is unacceptable."
Taking responsibility would see Parliament make a clear public commitment to gender equality by adopting a Gender Equality Action Plan, Dr Williams said.
Annual reporting of complaints is paramount to restore public faith in the Parliament, she added.
But she said the Foster review's failure to recommend a new approach for historical allegations missed the mark.
"I think it's quite ridiculous because of what we've seen in the UK ... even though there's an independent body, it's career suicide to report what's happened to them so they'll often wait until they've left those positions."
The evidence from other countries' parliaments was that mandatory training informed by experts in gender-based violence and trauma was key, she said.
Later this year MPs and senior staff will be offered a voluntary one-hour training session in respectful workplace behaviour, and junior staff will be offered a voluntary two-hour session, which may later be made mandatory.
Many senior government ministers have committed to attending the training, including Linda Reynolds, whose office was the site of the alleged rape of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins.
But not all will participate. Government senator Gerard Rennick has refused to take part.
A spokesman for the Department of Finance, which commissioned the training, said an external supplier was engaged to deliver pilot training with selected parliamentary employees and MPs.
"The content of the training was developed between the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Finance and the external provider."
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