Monday, April 17, 2023

Likely NSW speaker Greg Piper wants to bring ‘bear pit’ out of gutter

 Greg Piper has been an independent voice for the people of Lake Macquarie for more than 30 years, as a Member of Parliament, Mayor and councillor.

Exclusive: Independent MP says findings of scathing Broderick workplace culture review should be addressed ‘quickly’

The New South Wales MP backed by the state’s new premier to be house speaker, Greg Piper, says he will prioritise improving parliamentary workplace safety and removing the “venom” from debate.

The Lake Macquarie independent said he felt excited and anxious about the position and the role he will play in the parliamentary executive group (Peg) that is key to enacting the recommendations of the Broderick report into workplace culture.

Five respondents to that review said they had experienced actual or attempted sexual assaults at work, and the report also detailed “systemic and multi-directional” bullying.

“Realistically we should be starting to implement the key elements of it quite quickly,” he said.

“Delay would be counterproductive. The expectation is that we move as quickly as possible.”

Piper was approached about the job by the premier, Chris Minns, when it became clear Labor would be unable to form a majority in the lower house. The legislative assembly will vote on the position when parliament returns next month, but Piper is expected to be elected unopposed.

Piper said he wants to improve the standard of behaviour in the chamber, known colloquially as “the bear pit”.

“I am hoping I can maintain good robust debate in there, but get a higher level of behaviour,” he said, while the praising former speaker, Jonathan O’Dea, for his work.

“As people keep saying, it is the bear pit … but adversarial doesn’t have to go into the gutter.”

Greens MP Jenny Leong, who was part of the parliamentary advisory group in the last parliament, said she hoped to see improvements in the new parliament.

“In this new parliament – where more women are represented, and more women are in cabinet and on the crossbench than ever before – there’s a sense of hope that some of the toxic culture that we have seen define parliament can be finally addressed,” she said.

The review conducted by the former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick that was released last August found widespread bullying and sexual harassment in parliament.

A statement of acknowledgment read in parliament last year was lashed as “a cop-out” and a “tick-a-box” exercise by some.

The government has begun speaking with the crossbench of 12 members over the past week or so about how they intend to manage minority government. Leong said initial conversations between the lower house Greens and Minns had set the tone for a “good, collaborative relationship”.

One of the benefits of a minority government is the ongoing need for dialogue and communication across the political spectrum, and the Greens will be ensuring that the community’s voice is represented as part of that,” she said.


The newly elected independent for Wollondilly, Judy Hannan, planned to make it clear to Minns that Labor needed to work with her if they wanted her to retain the seat she won from the Liberals. Among her priorities were the promised upgrade to the Bowral hospital, cost-of-living measures and the Picton bypass.

“I plan to negotiate with the government because I need to deliver to my local community,” she said.

Fellow independent Helen Dalton has already met with Minns and his deputy, Prue Car.

“His door’s open, which is fantastic for us – make’s a change from the last government,” she said.

“For me, I am just so excited about the prospect of the next four years and to get the best bang for our dollar and return some of the services [to Murray].”

Car said the government was “talking to everyone about the needs of their communities” and how they can support them.

The premier has been contacted for comment.