Senate president Sue Lines has blasted the conduct of her colleagues and implored party leaders to drive standards in tackling "out-of-line" behaviour.
Giving evidence to a parliamentary committee, Senator Lines said she'd be open to changing standing orders and procedures in the upper house to ensure inappropriate behaviour could be managed.
"This is something we need to come to terms with, I don't think as the president I can keep parroting 'behaviour needs to be respectful' because then that statement in and of itself starts to lose value," he said.
"I'm sure for most senators, that is not the way they behave when they're meeting community groups or other individuals.
"Party leaders have a responsibility to actually talk to senators when their behaviour doesn't meet a standard all of us would accept is okay."
The committee is tasked with developing a code of conduct following a landmark review of workplace culture in Parliament House by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.
Senator Lines said it would need to be adopted via legislation in both houses, noting references to the Jenkins review can feel "empty" without that backing.
Quizzed on why the Senate seemingly produces more controversial incidents, including those of racism and sexism, she didn't accept that a more diverse make-up of parties within the chamber was a reasonable explanation.
"Just because a senator doesn't have the sorts of values I might ascribe to, doesn't mean they should be treated less respectfully than another senator whose views I might align with," she said.
"All views need to be treated respectfully, but they need to be put respectfully and I think it's the latter we struggle with in the Senate."
Senator Lines said the committee's outcomes should be adopted first before any changes to Senate procedures are made.
Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi wondered if censure motions could be used more effectively to control behaviour, the Senate having failed to back one against Pauline Hanson after she told her to "piss off back to Pakistan".
"Taking me to the airport ... that was said in a specific context of also telling me to piss off back to Pakistan," Senator Faruqi said.
"I mean, that's racial vilification."
The committee also heard from gender equity campaign group Fair Agenda, who argued standards within parliament "emboldened perpetration and discouraged survivors" of sexual violence.
"Given their decision-making power, it's so important that role modelling of parliamentarians sets the tone for the community," campaign manager Alyssa Shaw said.
"What happens in parliament has a ripple effect in our community in terms of how we think about issues."
Australian Associated Press
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