Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 1 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 53..
MRS CARNELL (continuing):
We believe that it can be all too easy for those in high office to avoid the moral responsibility that such office entails. This Government has therefore released a tough new code of conduct for Ministers. The code of conduct requires strict standards of behaviour and recognises the responsibility of Ministers to act honestly, diligently and with propriety in the performance of their duties. It is symbolic of our commitment to the people of the ACT to use the resources of government wisely and honestly and to fulfil our role with integrity and for the good of the Territory.
I have been criticised in the media and by those opposite for not including issues such as sexual harassment in this code. I want to take those criticisms head-on today. The code also does not mention murder, rape, vandalism or robbery, because - like sexual harassment - all of these issues are illegal and therefore unacceptable. Clearly, behaviour that is illegal for the general public is likewise illegal and unacceptable for Ministers. That is the starting point of this code, as outlined very clearly in the preamble.
The real purpose of the code of conduct is to address behaviour that is perfectly legal for members of the public - such as accepting gifts - but may be unacceptable for Ministers because of their special position of trust. It is about setting standards of behaviour in areas that are within the law but where a higher standard is expected from Ministers. I say again, to ensure that there is no confusion, that behaviour that parliaments like this one have determined should be illegal, including sexual harassment, is absolutely unacceptable for Ministers. Our aim in this code of conduct is to set standards well above what is legal or illegal. To that end the code is underpinned by the important principles of accountability, collective responsibility and financial responsibility.
As well, the code provides practical information about such matters as private gain and relationships with the bureaucracy, amongst other things. For example, the code is specific in addressing the circumstances where gifts and benefits to Ministers or members of their immediate families may be retained or must be displayed in a public place. In general, the code of conduct applies to Ministers; but it is also applicable to the immediate families or close relatives of Ministers and ministerial staff employed under the Legislative Assembly (Members' Staff) Act of 1989 - or, as we call it, the LA(MS) Act. It requires Ministers and their immediate families and staff to recognise the special responsibilities of Ministers in the performance of their public functions and duties.
The code also specifically requires that Ministers inform the Chief Minister, or in my case the Cabinet, if they are subject to any sort of inquiry. Ministers' personal staff employed under the LA(MS) Act are covered by the provisions relating to the declaration of interests, as are the immediate families of Ministers. Today I am tabling a determination under the LA(MS) Act to make the code applicable to those staff. Mr Speaker, this code of conduct sets a high standard for this Government and, hopefully, for future governments. It is self-imposed - and, may I add, willingly self-imposed by this Government.