Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 8 Hansard (7 August) . . Page.. 3018..
MR BERRY (continuing):
Subsequently, some years later I was able to introduce, as Speaker, a code of practice which went some of the way to addressing the situation but not far enough. I subsequently moved to amend it to strengthen it again, which I thought went all of the way because it mirrored the prohibition the executive members had placed on themselves for appointing family members. I thought that was good enough but it was not. That is roughly the history of how we find ourselves here today discussing this piece of legislation.
I want to touch on some international matters which I think are relevant in this discussion. Members may recall a recent case in the House of Commons where a Mr Derek Conway was alleged to be paying the sum of �981 a month from his parliamentary staffing salary to his son while his son was still in full-time education at university and refused to indicate, when questioned, what work he undertook. And so the story went on, to the point where a House of Commons committee on standards and privileges considered the matter and came up with a recommendation. Their recommendation was that members must disclose the employment of family members.
I have to say the disclosure obligation on members has been here for a long time and it has made no difference. And if the House of Commons committee had asked me to give evidence, I would have said, "Do not waste your time, because it will make no difference."Disclosure is not the issue and it is a disappointment to me that the mother of parliaments could not come up with something a bit stronger than that. It seems to me that the practice is so widespread that the parliament, or members of the parliament, could not find or did not want to find the real solution to the problem and that is to root out the problem and pass a law that outlawed it. In this place, of course, our code of practice is an aspirational one. It places an ethical obligation on members to adhere to it but it does not complete the job.
Another international experience in stark contrast to that which applies in the United Kingdom, and which I support, is on Prince Edward Island. I asked the Prince Edward Island Conflict of Interest Commissioner whether or not a member could employ a family member as one of their staff. He replied:
Here on the Island that situation has not arisen since the passage into law of the Conflict of Interest Act in 1999. It is my belief that such a situation would be caught by virtue of section 13.
I will read it in part:
A member, or a person who belongs to a member's family, shall not accept a fee, gift or personal benefit that is connected directly or indirectly with the performance of a member's duties of office.
So Prince Edward Island thought it was sufficiently important for them to adopt this standard and pass it into law. And that is what we should do.
I note that—and this is a significant matter—the Liberal Party banned the practice some time ago, although, in contrast, one of their members in recent times has recommended the open-slather approach on this score—Mrs Burke, in her contribution to the report that found its way into the parliament this week. The Labor