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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 4387..


MR SPEAKER: Order, members! Ms Dundas has the floor.

MS DUNDAS: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Finally, the inquiry will look into the need for a code of conduct for members and their staff. The issue of a code of conduct for parliamentarians has been considered many times by parliaments, including this parliament. It is important that we also look into the role of a code of conduct for staff in light of the discussion in the privileges report. Most inquiries start from the premise that trust of parliamentarians is at an all-time low, yet the community's expectation is extremely high.

One response to this dilemma that has found a measure of support across the community is developing, adopting and, importantly, being able to enforce a code of conduct. Codes of conduct should be credible and aspirational, but should also contain clear guidelines and injunctions. Any proposed code should be communicated to the community, and this Assembly should be seen to be subscribing to it and enforcing it. As I have said, the need for a code of conduct is a contested issue, but it is appropriate that the Administration and Procedure Committee look into it as it applies to members of this Assembly and their staff. I think it is important that we remember to consider staff.

When we look at how the discussion about the privileges report developed, it becomes clear that members do have a high level of responsibility and accountability for what happens in their offices. That is why I think it is appropriate that we discuss volunteers and staff within members' offices.

I also believe it is important that the Assembly directs the Administration and Procedure Committee to take on these inquiries. The Assembly needs to be part of and have ownership of this debate and the recommendations and reports that come out at the end of the inquiry. It is a matter that affects us all as parliamentarians, across party lines. It is very important that we have open discussion. I hope we can achieve positive outcomes as a result of the debates that brought about the privileges inquiry and its report in the Assembly this year.

MS TUCKER (11.52): I will just make a couple of comments. As Ms Dundas said, this motion was the result of a recommendation of the Select Committee on Privileges. I would like to respond to a couple of things Ms Dundas said.

I do not agree necessarily with some of her comments about codes of conduct-that they have to be enforced. My reading of the subject is that the questions about how they are enforced, how they are institutionalised, whether you choose to do that, and whether you choose to try to bring in enforcement mechanisms are extremely problematic. Enforcement can bring in all sorts of serious questions about who has that role. However, I will not go into that debate now. That is obviously something that would come up during such an inquiry.

The other comment I would make is that we did have an inquiry in the last Assembly that looked at a code of conduct for members here. That basically focused on pecuniary and financial matters which, from my reading, is what most parliaments have done. They have only looked at codes of conduct in regard to those matters. There are some interesting ideas about extending a notion of an aspirational code of conduct to include broader community values, such as are listed in, for example, the public service act here.


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