Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 3 May 2007) . . Page.. 981 ..
using vague terms whose only concrete manifestation is the hidden decision of some government official not subject to full public scrutiny.
These are not merely speculative concerns. I have been informed by industry bodies in Canberra that unions previously attempted to co-opt these terms to their own benefit. The cleaning industry is an example where there was an attempt to achieve a so-called voluntary agreement between a union and business that gave the union powers that were removed by WorkChoices legislation, such as right of entry. This was promoted by the unions to governments as being the ethical requirement for a tender. Clearly this is an example that should worry us about the possible use of so-called ethical considerations.
Today I looked at the LHMU site and their descriptions of a responsibility to behave ethically. They cite Michael Walsh from the Edmund Rice business ethics initiative, but then they rip into the fact that the property industry is booming, owners are reaping rich rewards, and people who invest in super funds should have the primary consideration of workers’ rights.
This is the troubling thing that happens when you start putting these sorts of criteria up. It is a worrying development indeed when governments replace clear, objective laws with highly subjective laws that depend on the ethical sensibilities of unaccountable government officials.
I stress my concerns over the use of subjective standards such as alleged ethical criteria, because we seem to be hearing other proposals—for example, through public service superannuation bodies—to insert these kinds of considerations into the administration of government. In view of this trend, I must urge the Assembly to consider the dangers of this approach, not only on this issue but in general.
It is the Assembly that is charged with formulating objective rules of law for the territory. Government officials are not accountable to the public in the same way as members of the Assembly are and are not the appropriate people to formulate and determine ethical standards for the territory. That is a matter for clear and objective laws which prescribe what is and is not acceptable behaviour.
For this reason, I ask the Assembly to adopt the amendment circulated in my name to remove reference to subjective criteria of so-called ethical considerations.
At 6.00 pm, in accordance with standing order 34, the motion for the adjournment of the Assembly was put.
MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Minister for Industrial Relations) (6.00): Yesterday in the adjournment debate the Leader of the Opposition raised the issue of junior rugby union and rugby league finals being held at Canberra Stadium. I can advise the Assembly that Canberra Stadium has indeed hosted and underwritten the ACT junior rugby union finals series for the past four years and the ACT junior rugby