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MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (3.24): In speaking to this motion, Mr Speaker, I will just remind all members that the issue of members’ behaviour has been on the Assembly's agenda since the very first days of self-government. I think that it is quite right that this should be so. Most members of this Assembly - and I say “most” advisedly - have been very concerned to ensure that what is the newest of Australian parliaments does actually conduct itself in a way that reflects well on the Territory and that all of the members of the Assembly uphold the dignity of this Assembly and reflect the kind of behaviour that the community is comfortable with. That is a debate that we have had on several occasions. All members will know that they were required to make a statement of their pecuniary and other interests, and that these interests are placed on a register that is a public record of members’ interests, where those interests may conflict or may be seen to conflict with their public duty. In fact, that register of pecuniary interests came into being by a resolution of this Assembly on 24 May 1989 - only days after the Assembly sat for the very first time. I would like to remind members of what that resolution said, Mr Speaker. It said:
(1) within 28 days of the making and subscribing of an oath or affirmation as a Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Australian Capital Territory each Member of the Legislative Assembly shall provide to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly a declaration of the private interests of themselves and their immediate family in the form as presented to the Assembly this day and shall notify any alteration of those interests to the Speaker within 28 days of that alteration occurring; and
(2) such declarations be made available to any person on request, subject to the Member concerned being advised by the Speaker of the name of the person to whom the information is made available and the reasons why it has been requested, in each case.
Mr Speaker, it is my view that the code of conduct for Ministers which Mrs Carnell has now placed before us adds very little to that original requirement. When you take it together with the usual guidelines for Ministers, you will see that it in fact adds nothing. All Mrs Carnell's much vaunted code does is place similar scrutiny on the affairs of ministerial staff. In my view, that is of dubious value. Ministerial staff are not elected to public office, nor do they themselves hold a commission as Ministers. However, it is a matter for the Government to decide whether there could be a perception that staff exert influence over Ministers in the same way as family members might be perceived to do so; so Mrs Carnell has chosen to include those staff in her code. I would like to ask what consultation took place with the affected union on that matter. I am sure that I know what the answer would be - absolutely none. But the important thing, Mr Speaker, is that for Ministers this code adds absolutely nothing to the existing provisions for all Assembly members. It is quite untrue for Mrs Carnell to pretend that it does.