Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (26 October) . . Page.. 2119 ..
MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition): I seek leave to address the Assembly again.
MS FOLLETT: Mr Speaker, there is a very clear price to be paid by every person who stands for public office and who is elected to that public office as a representative of their community. The fundamental problem that we have here is that the members of the Government are not accepting that there is that price to be paid. Cast your minds over the circumstances which apply to us as elected members. In the first place, everything that we do and everything that we are is subject to the closest of scrutiny. That is something that we all accept. The issue here, Mr Speaker, is that also under scrutiny are members' private interests and the possible conflict of private interest, whether it is a business interest or any other, with their public duty. It is that issue that goes to the heart of this matter of the taxi licence plates.
The position that the Opposition has taken on this - and it has been spoken about very capably by my colleagues previously - is that the private business interests of a member, Mr Hird, were advantaged by a decision of the Government of which he is a member. That is our position, and nothing which has occurred in the debate on this matter has changed our position. It is very clear that there is a conflict between Mr Hird's private business interests and his position as a member of the Government in relation to the licensing of taxi plates recently. It is very clear indeed.
Mr Speaker, such matters are often subject to a code of ethics or a code of behaviour. In this Assembly some years ago there was contemplation of such a code of ethics. It is a matter which I will be taking up again, as I have alerted the Assembly on many occasions. It is a fact that, owing to the budget cuts, the parliamentary draftsman's office has only just now been able to allocate that task to a member of staff; but it is something I have been working on for months. However, some years ago, in fact in May 1991, the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedures of this Assembly made some recommendations on this matter. I might say that the standing committee was chaired by a member of the Liberal Party and reported to a Liberal government. The standing committee - and I will quote selectively, Mr Speaker, but I think relevantly - said:
The electors of the ACT have the right to expect that:
... Members should ensure that their private interests do not interfere with the proper discharge of their public duty according to the highest standards of conduct.
They went on:
Due to the nature of public office Members of the Legislative Assembly must accept restrictions on certain areas of their conduct beyond those imposed on ordinary citizens.