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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (26 October) . . Page.. 2124 ..

MS FOLLETT (continuing):

Mr Speaker, for a government that is trying to defend its actions on this matter, I find that endless list of errors that they have made at every step along the way to be one of the saddest indictments of a government that I have ever come across. I am told that Mr Hird was actually at the auction last year. He had every right to be there. He was there as a bidder, but he was not conducting the auction. The National Auction Group was. That is another fact that the Government has got wrong, and they expect us just to ignore that.

Mr Speaker, I believe that all MLAs ought to adopt a standard of personal behaviour which the whole community can have the greatest confidence in. What that means is a clear separation of our private interests - whether they are family interests, business interests or whatever - from our public duty. That is what is required. That is what my code of ethics, once it is drafted, will require. I believe that that is what has been breached on this occasion. Mr Speaker, I think it would well behove the Government if they were to quietly sit down after the heat has gone out of this and examine just what happened and take up the point that has been made in any number of documents relating to a code of ethics for people in public life, and that is the avoidance not just of a conflict of interest but of the appearance of a conflict of interest. I believe that that is the only way that the whole community and this whole Assembly can have confidence in the way that this Government does its business.

MR SPEAKER: The discussion is concluded.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General): Mr Speaker, I seek leave under standing order 46 to make a personal explanation.

MR SPEAKER: Proceed.

MR HUMPHRIES: In the course of her remarks, Ms Follett suggested that I was casting aspersions on the employment status of Mr Whitecross's wife.

Ms Follett: You all did. Mrs Carnell did. Mr De Domenico did.

MR HUMPHRIES: No, I did not. It is a symptom of the strange behaviour of those opposite today that they are prepared to characterise something like that in that way. The Hansard record will show very clearly that what I said was that, if those opposite maintain that a contract for services with the Government constitutes a breach of the conflict of interest provisions, then a contract of service, namely, an employment contract, would do the same thing.

I have made the point that if Mr Whitecross had been a member of the Government after the most recent election and his wife had stayed there - and apparently she would have, because we have just been told that she was shafted from her job - then I would maintain that on the standard proposed by the Opposition he would be in the same position as he and Ms Follett are now claiming that Mr Hird is in. That is a patent absurdity. To imply that I am suggesting that the employment of Mr Whitecross's spouse would have been inappropriate after the last election is simply not true.

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