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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 1370 ..


MS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (3.40): Mr Speaker, for the information of members, I present the Government's code of conduct for Ministers and move:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

Mr Speaker, the current code of conduct for Ministers was set in place by this Government in April 1995. This code establishes the standard of ethical conduct expected of a Government Minister, with a particular emphasis on avoiding conflicts between the private interests and the public duty of a Minister. The Government, in its response to the Public Accounts Committee report on the taxi plates auction, agreed to revise the existing ministerial code of conduct.

I believe that members will agree that this code meets the issues raised in the Auditor-General's report. In fact, while it is clear that Ministers must meet the highest standards of conduct, many aspects of this code could usefully be applied in a code for all members of this Assembly. The Government has looked carefully at this issue and has focused on the need to reflect in the code the primacy of a Minister's public duty. This is an important job and it is a privilege to serve the community in this way. Ministers make critical decisions in respect of everyone in the ACT. The conduct standards must reflect the high expectations of the community. The revised code meets these requirements.

One of the changes made in the code is to refer to some of the basic values that describe the obligations of elected office. These are respect for the law and the system of government; respect for persons; integrity; diligence; and economy and efficiency. I do not think anyone would argue with these values. These terms were used in a report by the Queensland Electoral and Administrative Review Committee in 1992 and have been adopted elsewhere since then. I think they are a very useful reminder of the fundamental requirements of public office.

The revised code provides a process for dealing with material conflicts of interest in respect of Executive functions and Cabinet deliberations. It picks up the issue of identifying potential conflicts and setting in place appropriate management strategies. The code sets a good balance between the need to declare interests, which applies to all members, and of managing any conflicting or potentially conflicting interests. This code refines the existing code of conduct. It reflects the importance of a Minister's public duty and could also form the basis of a code setting appropriate conduct standards, as I said, for all members of the Assembly. Although the Government has had in place a code of conduct for Ministers since 1995, still the Assembly has not yet put a code of conduct together for all members. I think there is a pressing need for that in this place.

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