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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 1430 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

Mr Speaker, I understand that as far back as 1989 Rosemary Follett, when she was Leader of the Opposition, proposed a code of conduct for members in this place, and in the last Assembly Mr Moore was prominent in urging the development of a code of conduct also. Issues to do with conflict of interest, gifts, use of public office and personal and parliamentary conduct are issues of significant concern, and we believe that it is appropriate that the Administration and Procedure Committee undertake this work.

Clearly there are difficult issues to be addressed here, most notably the issue of conflict of interest. Conflict of interest is a difficult issue to define at the best of times, and there will undoubtedly be much debate in our committee, if this referral is made, on exactly where the line should be drawn on the issue of conflict of interest. More controversial still is the issue of a complaints and investigations procedure for members. How do we ensure that the conduct of members in this place is appropriate and in accordance with the responsibilities that we all hold without impinging on the right of members to act independently and to raise issues of public concern?

This is the scope of issues that I believe the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure should be undertaking, and I urge members to support this referral as it will allow this Assembly to develop a report on a code of conduct for members, which I think is becoming long overdue.

MS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (10.59): Mr Speaker, the Government supports this motion, as it supported an earlier referral of the same issue in September 1996. The ACT community expects high standards of conduct from its representatives. The community expects MLAs to act with integrity and to be seen to be acting with integrity. A code of conduct is an undertaking to the people of Canberra that their representatives will uphold certain standards of conduct. One of the first acts of this Government in coming to office in 1995 was to develop a code of conduct for Ministers. That code was tabled in April 1995, and the code was revised in light of comments by the Auditor-General in relation to issues raised in the report on the 1995 taxi plate auction. I tabled a revised version of that code in this Assembly yesterday.

The standing committee released an interim report on this issue in December 1997, recommending that a code be modelled on the Queensland code of conduct for public officials. I agree that the Queensland code is a worthwhile model. The revised code of conduct for Ministers is based upon that code. It contains values that are equally applicable to members and to Ministers. The values of respect for the law and the system of government; respect for persons; integrity; diligence; and economy and efficiency should form part of all such codes of conduct. I am convinced that all members of this Assembly would totally support these sorts of approaches. I am also convinced that the people of Canberra expect these codes of conduct to be in place and to be on the public record. They also want to be confident that members of this place understand what is expected of them.

It is very important that this code of conduct be brought forward as a matter of urgency. It would be unfortunate if again this issue ended up sinking down the priorities list of this Assembly. I hope that a code of conduct can be put on the table as soon as possible.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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