Page 3226 - Week 10 - Thursday, 25 August 2005
conduct for members of the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory. As he said, it has been a long time coming. As he was speaking I wrote down in my notes, “long gestation, like elephants” and, lo and behold, the speaker said it has had a longer gestation than an elephant’s! In fact it has been about five times longer than that gestation period.
I think gestation is sometimes part of the process of maturity. Whilst it is now the Sixth Assembly that will pass this code, it is built on what has happened before us. There were attempts to do it in the First Assembly but, for whatever reason, that Assembly did not feel they should move on it. The Third Assembly recommended that the Fourth Assembly should do something and the Fourth Assembly came up with some interesting suggestions for the code and suggested an ethics adviser. Again, for reasons that only history and a read of Hansard will reveal, they did not proceed on that.
The Fifth Assembly obviously felt it was more appropriate and that the time was right and made their recommendation which, as the Speaker has said, was annex D to their report. Here we are, the Sixth Assembly, moving to accept this code of conduct. I think it shows what the Speaker was saying about how we have gained acceptance in the community. He is quite right; the First Assembly was not something the majority of Canberrans wanted. But here in the Sixth Assembly we are putting in place signs and symbols that we want to work towards continuing to gain the acceptance of our community. I think the Speaker is right; we have gone a long way towards that.
Indeed, to the Speaker’s credit, an “Assembly practice”, not unlike the House of Representatives Practice, will soon be available to us all. That is another of the signs of maturity of the parliamentary process that I hope will go a long way towards dispelling some of the fears of the community. As the Speaker has said, this has been endorsed by the administration and procedure committee, which is chaired by the Speaker. All groups are represented on that committee. So this comes forward with the support of the membership of the Assembly.
It will be an ongoing code, which, as the Speaker has also said, should be reviewed. The suggestion is that it be reviewed before the end of this Assembly, and we agree with that. When you put codes in place it is always important to finetune them. I note that Dr Foskey intends to move some amendments—the finetuning process begins, before we have even adopted the code. I think it is important to understand that this is a living document. As parliaments, practices and countries change, the standards will change. We need to ensure, from this point in time, that we reflect those standards as put forward by the community.
I will not go through the document again as the Speaker did. It covers the important things such as duties as members and conflict of interest, which is always of interest to the community and something members need to be aware of. Our conduct as employers is very important because we employ staff, and the relationship with the Assembly staff is also of importance. I note that in the preamble we acknowledge the diversity of backgrounds and personal beliefs of members and those of Australian society. I think that is a good thing. Some of us speak with different accents; some of us were born in other countries; and some of us come from the southern part of Canberra rather than the northern part. I think it is that diversity that makes us strong. The preamble starts by