Page 3228 - Week 10 - Thursday, 25 August 2005
It is expected that Members and their staff will extend professional courtesy and respect to all staff of the Assembly. Members should ensure that through their own conduct and that of their staff, reasonable employment conditions for all building occupants are maintained.
If problems or concerns with the performance or conduct of an Assembly staff member arise these should be dealt with through appropriate policies and procedures.”
I support the introduction of the code of conduct. It is important to be specific, where possible, as to the expectations of behaviour we have of each other. Employees of the public service are indeed governed by a number of acts. The public service management act springs to mind, and associated best practice notes. This code of conduct, developed over some time, very clearly and simply puts similar expectations on the record.
Politics is an ancient occupation, and behaviour within it is governed by a kind of common law. I do not think we will be imposing on people by putting some sort of framework around those understandings and giving us all a reference point from which to judge ourselves and each other as necessary. I believe it will assist the Speaker, the administration and procedure committee and indeed any privileges committee we may need to set up from time to time. It will put us all on a fairly explicit, equal footing with shared understandings.
The reason I wanted to move my amendments together is because in this speech I want to talk about my amendments. I believe the Speaker has done an excellent job of speaking to the code of conduct, and there is nothing to be gained from repeating his points. I believe the government is supporting some, but not all, of my amendments. It is a little surprising that they will not all be supported but I expect that will be explained in due course.
The first amendment is a simple one, which I trust is acceptable. It simply adds the word “contractors” to the word “consultants” as those to whom MLAs owe a duty to behave ethically when we engage them. My second and third amendments would appear to be more contentious. They ask MLAs to accept responsibility for our staff in the conduct of their work and duties, and not to misuse their position of power and influence. It has been said that, with regard to ministers, this is already an inherent responsibility under the Westminster system that we in the ACT in part adhere to.
I think the children overboard affair, among many others recently, has made it obvious that one cannot just assume that such conventions exist. If members are not prepared to support this amendment, one has to ask how we can assume that they and their staff would behave any more properly in similar situations. It is also a fact that the ACT’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, for example, would have difficulty recognising the Westminster system.
I will listen carefully to the arguments that will be raised against these amendments but I would have thought they were written carefully enough to ensure that a chief minister, for example, would not be held to account over the out of hours uncountenanced private activities of an adviser with a spray can for instance, and neither would a Leader of the Opposition be held accountable for the secret collection of a minister’s emails by