Page 1280 - Week 04 - Thursday, 10 April 2008
It being 45 minutes after the commencement of Assembly business, the debate was interrupted in accordance with standing order 77. Ordered that the time allotted to Assembly business be extended by 30 minutes.
MR BERRY: The Speaker will appoint the adviser after consultation with the Chief Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and crossbench members. Of course, there is a mechanism to remove the adviser via a motion in the Assembly for proven misbehaviour or mental incapacity.
I take the view that the appointment of an ethics and integrity adviser is another step in the development of the Assembly that will reassure not only members but, importantly, ACT citizens that we take our responsibilities seriously and are willing to ensure that we are accountable for our actions.
I should also refer to an advice that was received by the Clerk from the Australian Capital Territory Government Solicitor. This advice was sought by the Clerk in consultation with me when this matter was being developed. The advice states:
1. There is no doubt that a Statutory Office of Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner could be created by legislation. A statutory appointment may be necessary if it is intended to vest the Commissioner with a specific power or function, particularly of an investigative or determinative nature.
2. If the role of the Commissioner is to be solely advisory, however, with no obligations or power of a legally enforceable nature, and not requiring any specific protections, there appears to me to be no reason why the Office cannot be established by resolution of the Assembly. The Assembly may control its own businesses and it is clear, particularly in the current environment across a number of legislatures in Australia, that the role of an Ethics and Integrity Commissioner or like position assumes an important function in the modern legislature.
3. Accordingly, it is my opinion that it is properly relevant to the conduct of the business of the Assembly to resolve that the role of Commissioner should be established and to make any relevant Standing Rules and Orders in relation to that appointment. The limited role envisaged by the proposed resolution (limited to providing advice to members) is properly within the power of the Assembly and may be accommodated by the Speaker requesting the Assembly Secretariat to put in place the necessary measures for the appointment to occur.
4. If the Assembly determines, however, that the Commissioner should be a more formal role with more extensive powers (for example, of investigation) then a statutory model is preferable, and, indeed, necessary.
I commend the motion to the Assembly and table the following paper:
Ethics and Integrity Commissioner for the ACT Legislative Assembly—Copy of advice to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly from the ACT Government Solicitor, dated 10 April 2008.