Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 10 April 2008) . . Page.. 1281 ..
MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (11.45): I am pleased to speak in support of the proposal put forward by Mr Berry, as I did in the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure. I have looked at the way in which this arrangement has been introduced in several other parliaments. Mr Berry has cited the history of this particular concept; he noted that in Prince Edward Island they previously had discussions with and met with a conflict of interest commissioner and that comparable positions have been created in the New South Wales and Queensland parliaments.
I am particularly pleased about the way in which Mr Berry’s motion covers off a range of issues, particularly point 2, which notes:
The Ethics and Integrity Adviser shall be under a duty to maintain the confidentiality of information provided to him/her in exercising the function and any advice given, but may make public any advice if the person who requested the advice gives permission for it to be made public.
In a role such as that, it is vital that members have complete confidence in the security of information if advice is sought. But similarly, should a member be in a position of perceived conflict or breach of some particular code, it is a useful opportunity for them to be able to authorise the release of that advice should the member so desire. I am pleased also that the appropriate consultation is contemplated in that the appointment will be made by the Speaker after consulting with the major parties and also the crossbench members.
Up to this point, we have relied heavily on the Clerk to fulfil this function. But there are scenarios where sometimes the Clerk may be in a position where he—or she, if there is a female in that position at some time in the future—may find themselves caught between their duties as the overseer of the administration of the Assembly and their duty to give objective independent advice on a matter that could arise between that member and their administration.
The Speaker’s proposal for this initiative is worthwhile. As he has indicated, it is an incremental progression in terms of the development of the democratic process and self-government in this territory. My one plea—I am sure this would be understood—is this: I hope that, when the appointee is eventually selected, great care is taken to ensure that that person is perceived as independent of any of the political processes.
Obviously, we all have great faith in the Clerk’s objectivity in dealing with matters; he has the expertise in providing specialist advice. If this position is to work, it will be crucial that it not be occupied by somebody who has had an association with the party side of politics or the independents in politics in the future. It needs to be somebody who can provide sound advice and probably someone who has a good understanding of parliamentary process and precedent and will be able to enjoy the confidence of all members of the assembly, not just because they are consulted on the appointment but because the person is perceived to be objective and providing sound advice.
I will not talk any further on the matter. It is a sensible proposal. I hope that all members support this initiative.