Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 10 April 2008) . . Page.. 1282 ..
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.49): Thank you very much for bringing this before the Assembly, Mr Berry, and I thank your office for keeping my staff up to date with the ongoing saga of the proposal, given that I am not on the administration and procedure committee any more. When you are not on a committee, you certainly find out that you are not as well informed.
As noted in Mr Berry’s speech, this issue has come to the Assembly several times since self-government. In 2001 the committee on admin and procedure decided not to support the appointment at that time because they felt that, with only 17 members in the Assembly, these members are all in the public eye to such an extent that their actions are under very close scrutiny and any wrongdoing can be quickly exposed. It was the view of the committee that members of the Assembly are already well aware of what constitutes ethical behaviour and that they take responsibility for their conduct and understand their obligations.
I still hold that opinion—that all the members of the Assembly are well aware of what constitutes ethical behaviour. We now have a code of conduct that sets those standards. I would say, however, that being in the public eye and having your actions scrutinised does not mean that your actions are always scrutinised with any integrity or honesty. I do not hold for that one.
It will be interesting to see how such a position will be advertised and funded and how the person will be recruited. Those are logistics that we are not at this moment sure of. There is also the issue that such a person would of necessity be part time, so we would need to look at any potential conflicts of interests with the person’s other employment. But I believe there are a number of people in our communities, in our universities, in our philosophy departments and elsewhere who would be able to provide this role. I would prefer to look upon the position more as providing somebody who is there for a member to discuss things with when they are not quite sure, but again this might need a bit more prescription so that the person does not become a sort of counsellor by default.
I am prepared to give this a go. I would like to see a review mechanism. I am assuming that the admin and procedures committee will do an ongoing assessment and monitoring of the position and how it works for members and that the administration and procedure committee will be open to hearing from other members about how it works for them, or not, so that we can review it and see whether in fact this appointment was timely and necessary or whether, perhaps, after all, as the 2001 committee decided, we are all well aware of what constitutes ethical behaviour, we take responsibility for our conduct and we understand our obligations—and never visit the ethics commissioner.
MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (11.53): In listening to Mr Berry bring this motion forward, I have been trying to get my head around the urgent need for this. I think it is fair to say that it is a progression, some of which has been tried in other parliaments. I am not aware of what the urgent need is now, but in principle we do not have any problem with there being some form of advice to members on ethics and integrity aside from the very good advice that we receive at the moment from the secretariat and the Clerk.