Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 5 August 2008) . . Page.. 2813 ..
report. I think that we have something that suits us very well. It has enough checks and balances in it. I find it a bit of a witch-hunt to attack members before they have done anything wrong in the eyes of what is before us now. I thank members for that and I thank members for taking on board the majority’s comments made in the review of the code of conduct for members.
MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (10.43): I will just say a few words. I share the sentiments that Mrs Burke has raised in relation to this matter. I have long had the view that we are elected in this place to collectively legislate on the needs of a community of a third of a million people, on their behalf. When we are entrusted with that task, it always amazes me when people keep dreaming up ways in which we can create an environment where members are heavily limited, or attempts are made to limit members’ capacity to run a small office, yet they are quite competent to pass laws that impact on the lives of 330,000 Canberrans.
I can speak on this issue with a complete level of comfort because nobody in my office is related to me—not directly related to me, unless you go back to the commencement of time, I suppose. But I still feel very strongly about the fact that I defend the right of a member who wants to take the decision to employ somebody who may be related for a task in their office.
I have mentioned in other contexts the example of a good friend of mine who has just retired, Senator Andrew Murray of the Australian Democrats, whose wife has worked with him in his office for a very long period of time. The other night, at what was more or less a farewell dinner up at the hill with them and others, I asked the former senator and Mrs Murray whether it caused problems. They said no—that they had some policies that they did not discuss the office when their heads hit the pillow.
I have to tell you that former Senator Murray is probably one of Australia’s most outstanding parliamentarians. He did not believe that he was a very good politician—he was not too much into the parish pump stuff—but as a member of parliament and as one who advocated transparency and accountability in government he had a record that I think has been unsurpassed in the last 30 or 40 years, when I have been closely watching or involved in politics. He has taken that decision, and she has taken the decision that she was comfortable working in that environment.
I have taken a view that it is not a direction I particularly want to go in in relation to my own office, but I see many examples that would raise just as many conflicts—you know, people hiring factional colleagues in their office. Apparently that is not a conflict and there is no issue there. But exactly the same problems arise. I observe issues that potentially arise when people hire members of the management committee of their party and have them on their staff. Who is the master in that arrangement? Who is calling the tune? I could see a situation where somebody could be an office-bearer in a political party, yet, when they turn up for work and collect their pay cheque, they are reporting to the member who is a servant of that party. They seem to manage to cope with that.
I do not think that it is my job as a member of this place to support rules, laws and codes that start to interfere with one dimension of that conflict but do not address all of the other possible dimensions of the conflict. I think it is a bit of a furphy.