Page 3019 - Week 08 - Thursday, 7 August 2008
Party’s 2005 annual conference called for the abandonment of the practice. The executive, of course, have prohibited the practice for many years.
I think they are all honourable things to do but it is quite clear that the political parties are incapable of requiring members to adopt standards in this place. It is really a matter for this place to determine the final outcome.
Mr Seselja: We have done it since 2004.
MR BERRY: Mr Seselja interjects, “We have done it.” But he could also undo it. That is the issue, I think, that you have to face when you are dealing with matters as important as these sorts of issues.
There are a number of issues that arise if an MLA employs a family member which come under the public interest tests, where the recruitment of a family member could be seen as patronage and favouritism and not a merit-based selection process. I take this from my dissenting report in the Review of code of conduct of members which was introduced this week:
The Legislative Assembly (Members Staff) Act and the contract associated with the Act state that staff are required to “comply with the requirements of the code of conduct for members as varied from time to time.” Again, the public interest test should be brought into play.
Again, the aspirational code has failed us. It states:
Members have an obligation to use the influence conferred upon them in the public’s interest and not for personal gain. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 15 of the … Self-Government Act … and standing order 156 … members are individually responsible for preventing personal conflicts of interest or the perception of a conflict of interest, and must endeavour to arrange their private affairs to prevent such conflicts arising or to take all reasonable steps to resolve any conflict that does arise.
It is difficult in these circumstances to imagine a situation where the employment of a close family member does not indicate a personal conflict and a perception of favouritism. In fact, I think it is impossible. My dissenting report states:
A conflict of interest or the perception of a conflict of interest when a member has engaged a close family member could arise when … a member takes the following actions:
• determines and signs a contract of employment for a consultancy or a contractor
• makes periodic decisions about contract decisions, e.g. level of pay, promotion, tenure, hours of work, place of work, time off in lieu, discipline matters, harassment and bullying matters, acceptable use of technology.
But most importantly, a member’s ability to properly scrutinise the executive or other members of the parliament is compromised by this as well because a member from