Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 21 August 2008) . . Page.. 3417 ..
MR ASSISTANT SPEAKER: Take your seat, Mr Smyth.
MR SMYTH: I am just asking you about the dictionary.
MR ASSISTANT SPEAKER: I have ordered you to take your seat. You can debate this bill—you can be relevant to this bill—or you can move a motion against my ruling. That is up to you.
MR SMYTH: I am being relevant. I am talking on the dictionary. How can it not be relevant to talk about the dictionary in the bill that is before this place? This shows up the folly of this bill.
In regard to what the Speaker is trying to do, let me say that there needs to be clarity in the way that members behave and the things that we do. We all look to that. At the same time there needs to be fairness to all individuals that they actually do have a right to seek employment for a job that they are qualified for. Surely that should be the only measure in this place—that we employ people who are actually qualified to do the job.
If we are going to have a part in the act that excludes family members, will we exclude political members? Will we exclude factional friends? Will we exclude neighbours? Where does it end? And where is the fairness in it? We have taken a stand in our own regard, as the Liberal Party, that we will not employ family members, so that there is some clarity, so that we send a clear signal to the people of the city. I think legislating for it is most unnecessary.
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (10.43): As one of the few people who actually bothered to put in a submission to the review of the code of conduct and the only person who expressed in writing a concern that that aspect of the code of conduct was not actually being adhered to, it is fairly obvious that I will be supporting the bill. The comment I made in my very brief submission to the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure under the heading “Conduct as employers” was as follows:
It is important to remind MLAs of their obligations as employers as the nature of work in this place puts a great deal of stress on staff, regardless of the MLA’s awareness of employment rights, etc.
Due to the fact that Mr Berry has introduced this bill, we are focusing today solely on the issue of members employing close relatives in their offices. But there are other issues about the way we deal with our staff, and I do not think we should forget those in our concern about this issue. It is not an ordinary employer-staff situation that MLAs have. Certainly in my office, it is much more a relationship of colleagues and a team. That is what works for me; I do not know what works for other people, but the stress of the job does put pressure on people.
In terms of the code of conduct and the employment of close relatives, I stated in my letter:
I note that there has been at least one instance of an MLA employing a family member which has not been dealt with by the Code. It seems to me that if we have a Code we should use it, or delete points that it is not intended to apply, or to apply unevenly.