Page 3418 - Week 09 - Thursday, 21 August 2008

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In other words, if we have a code, then we should adhere to it. If the code is not written in strong enough terms so that people think that they can get around it, then we either get rid of that aspect of the code or we strengthen that aspect of the code. I make no comments at all about actual situations where it might apply. There are all kinds of reasons that people employ close relatives, friends and people with particular expertise. That is not for me to comment upon, but it is for me to say that if we have a code, we should apply it. If it is not being applied, then we either strengthen it or reject it. We have a bill to strengthen it, and I am going to support that bill.

MR BERRY (Ginninderra) (10.47), in reply: The first thing I would like to express is my disappointment in the approach that has been taken by members of the opposition, and I do that in the context of the report of the administration and procedure committee on this matter. The majority of the committee expressed the desire not only to oppose my proposed legislation but also to withdraw from the code of conduct the provision requiring members to avoid employing close family members.

I see now that the opposition are going to oppose this legislation, and they put the spurious argument that people ought to be appointed on merit. Are members of the opposition saying to me, to other members and to members of the ACT community that after the next election, if they were to form government, they would create a situation where the Liberal Party and all members in this Assembly would be able to employ family members?

Mr Smyth: No, we don’t intend to. We’ve got our own rules.

MR BERRY: I think that is what you are saying, Mr Smyth. You are saying, “We will vote for open slather. That’s what we will do. We will vote for open slather.” Mr Smyth also said that they had taken a decision not to employ family members. It has not worked that well in the context of the code of conduct, Mr Smyth, because one of your members, of course, is in breach of it now.

Mr Smyth: Which part?

MR BERRY: Take a close look at the code of conduct: members should not employ close family members.

Mr Smyth: It’s not in your definition.

MR BERRY: If Mr Smyth can just restrain himself from constantly interjecting, he should take a moment to read the code of conduct—it makes it clear. The difficulty here is that we have a situation where the Liberals, on the basis of some purity that they have been able to keep hidden for a long time, are bleating about a piece of law which would prevent a particular outcome while at the same time breaching the code of conduct which has been in place since 2006. Give us a break. What the Liberals intend to do is to have open slather. It is as clear as a bell, and they have got some form on this. The point is well made by standing order 156, which says:

A Member who is a party to, or has a direct or indirect interest in, a contract made by or on behalf of the Territory or a Territory authority shall not take part in a discussion of a matter, or vote on a question, in a meeting of the Assembly where the matter or question relates directly or indirectly to that contract.

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