Page 3420 - Week 09 - Thursday, 21 August 2008

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cover the field in respect of Mr Seselja’s position, but the code of conduct very clearly does.

I do not intend to argue that Mr Seselja should immediately sack this person, because the person has been employed in good faith, I expect. However, I expect that the next time an appointment comes up—after the next election—that the Leader of the Opposition will be able to give a commitment in this place that he will not appoint somebody contrary to the code of practice which this Assembly has agreed to. Members of the opposition are in a very difficult position, I think, because you are the people now who will go to the next election with an open-slather approach on employing family members.

It has been said that codes of conduct can be ineffective. They are only as effective as the people covered by them want them to be. In this case, I felt that the code of conduct for the employment of members in this place was not up to scratch, and that is why the piece of legislation has been introduced to cover the field. In my view, it will deal with it adequately. At some point in the future, members may wish to amend it to strengthen it or, in the case of Mr Mulcahy, he may wish to amend it by weakening it. But, in the end, members have to start thinking about the standing of this place out there in the community.

I had a look at some numbers on a poll conducted by the Canberra Times. Before people shriek at me that that is not an adequate poll, it is relevant to mention it. There were 540-odd voters in the poll, and 80 per cent of them thought it was a bad idea for MLAs to employ family members. I challenge Mr Mulcahy to put this on the front page of his election leaflet: “I support the employment of family members by MLAs”. We will not be seeing him here next time if he does. It is important that these sorts of things come out before an election so that people know what some of their MLAs are thinking about on these key issues for the proper running of a democratic institution.

It is important to know that the party that sees itself as the alternative government supports the employment of family members amongst MLAs and the open-slather approach. Mr Smyth tries to create the impression that the Liberal Party can be trusted in its party room on this issue. In the past, of course, they have had the worst record of employing family members. If you could not trust their party room in the past, do you think people out there in the community would trust them in the future? I think not.

We live in a public service town which knows about the dangers of patronage and favouritism and nepotism. It is a threat to real democracy, and it is a threat to the standing of this legislature. When I first became a member of this place, before I became the Speaker, I had to weather the criticism in the early days of self-government about the standing of this place, and it does it no good to see nepotism alive and well in this Assembly. I think this debate will better inform the community on what to expect of its members when it comes to the employment habits that members fall into in this place.

I urge members to support this bill. I thank those members who have shown their support for it, and I trust that it will arm this Assembly to be better respected by the community in the future.

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