Page 3702 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 26 August 2009

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Mr Speaker presented the following paper:

Legislative Assembly (Members’ Superannuation) Act, pursuant to section 11A—Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly Members Superannuation Board—Annual report—2008-2009, dated 10 August 2008.

Minister for Education and Training

Motion of censure

Debate resumed.

MS BRESNAN (Brindabella) (3.01): The ministerial code of conduct provides the absolute minimum standards for the manner in which a minister must behave. One of the most important statements in the code is in its preamble, where it states:

Being a Minister demands the highest standards of probity, accountability, honesty, integrity and diligence in the exercise of their public duties and functions. Ministers will ensure that their conduct does not bring discredit upon the Government or Territory.

The Liberals have accused the minister for education of breaching that code through the standards it sets for honesty and integrity. Judgement of the minister’s actions hangs on the interpretation of a sentence inserted into a letter to the Non-Government Schools Council:

The Government opposes suggestions by the Liberal Party’s spokesman that I should use the Human Rights Act 2004 as a way of the Government taking over non-government school teaching and curriculum.

The Greens have searched through Hansard and other records to try to find where it is that Mr Doszpot has made such a statement or anything he said that could be logically interpreted as such. We could not find any. Mr Doszpot has said that, to be consistent with human rights, the minister should include education services for children or young people in non-government schools in the Shaddock review. But how could one logically interpret from that, I wonder, that the Liberal Party would like to see the ACT government take over their teaching and curriculum? Such a statement seems absurd.

The ministerial code of conduct does not provide a clear outline about the process to be used when a minister’s conduct is called into question. But it does say that it is up to a minister to justify his or her actions and conduct.

This morning, in response to the censure motion, the minister had his opportunity to justify his action. Unfortunately, his justification was weak. If Mr Barr, in his official role as minister for education, did, in fact, purposely mislead the Non-Government Schools Council and purposely misrepresent another MLA, it is a serious matter. That is why we are giving the minister an opportunity to correct the record, to ensure that a breach of the ministerial code of conduct was not intended.

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