Page 4079 - Week 13 - Thursday, 31 October 2013

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(e) The Commissioner must not make a report to the Committee unless the Commissioner has—

(i) given a copy of the proposed report to the Member or the Speaker who is the subject of the complaint under investigation;

(ii) the Member or the Speaker has had a reasonable time to provide comments on the proposed report; and

(iii) the Commissioner has considered any comments provided by the Member or the Speaker.

(f) The Commissioner must report by 31 August each year to the Speaker on the exercise of the functions of the Commissioner.

(12) The Committee must review the operation of the Commissioner after two years following the initial appointment of the Commissioner and report to the Assembly in the first sitting period in 2016.”.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Health and Minister for Higher Education) (10.58): It is great to have the opportunity to speak about the commissioner for standards motion on the notice paper this morning. The government will be supporting this motion with amendments put forward by Mr Hanson and Mr Rattenbury. It was a very rare occasion yesterday when Mr Rattenbury, Mr Hanson and I met in the anteroom for a short period and worked through a range of amendments. It was very civil, people listened to each other’s views and, amazingly, at the end of it we came up with a united position. I do not think I have been involved in such a meeting in this place before. I think it is important to know that there is a unanimous view on the way to go forward with the commissioner for standards.

This motion today establishes a new body for the Assembly that we have not had in the past. It appoints a commissioner for standards who will receive complaints, once they have been through a process through the Speaker, about members’ conduct as it relates to the code which the Assembly passed last week. This is a new arrangement and, in order to give the arrangement the best chance of success, I believed that a unanimous view of all members would give it its best shot.

As members would be aware, last week we agreed on a new code of conduct for MLAs as a suitable pronouncement of the standards expected of all elected members. The code appropriately emphasises the general obligations of elected officials. It covers the main areas relevant to ethical standards and does not move into matters more appropriate to executive influence. It is consistent with the ministerial code of conduct, although that code imposes more stringent requirements given the particular responsibilities, privileges and powers of ministers in the ACT government.

The Assembly’s ethics adviser, Mr Stephen Skehill, in his review of the current code, noted that, without commitment from those subject to the code, appropriate conduct and a willingness to enforce compliance, the code will not achieve its aims. With this in mind, it is important that the code be regarded as setting expectations for MLA behaviour at all times, be objectively enforced and be applied consistently across all parties and members. Considering the variety of ethical questions MLAs face, it is also reasonable that the code is principles based and flexible enough to provide guidance in different contexts.

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