Page 2359 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 5 August 2015

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Travel to the Republic of Taiwan

Statement by Speaker

MADAM SPEAKER: Before I call the Clerk, I wish to update members on a statement I made yesterday about an invitation by the government of Taipei for me to lead a delegation to Taiwan between 17 and 23 August.

As I said yesterday, and as I said to members in an email when the invitation was issued to members of this Assembly, the government of Taipei has extended an invitation to me to lead a delegation on a visit to Taiwan. In making that invitation, the government of Taipei also indicated that it will pay all associated travel and accommodation costs and will host the delegation on some elements of hospitality during the visit. In making the invitation, the government of Taipei extended the same invitation on the same basis to my senior adviser. The invitation does not extend to spouses or partners. Members will recall that the invitation was extended to all members of the Assembly to nominate for the delegation. As Speaker, along with Dr Bourke, Mr Wall and my senior adviser, I accepted the invitation of the government of Taipei.

On the basis that this invitation is a gift of the government of Taipei involving no taxpayer-funded expenditure by the Assembly, all those participating in the delegation are required to declare their receipt of the gift in an appropriate manner. In the case of MLAs, that is through their statement of registrable interests, which is published on the ACT Legislative Assembly webpage. In the case of my senior adviser, this is to me as his employer.

In some quarters, there has been a conflating of taxpayer-funded members’ entitlements, most of which have been turned into salary in the case of the ACT, and the acceptance or otherwise of third-party gifts. For members, and indeed their staff, the rules that apply to gifts are covered by the members code of conduct. The rules that apply to members’ remuneration entitlements are made by the ACT Remuneration Tribunal.

Travel funded by a third party with no direct financial connection to the Assembly amounts to the receipt of a gift and must be declared, and in certain circumstances it would have to be declared to the Electoral Commission. However, I have received conflicting and changing advice about third-party funded travel, particularly on the question of accompanied travel funded by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

Today I asked the chair of the Remuneration Tribunal if the tribunal could review all the issues I have outlined, including those related to third-party gifts, even though they were not associated with members’ direct remuneration. In response, the chair of the Remuneration Tribunal has told me that the request falls outside the remit of the tribunal under the Remuneration Tribunal Act.

Therefore, as an initial step, I will ask the Assembly’s Ethics and Integrity Adviser for his advice on the specifics of my acceptance, and that of my senior adviser, of the

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