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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 7 April 2016) . . Page.. 1308 ..

The importance of ethical government in the ACT.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (4.01): The importance of ethical government in the ACT is a large concern to a number of people. People who speak to me often simply do not know how questions are answered in question time, where the answers are evasive, where the questions are not answered and where anybody seeking information is often just rebuffed in their attempts to get simple answers to simple questions. It is as simple as that.

We have a comprehensive array of guidance and legislation: everything from the Assembly members code of conduct and the ministerial code of conduct to various pieces of legislation on the administration of the public sector and continuing resolutions of the Assembly.

It is most interesting that in the ministerial code of conduct there are ethical principles for ministers listed. They include words like “integrity”, “honesty”, “diligence”, “transparency”, “accountability”, “fairness”, “respect”, “responsibility”, and “respect for the law and the administration of justice”. You would say that those words pretty much sum up the accepted principles of right and wrong that govern the conduct of a profession, in this case of politicians, particularly those in this place. You have to question whether these ethical principles for ministers are really being upheld by this government.

One of the things that oppositions do is be constantly vigilant in upholding those standards and holding government to account. But, in practice, we have some very long term issues that I have pursued over a long period of time, and constantly emerging issues from this government opposite.

We have a government party that owns, regulates and takes the profits from a gambling business; yet we are the place that legislates that gambling. As was asked in question time in relation to the MOU, how does the government violate its own MOU? The Chief Minister glibly says, “Well, you know, it’s going to run out, so it’ll be okay.” That is the problem where we do not uphold the standards, where we do not address the issue of ethical government in the ACT.

Let us go to the regulator taking the profits from a gambling business and standing order 156, on conflicts of interest. This place decides its own conflicts of interest, and the party that own the clubs that have the gambling business just judge that they do not have a conflict of interest. In days past, to give Paul Osborne his due, he used to stand aside on any vote on gaming machines, simply because he was a coach at a club and was getting payment from them. He understood. He saw the conflict of interest. He stood aside, unlike those opposite, who regularly take the profits from gambling and do not see a problem with it. People like the Reverend Tim Costello see the lack of ethical behaviour in that stance. He says that you will never get honest and clear regulation of gaming in the ACT when those regulating and passing the legislation own the machines. In any other business it would be a conflict of interest, except where you get to legislate for yourself.

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