Page 2139 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 2 August 2016

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importance of government integrity in the ACT. Today is one of the last opportunities in the Eighth Assembly to raise a matter of public importance and I believe the issue of integrity speaks to the heart of the legacy of the current Labor-Greens government led by Chief Minister Andrew Barr and how it will be remembered as we move on to the next Assembly.

The ministerial code of conduct dictates how ministers in this place act, and the virtue of integrity is outlined as:

Ministers must not use their position or information gained in the performance of their duties to gain a direct or indirect advantage for themselves or their families or acquaintances that would not be available to the general public.

The first issue that must be raised in addressing the ACT government’s integrity lies with the signing of the memorandum of understanding between ACT Labor and UnionsACT. It was signed directly by the Chief Minister. This deliberate and, what I would call, sneaky act, which was undertaken by another Labor government under another Chief Minister, took place here in the ACT initially 12 years ago and has presented a direct disadvantage for many in the general public but most notably local business for that entire time. The existence of the MOU with UnionsACT affects anyone tendering for business or contracts in the ACT who is not approved or endorsed by the union movement, which is ultimately the decision of the unions in the ACT. This document, in turn the union influence, ultimately has the power of veto over these potential contracts. Where is the integrity in this?

What has added insult to injury is the deflection that has been undertaken by the Chief Minister and his ministers in dealing with the criticism that has come from many businesses in the community about the memorandum of understanding with UnionsACT. Their “nothing to see here folks” approach, “it’s been around for a long time” attitude, is just not cutting it for the general public and, in fact, does not pass the pub test at all. In the words of Peter Strong, Chairman of the Council of Small Business of Australia, the existence of this document and the government’s failure to be transparent about its existence are “both dishonest and deceitful”. This smacks of cronyism in its purest form. I will also continue to maintain that the integrity of every single Labor minister has been compromised by the existence of this MOU.

The fact that there is no formal process for the provision of advice on contracts between the unions and ministers or government agencies themselves is, itself, a damning indictment on the way that the Labor Party has conducted itself in office. A phone call here or a conversation there is all that is needed to destroy a business’s chances of obtaining ACT government contracts because of the way this government has gone about doing business.

We are also no closer to finding out just what, if any, advice the government has received of a legal nature, which it would be inappropriate or not to share the details of, surrounding applicants for a tender process with third parties outside the government. I would wager that this advice has indeed been provided and that the answer was not what the Chief Minister or the ministers of the executive wanted to hear.

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