Code of Conduct review for the Legislative Assembly

johnboy 15 August 2012

Speaker Rattenbury has received a review of the Legislative Assembly’s code of conduct.

The recommendations are:

    1. The ACT Legislative Assembly should continue to have a Code of Conduct for its Members.

    2. That Code of Conduct should be made by resolution of the Assembly and not be included in, or made under, an Act of the Assembly.

    3. The Code should set out general principles to guide Members in all of their activities as Members.

    4. The Code should also include a (relatively small) number of more specific rules on major conduct issues, and cross-reference key other instruments of relevance.

    5. The Code should not however contain or cross-reference the myriad of other more detailed subsidiary rules that apply to the day-to-day administrative matters that are an important but far less fundamental part of conducting oneself as a Member.

    6. In addition to the print and electronic copies of the Code itself that are made generally available to Members and the public, the Code should be made available (at least to Members and their staff) in an electronic form that includes active and up-to-date links to all other instruments that govern or affect the conduct of Members in relation to those more detailed subsidiary matters. In this way, at any point in time, Members and their advisers can readily ascertain all materials that set out expectations in relation to their day-to-day conduct.

    7. The Code should be drafted in terms that are confined to the Conduct of members “as Members”, and thereby should not seek to impinge upon their activities in their private life or as members of a political party.

    8. The Code should be expressed in terms of a commitment by the Members of the Assembly to one another and to the community, rather than in terms of obligations imposed upon them.

    9. While the Code as current from time to time should continue to be embodied in a Continuing Resolution of the Assembly so that there is at all times an operative Code, it should be an early matter of business for each new Assembly to consider the content of the Code and to vote to either confirm or vary that content. In this way, all current Members of each Assembly will have the opportunity to express their personal commitment to comply with the Code, or to argue for any change to it that they may consider appropriate. This process will also provide an opportunity for periodic review of the Code so as to better ensure that, over time, it remains appropriate to contemporaneous circumstances.

    10. There should continue to be an Ethics and Integrity Adviser appointed as a resource for Members who may seeking advice, opinion or guidance in relation to matters relevant to their own compliance with the Code of Conduct. Familiarisation with the Code of Conduct and the availability of the Adviser should continue to be an important part of the induction process for newly elected Members. The Adviser should continue to report annually to the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure which should consider each year whether or not those reports indicate any further educative or similar activity is necessary or desirable to alert Members to emerging Code compliance issues.

    11. Members and the public should be made aware, however, that they are entitled to address any concern or allegation about a Member’s compliance with the Code to the Speaker.

    12. In the interests of timely resolution of such matters, the Speaker (or the Deputy Speaker if the Speaker would have an actual or reasonably perceived conflict of interest in dealing with the issue) should thereupon decide whether or not the matter requires further consideration.

    13. Where the Speaker concludes that the complaint in question is unfounded, frivolous or vexatious, he or she should be able to dismiss the matter (and, where appropriate, provide a suitable explanation to the complainant).

    14. Where the Speaker considers that the complaint is not unfounded, frivolous or vexatious, he or she should refer the matter to a Legislative Assembly Commissioner for Standards for investigation and report to the Assembly through the Speaker and the Standing Committee on Administration and Procedure.

    15. With the aim of ensuring the effectiveness and timeliness of this procedure for resolution of Code of Conduct complaints, the Code should include a commitment by Members to cooperate with such investigations.

    16. With the aim of preventing the procedure for Code of Conduct complaints being abused for political advantage unrelated to the merits, the Code should contain a commitment by Members to only make a complaint about the compliance of another Member where they believe there are reasonable grounds to suspect non-compliance.

    17. To ensure that there is no inhibition on Members approaching the Ethics and Integrity Adviser with a view to avoiding potential compliance issues before they arise, the positions of Ethics and Integrity Adviser and Legislative Assembly Commissioner for Standards should be completely separate and never concurrently held by the same person.

    18. The Assembly should consider adopting the revised draft Code of Conduct set out at Attachment E to this report.

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