Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Privileges and Members' Interests Committee; Report
On behalf of the Standing Committee of Privileges and Members' Interests I present the Draft code of conduct for members of parliament: discussion paper, November 2011.
Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.
by leave—Consideration of a possible code of conduct for federal parliamentarians is not new. As noted in the discussion paper I have presented, such considerations go back as far as 1975. Since then the issue has emerged at various times but has not been brought to fruition. Most recently, the agreements for parliamentary reform that were negotiated as part of the process for formation of minority government in the 43rd Parliament made provision for the implementation of a code of conduct for federal parliamentarians. The agreements also referred to the appointment of a Parliamentary Integrity Commissioner to uphold the code.
In November 2010, the House referred an inquiry into this matter to the committee. While the committee has taken evidence from Australian and international parliamentarians who have experience with codes of conduct —and I want to thank the many people who made themselves available for this important work—it has decided not to reach a concluded view on the merits of adopting a code of conduct, and it now presents its work on the inquiry as a discussion paper. The discussion paper addresses the terms of reference and includes a consideration of the various aspects of such a code. I do not propose to canvass all those aspects, but I would strongly suggest—and actually urge—that all members read this discussion paper to better inform themselves on the issues to do with the code of conduct. Many members of the public are under codes, and it is probably time that parliamentarians gave serious consideration to adopting what has been outlined in the discussion paper.
The only two matters I would refer to relate to the preferred view of the committee if a code of conduct is to proceed. First, the committee considers that it would be preferable for any code of conduct to be broad in nature and to reflect key principles and values as a guide to conduct, rather than being a detailed, prescriptive code. The committee has included a draft paper of possible codes in the discussion paper. Second, the committee considers that it would be preferable for any code of conduct to be adopted by resolution of the House rather than by statute. We do strongly recommend this if it were to come to pass. There was very strong evidence from both the United Kingdom House of Commons and the Canadian House of Commons that a code should be adopted by resolution. A statutory code would open up the interpretation of members' conduct to be subject to scrutiny in the courts. The committee considers it essential that the House itself retains control over its own affairs, including the conduct of its members.
With these comments, I commend the discussion paper for the consideration of members. I thank all the privileges committee members who have been involved in this discussion. We have had some full and frank discussions and I really do thank them for their input. I also would really like to thank particularly David Elder, Claressa Surtees and Laura Gillies for their phenomenal work in establishing this discussion paper. I would ask everyone to give it due consideration. I thank the House.