MPs’ code on slow road

Gov­ern­ment too busy, puts off draft for an­other year

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - DAVID BENIUK

A CODE of con­duct for Tas­ma­nian MPs has been put off for an­other year after the State Gov­ern­ment did not deem it a high enough pri­or­ity.

A par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on in­tegrity last year rec­om­mended a draft code be de­bated early in 2017 and adopted this year.

The com­mit­tee wrote to par­ties and in­de­pen­dents three times dur­ing the year to ask about progress.

In its sec­ond re­port on the code, tabled in Par­lia­ment last week, the com­mit­tee rec­om­mends it now be im­ple­mented as a “mat­ter of pri­or­ity” by the end of 2018.

“The com­mit­tee was quite dis­ap­pointed in the fact that it hasn’t moved for­ward,” chair­man Ivan Dean said.

The Tas­ma­nian In­tegrity Com­mis­sion re­viewed codes of con­duct for MPs, min­is­ters and min­is­te­rial staff in 2016, pro­duc­ing a draft code.

The com­mit­tee rec­om­mended a sin­gle code for all MPs be adopted after par­ties met to dis­cuss its word­ing and de­bated it in Par­lia­ment.

Leg­isla­tive amend­ments would then be needed al­low­ing the In­tegrity Com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate com­plaints by at least three mem­bers of Par­lia­ment into al­leged breaches.

Tas­ma­nia is the only state or ter­ri­tory with­out a code for MPs in both houses.

In its letters, the com­mit­tee told MPs they had been given a year to con­sider the draft code and min­i­mal work would be re­quired to en­act it.

In Oc­to­ber La­bor moved to have the House of As­sem­bly de­bate the change dur­ing the fi­nal sit­ting week of Par­lia­ment, but it was de­feated.

Premier Will Hodg­man wrote to Mr Dean in Oc­to­ber in­di­cat­ing the Gov­ern­ment’s “com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties” would not al­low time for the code to be pro­gressed.

In an­other let­ter to Mr Dean in Novem­ber, he out­lined dif­fi­cul­ties the Gov­ern­ment had with the com­mit­tee’s orig­i­nal rec­om­men­da­tions.

“With a num­ber of ex­ist­ing mem­bers not re­con­test­ing, and the po­ten­tial change of other seats due to the elec­tion, it would be prefer­able for this Par­lia­ment to not bind mem­bers of an­other to a new code at such a late stage,” Mr Hodg­man wrote.

Mem­bers were bound by a Code of Eth­i­cal Con­duct and Code of Race Ethics, Mr Hodg­man said.

The Gov­ern­ment has come un­der fire for mak­ing coun­cils ad­here to a code of con­duct while fail­ing to en­act one for MPs.

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