Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
A new standards commissioner will investigate ACT politicians who are suspected of misbehaviour, and all members of the ACT Legislative Assembly will be asked to re-commit to a code of conduct every four years.
Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury will move a resolution this week in the Assembly calling for the appointment of a commissioner for standards with powers to investigate complaints against members.
All MLAs will be invited to formally support the ratification of an updated code of conduct. Both resolutions are expected to be approved.
Mr Rattenbury was speaker in 2012, when an investigation was established into concerns about timesheet records in the office of Liberal leader Zed Seselja.
"When the Seselja matter arose, the Assembly was completely ill-equipped to address that matter, in a context where there was a lot of political heat around it,'' he said. "Perhaps it wasn't the best time to be setting up a mechanism.''
An independent commissioner could help lessen the potential for perceptions of partisanship in investigations if complaints were made against politicians, he said.
If the commissioner found that an MLA had breached the code of conduct, the Assembly would determine what should happen next.
"If the commissioner finds there has been a breach of the code of conduct, it's still for the Assembly to determine a punishment,'' Mr Rattenbury said.
The Assembly is also likely to adopt a recommendation by ethics and integrity adviser Stephen Skehill that members agree to a code of conduct review every four years.
"This requires members to deliberately turn their minds to the code of conduct at the start of the Assembly. Particularly for new members it's important, but also for existing members it's important to refresh themselves on what some of those expectations are. It will create a sense of ownership of a code,'' Mr Rattenbury said. The Assembly's new code of conduct requires members to "at all times act with integrity, honesty and diligence''.
MLAs are required to "always act in the public interest, make decisions and choices on merit, and not seek to gain financial or other benefit for themselves, their family or friends''.
Members must treat all ACT citizens with ''courtesy, and respect the diversity of their backgrounds, experiences and views''. They are also required to "actively seek to prevent any conflict of interest, or the perception of such a conflict [and] … take all responsible steps to resolve such conflict, or perception of a conflict that does arise.''