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MLA code of conduct trimmed of requirement to treat citizens with respect

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A requirement for ACT politicians to treat citizens with courtesy has been stripped from a new code of conduct for the ACT Legislative Assembly.

Labor and Liberal MLAs used their combined numbers to amend the updated code of conduct, which was proposed by Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury.

The Assembly also agreed to the appointment of a new Commissioner for Standards.

The commissioner would be employed on a retainer and could investigate complaints against MLAs.

Mr Rattenbury was pleased that the Assembly agreed to the code. But he was disappointed that a requirement to treat all citizens of the ACT with courtesy and to respect the diversity of their backgrounds, experiences and views would not be included in the code.

“I think that it is our job to treat all citizens of the territory with courtesy. That does not mean that we have to agree with them and obviously quite frequently we don’t,’’ he said.


Mr Rattenbury was concerned that the major parties had also replaced the world “will’’ with “should’’ in several places.

“So for example, ‘will at all times act with integrity, honesty and diligence’, has been replaced with ‘members should act with integrity, honesty and diligence’,’’ Mr Rattenbury said.

“I’m glad it’s optional for everybody and I hope that makes members feel more comfortable because that’s clearly something that was required in order to get agreement to move this forward.’’

Changing “will’’ with “should’’ reflected language in recommendations from Stephen Skehill, the Assembly’s ethics and integrity advisor.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said it was important that the Assembly had a strong code of conduct.

“I think we’ve been very well-served by members in this place around their conduct,’’ Ms Gallagher said.

“But it is an area where I don’t’ think you can relax. I think the community expects the highest standards from their politicians.’’

Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson also supported the amended code of conduct.

With the support of Labor, Mr Hanson moved an amendment to give the Commissioner for Standards authority to decline to investigate complaints he or she believed were frivolous, vexatious or made only for political purposes.