MLAs to comment on watchdog proposal
Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury has led the call for the appointment of a commissioner to assume responsibility for the conduct of members. Photo: Elesa Lee
Parliamentary disciplinary dramas could become a thing of the past as the ACT Legislative Assembly moves to appoint a new watchdog.
Members have until the end of the week to comment on recommended changes to the members code of conduct and the proposed appointment of a commissioner for standards.
Responses will be presented to the standing committee on administration and procedure, which will then decide whether to endorse or abandon the proposals.
The Speaker, Vicki Dunne.
The assembly's ethics and integrity adviser, Stephen Skehill, last year recommended a new code of conduct be adopted for MLAs.
In a report tabled in the Assembly in August, Mr Skehill also recommended that after each election, the Assembly vote on whether the code of conduct should be continued and on whether any changes should be adopted.
He said all MLAs should be given the chance to affirm their commitment to the code.
Under the code, an Assembly commissioner for standards would take over the watchdog role to be able to investigate the conduct of MLAs filled by the Speaker.
The Speaker would instead refer complaints to a commissioner for standards to investigate and report to the assembly.
Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury has led the call for the appointment of a commissioner to assume responsibility for the conduct of members, moving a motion in July.
Mr Rattenbury, as the Speaker of the seventh Assembly, was regularly called upon to scrutinise the conduct of MLAs, including members of his own ACT Greens party.
"I think we need something more than members scrutinising their own, [we need] an independent fact-finding body that can deal with issues," Mr Rattenbury said.
"Given the partisan nature of contemporary politics, having an independent eye seems a valuable option."
Mr Skehill's future as adviser will be considered at the same the time as his proposals.
The four-year contract for ethics adviser expired at the end of the seventh Assembly.
The adviser acts as the ACT's moral compass, providing advice to members of the Assembly on issues such as conflicts of interests and the use of entitlements.
The Speaker's office controls the appointment process.
The Speaker Vicki Dunne said six expressions of interest had been received after the position was advertised last year.
She said Mr Skehill had reapplied to continue in the part-time role.
"It's encouraging that we have such a strong field of people with an interest in the area," Ms Dunne said.