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Coalition set to oppose Oakeshott code for parliamentary behaviour


Chief Political Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald

View more articles from Lenore Taylor


TONY ABBOTT might have described as ''elegant'' Malcolm Turnbull's speech critiquing the quality of Australia's political debate, but the Coalition is set to oppose a parliamentary ''code of conduct'' to be debated when parliament resumes next week.

The code - proposed by Independent Rob Oakeshott - suggests relatively uncontroversial things such as ''members must ensure that their personal conduct is consistent with the dignity of the Parliament.''

It calls on politicians to ''act … in a manner which will tend to maintain and strengthen the public's trust and confidence in the integrity of the Parliament and its Members''.

But the leader of opposition business, Christopher Pyne, confirmed that if a vote was brought on in the House of Representatives before the Senate interests committee reports on a similar code for the upper house, the Coalition would be voting no.

The Senate interests committee, which began considering the issue on March 2 and in May deferred any report until November 27 and has held no hearings nor has it discussed the six submissions it received in March.

A spokesman for its chairman, Tony Abbott's parliamentary secretary, Senator Cory Bernardi, recently told the Herald the six-month delay in reporting on the matter was so that he could consult with the chair of the Senate privileges committee - his colleague, Senator Gary Humphries.

The delays raise questions about whether the Coalition is stone-walling to prevent any impression this parliament is trying to clean up its act.

Mr Pyne said the stance was because ''it would be peculiar if the House of Representatives had a code of conduct and the Senate didn't''.

The code will be debated when Parliament returns and is likely to pass the lower house with the votes of Labor and the independents. It also requires politicians to be honest and avoid conflicts of interest.

Mr Oakeshott has said that sometimes ''stating the bleeding obvious is necessary''.

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