ACT politicians could be brought under the control of a ''commissioner for parliamentary ethics'' in the wake of this week's scathing report into staff management in the office of Opposition Leader Zed Seselja.
The review by former royal commissioner Ron McLeod recommended an overhaul of the system used by MLAs to account for the attendance of their staff and that the Assembly consider appointing a commissioner to police the members' codes of conduct and ethics and the administration of their offices.
That audit was ordered by the Assembly in February after The Canberra Times revealed Mr Seselja had failed for several years in his legal requirement to account for the attendance of some of his taxpayer-funded staff
The review now looks set to have long-term effects on the Legislative Assembly with Mr McLeod recommending an overhaul of the system used to police ethical standards in the Parliament.
Mr McLeod said the present system, in place since 2001, in which members can take advice from a parliamentary ethics adviser, was a ''watered down version'' of an earlier proposal. The bushfires royal commissioner wrote that the proposal should be considered again in the broader context of a review of the code of ethics that apply to Assembly members.
Both Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and ACT Greens Leader Meredith Hunter said yesterday that they would be prepared to consider in-principle the idea of an ethics commissioner.
The Chief Minister said that she wanted to see a full overhaul of employment rules in the Assembly, including a clear requirement for workers employed at the Assembly to be present at designated workplaces, and explicit rules for the roles of party political work.
She also called for the abolition of the right to time off in lieu (TOIL), saying she fought an Industrial Relations Commission battle four years ago against a staffer who had tried to claim 800 hours of TOIL. ''I refused to pay that, I took it to the Industrial Relations Commission and I won because I didn't believe that that TOIL had been earned legitimately and I didn't think it should have been paid out by the taxpayer,'' she said.
Ms Gallagher said she would be open to considering a parliamentary ethics commissioner. ''We'll look at that,'' she said. ''In responding to this situation, there wasn't a standard referral pathway and in other jurisdictions they have places like ICAC [Independent Commission Against Corruption] and it just would have been referred off and dealt with there. It's definitely something that's worth considering.''
Ms Hunter also said she was willing to consider the idea of a commissioner. ''This is something we haven't had in the ACT before and this is something this inquiry has brought about,'' she said. ''We need to ask 'do we need a full-time ethics commissioner and what would be the cost of that?', so we need to look at what is going to be affordable and what will still do the job that Mr McLeod highlighted needs to be performed.''
Mr Seselja, and his staffer Mr Faulkner both declined to be interviewed yesterday, but the Opposition Leader said in a statement that a commissioner parliamentary ethics could be helpful. ''An independent commissioner would potentially avoid the election year witchhunt we've seen in recent weeks.''