The author of the so-called "McMullan principle" of ministerial responsibility has called for ministers to be held accountable to Parliament for the actions of their staff.
Former Labor frontbencher Bob McMullan said the principle, based on a statement he made in 1995, is correct but incomplete.
The principle holds that ministerial staff are accountable to the minister, and the minister is accountable to Parliament and, ultimately, the voters.
It has been invoked recently in the context of the sports rorts and faked documents scandals, both of which involved actions undertaken by ministerial staff.
In the case of the sports rorts saga, staff in the office of former sport minister Bridget McKenzie and of prime minister Scott Morrison were reported to have created and shared lists of grant recipients, colour-coded to indicate marginal and targeted electorates.
In the latter scandal, staff in the office of Energy Minister Angus Taylor sent falsified information to the Sydney lord mayor's office and the media regarding international travel.
Earlier this month the AFP cleared Mr Taylor, deciding there was "no evidence to indicate the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction was involved in falsifying information".
[Bridget McKenzie] is responsible for the conduct of her staff. It isn't called a ministerial office for nothing.Bob McMullan
Mr McMullan said it was "slightly embarrassing to have a principle named after you with which you don't entirely agree".
Though the principle was "a proper statement" of the relationship between ministers, their staff and ministerial accountability, it leaves a gap, he said.
"The necessary corollary of the principle is that ministers must front up to answer for the actions of their staff," he said.
Mr McMullan said that even if it was "the slightest bit credible" that Senator McKenzie was unaware of the documents created by her staff, that was beside the point.
"She is responsible for the conduct of her staff. It isn't called a ministerial office for nothing," he said, adding the same applied to Mr Taylor.
Senator McKenzie was forced to resign after being found to have failed to have declared her membership of a sports club which received a grant under the program she administered, but Mr Taylor has held on to his position.
The scandals have reinforced calls for a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption empowered to initiate investigations, including into the conduct of ministers and their staff, and to conduct public hearings.
The federal government is yet to reveal the details of its proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission, but critics are concerned it will lack the powers and jurisdiction necessary to hold ministers and their advisers to account.
Hawker Britton managing director Simon Banks, a former senior Labor adviser, said ministerial staff played an important role but should not exercise the executive powers invested in the minister and needed to behave ethically.
Mr Banks backed the McMullan principle and said ministers had to be held accountable for the actions of their staff. He also added his voice to calls for a federal ICAC.
"The creation of that and a return to the McMullan principle would provide an adequate framework around this issue," he said, but expressed doubt that either would happen under the current government.