STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES FOR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT

Tuesday 16 February, 2016

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (12:27): I also rise today to support the motion and to touch on briefly what the Premier alluded to. It is extremely important, as members of parliament, that we discharge our duty with the utmost honour, and it is quite a significant honour that is bestowed on all of us. I also acknowledge Mrs Such in the gallery and also all of the fantastic work that the late Hon. Bob Such did in this area.

 

We are here to serve the people we represent in South Australia and it is extremely important that this place attracts the best and brightest minds to politics and that there is a clear set of guidelines. As the member for Bragg pointed out, we have been talking about this issue for many years. The government has been slow to implement these principles that we have been calling for, and Dr Such had been calling for, for some time. You do have to ask the question: why has it taken the government so long to do something about such an important area?

We have seen a number of issues in recent times raise this exact concept of a statement of principles. Obviously, we had an ICAC investigation this year into the Gillman land sale where there were several findings in respect of the behaviour of many on the opposite side of the chamber. That particular example made it crystal clear to the government, and to us, that a statement of principles was needed. It is better late than never but I have no doubt that this will be an important step in making sure that all MPs will be held accountable for what they do.

The statement of principles touches on many fundamental important themes such as accountability, honesty, how members conduct themselves in political parties and outside, conflicts of interest, what is a conflict of interest, what is required if there is a conflict of interest that arises and how to act if there is a vested interest in a particular matter.

The statement also covers how to handle gifts and how to utilise public resources for the best use of the community. It covers not only resources but also information. Obviously, from time to time we come across official information that is not necessarily in the public domain and it is extremely important that, as members of parliament, we utilise that information for the best reason and for the public. The statement also covers freedom of speech. Obviously, we do have certain immunities that other members of the public do not. With that immunity, we need to make sure that we use that tool for the right purposes. If this statement of principles helps to crystallise those kinds of issues then I am more than happy to support it.

The government before this government did propose a code of conduct and, as the member for Bragg alluded to, there was a joint committee of the parliament that was convened, I think, in 2003-04. That committee recommended a statement of principles rather than a particular code of conduct. It seems like the Premier's motion is very similar, if not the same, as what was recommended by that committee 10 years earlier.

The ICAC commissioner, Bruce Lander, in his 2013-14 annual report recommended that there be this kind of code of conduct. I am led to believe that South Australia has fallen behind the rest of Australia, because in many other states these kinds of statement of principles or codes of conduct exist. Obviously, parliament does and parliament should have the power to deal with its own members in respect of their behaviour. Overall, I am disappointed that it has taken the government so long to react to this; however, better late than never. I am happy to support what is a good motion.