Bad pollies beware!

by Chris Griffith
Written 1994


my face


Badly behaved Queensland politicians will have to reform their wayward habits and behave "ethically" - or face the wrath of their parliamentary colleagues, under a radical plan discussed by State Cabinet.

Under the plan, Queensland politicians will be subject to a code-of-conduct, a manifesto of acceptable parliamentary behaviour to be drawn up and adjudicated by a new "Ethics Committee" of State Parliament.

Yesterday Premier Wayne Goss refused to confirm or deny the plan, only offering "no comment", however sources close to government have confirmed the Cabinet discussion and say a ministerial statement will soon be published.

If a similar code being developed for federal MPs is any guide, state politicians will be required to use public resources only for their intended purposes.

They will be required to avoid conflicts of interest, and not use their public influence to advance their private interests.

Significantly, the draft federal code, if applied to Queensland, would scrutinise the personal conduct of state MP's so that it "is consistent with the dignity and integrity of the Parliament".

However it could be a case of politicians judging politicians, as yesterday CJC chairman Rob O'Regan indicated only a slight possibility that the state's main body capable of revieving political behaviour - the CJC - would have any role investigating breaches of conduct.

This means complaints would be lodged to the Ethics Committee which would decide any outcome.

Mr O'Regan said the CJC could monitor politician's behaviour "only if the code was manditory and provided sanctions for non-compliance".

"If the code is merely an exhortation for parliamentarians to be good - without penalities for being less than good, than as a matter of law, the Commission would still have no jurisdiction," Mr O'Regan said.

In doing so, Mr O'Regan is offering a different approach in Queensland to one simultaneously being debated in NSW.

Last week the NSW Parliament's Lower House passed a Bill giving the state's Independent Commission Against Corruption the power to investigate and report on breaches of ministerial and parliamentary codes of behaviour.

The Bill, introduced by NSW independent MP Dr Peter Macdonald, is now the subject of negotiation with the ALP and independents in the state's Upper House.

The Queensland plan originated from a recommendation by the now-disbanded Electoral and Administrative Review Commission, and was the unanimous recommendation of its governing parliamentary committee.

In April Mr Goss indicated the government's intention to consider a code of conduct for state MPs and local government councillors.

Opposition leader Rob Borbidge said the coalition would not take a position on the government's proposal until it had seen it and considered it in Shadow Cabinet.

by Chris Griffith