tip off

The conduct of badly behaving parliamentarians

A code of conduct:

Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber writes:  Re. “Commonwealth lags badly on MP code of conduct” (yesterday, item 2). When Bernard Keane said the Victorian Parliament imposed a code of conduct on its staff, you meant the presiding officers acting as the head of an organisation. The parliament voting as a legislature hasn’t imposed anything like that on anyone, (especially itself, not since 1978 anyway).

But on Wednesday week MPs have a chance to show they can regulate themselves by voting for my bill to add a “serious misconduct” offence to the code of conduct, setting up an MP who seriously misuses their position for five years’ jail.

John Richardson writes: I usually treat Bernard Keane’s pieces seriously, although I found his argument in support of a code of conduct for federal politicians to be nothing short of hilarious. I’m sad to say that Keane’s thesis that such a code would miraculously lift parliamentary standards and enhance the integrity and honesty of our politicians and their enablers is simply naïve at best.

For other optimists and wishful thinkers out there, the proof of my assertion rests on the all-too-obvious fact that our elected leaders are simply incapable of agreeing to or supporting any idea, proposal, suggestion or initiative that is not their own, regardless of its merit, unless of course it involves adding to their own already outrageous levels of personal reward or some how acts to enhance their vainglorious impressions of themselves; such as posing hand-on-heart at remembrance ceremonies or kissing babies.

In my view, it would never occur to a politician to act honestly, particularly when our political theatre rewards them so well for behaving in exactly the opposite fashion.

Niall Clugston writes: The code of conduct proposed for federal Parliament would be unconstitutional and undemocratic.

An MP is elected by the voters and can only be disqualified under the narrow terms set out in the constitution. What’s being proposed would set the scene for the government, or a parliamentary majority, to expel a rebel MP on trumped-up charges. This would destroy the whole purpose of Parliament.

In any case, it’s hard to see how a code of conduct for MPs could be used to pursue Craig Thomson for things he might have done before he entered parliament.

Let’s let the voters decide and find something better to have a national debate about than $6000 spent on prostitutes.

Peter Wotton writes: You would have to naive to think that the corporate expense sheets are not full of payment for “services” listed as legitimate corporate expenses. That is not to say that funny transactions in trade unions is excusable but there needs to be a consistency in all areas. This seems to be currently missing.

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