Yesterday, Crikey revealed that the daughter of Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is now working at DFAT as a graduate trainee. Here’s what the Prime Minister’s 1998 code of conduct, A Guide on Key Elements of Ministerial Responsibility, has to say about the appointment of relatives.

Ministers should not exercise the influence obtained from their public office, or use official information, to gain any improper benefit for themselves or another.

  • Particular attention needs to be paid to ensuring that the scope for adverse comment is minimised if it is proposed to appoint someone who is the close relative or associate of a minister.
  • Subject to provisions in legislation or other formal documents relating to the establishment of government bodies or positions, government appointments are to be made on the basis of merit, taking into account the skills, qualifications, experience and any special qualities required of the person to be appointed.
  • If the approving authority (which may be Cabinet or a minister) is satisfied that this condition is demonstrably met, then spouses, parents, children or other close relatives of ministers, parliamentarians, ministerial staff or heads of departments or agencies should not be discriminated against in selection processes on account of family relationships.
  • There is a longstanding practice that ministers do not appoint close relatives to positions in their own offices. In addition, close relatives of a minister should not be appointed to any other minister’s office irrespective of the level of the position, except with the specific approval of the Prime Minister. And a minister’s close relative should not be appointed to any position in an agency in that minister’s own portfolio if the appointment is subject to the agreement of the minister or Cabinet.
  • Appointment proposals should identify the elements of merit, skills, qualifications, experience and special qualities on which they are based.

Peter Fray

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