Crikey has a code of conduct. We developed it last year to support the industry code of ethics we’re already bound by as members of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a professional alliance without one. Any self-respecting business has them. And, as Bernard Keane notes today, most state parliaments have them, too:

“New South Wales, Queensland, WA, Tasmania, Victoria, the Northern Territory and ACT parliaments all have codes for MPs (in Tasmania, for government MPs only), which are additional to, or include, ministerial codes of conduct …”

Ministers in Canberra are bound by a code, but other MPs aren’t. Julia Gillard said yesterday she wants to consider one — more than 18 months after all sides of politics agreed to a document as part of the parliamentary reforms pushed by the Greens and independents.

The Coalition is right on one thing: you don’t need a document to tell you not to use the company credit card to pay for hookers. Allegedly. Or to make government increasingly dysfunctional while hanging on with grim death to your parliamentary seat spouting laughably implausible excuses. Allegedly.

But some lines need to be drawn on when the right time is to go. To not even mention, as Keane does, the myriad other anomalies around behaviour, personal conflict and treatment of staff.

Craig Thomson isn’t why federal politicians need a code of conduct, though if there’s any good from the whole sordid affair that may be it. They need a code so we have something to hold them to in the face of slippery excuses and tenuous justifications.

Hell, it might even introduce a shred of dignity into the place.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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