Demands for better conduct by politicians

The Senate has postponed the reporting date of a committee inquiring into setting up an integrity commissioner and code of conduct for parliamentarians, prompting renewed debate on the topic.

A Newsbytes street poll showed people had strong views about acceptable standards of behaviour for parliamentarians.

The Senate’s decision came two days after Fair Work Australia released its 1100 page report into the activities of the Health Services Union.

The report addressed allegations of the misuse of $500,000 of union funds by former HSU boss Craig Thomson.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon told ABC Radio’s AM community interest in a code of conduct showed how much on the nose politicians were with the Australian public.

“The best integrity commissioners are the Australian public and a robust media,” he said.

“I think ultimately it’s about the public and the media thoroughly scrutinising every candidate.”

Establishing a parliamentary integrity commissioner within 12 months was part of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s 2010 agreement with independent MP Andrew Wilkie and the Greens.

Independent MP Tony Windsor told Sky News that under current rules within the parliament there wasn’t a lot that could be done in terms of the FWA findings.

“We can give someone a slap on the wrist but I don’t think the general public is too interested in a slap on the wrist,” he said.

The Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 gives Federal Parliament the power to fine and imprison a member for up to six months for an offence against either House.

Under Section 8 of the Act neither House can expel a member.

The only Federal member to be expelled was Hugh Mahon in 1920, the Labor member for Kalgoorlie, for voicing his opposition to British policy in Ireland.

In November last year the House of Representatives Standing Committee of Privileges and Members’ Interests released a discussion paper on a Draft Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament.

The new date for the Senate Standing Committee of Senators’ Interests to deliver its report is 27 November.

A poll by Newsbytes showed Brisbane people wanted better conduct from politicians (see video).

“They should put the greater good of the country above things like grudges or trying to get the better of each other,” said Hudson Tesoriero.

Margaret Johnson said: “We’re small business owners so our accountability is huge; I don’t see it should be any different for parliamentarians.”

Abdul Mohammed said: “If you’re immoral it leads to you being criminal later on.”

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