That this bill be now read a second time.
It’s also an honour to introduce the Commonwealth Parliamentary Standards Bill 2020 which complements the Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill 2020, which I have just introduced. This bill sets out the components of the proposed national pro-integrity framework that are specific to the Commonwealth parliament. In particular, this bill creates a statutory code of conduct for MPs and their staff; a statutory basis for the existing registers of interest for parliamentarians; a new parliamentary integrity adviser, who will provide independent, confidential advice and guidance to MPs and their staff about integrity matters; and a new parliamentary standards commissioner who will assess, investigate, resolve or refer serious alleged breaches of the new code of conduct.
When I arrived in this place I was astounded to learn that no such code of conduct exists for MPs. Every other significant public profession in this country, from bureaucrats to judicial officers, journalists, barristers, medical professionals, nurses have established codes of conduct. This code of conduct has 10 simple components:
(1) MPs must prioritise public duties and democracy,
(2) MPs must declare and avoid conflicts of interest,
(3) MPs must never use their position for personal profit,
(4) MPs must ensure outside community or employment engagements are clean,
(5) MPs must refrain from accepting gifts and hospitality that create conflict issues,
(6) MPs must not use influence for private purposes or as an agent of a foreign power,
(7) MPs must comply with IPEA and Remuneration Tribunal rules around public resources,
(8) MPs must not deliberately mislead parliament and must seek to act courteously without detracting from robust debate,
(9) MPs must not exploit confidential or personal information obtained as an MP and
(10) MPs must not take improper advantage of office for post-retirement activities.
The code of conduct in this bill is based on the global recommendations of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, of which the Australian parliament is a member. This code is specifically designed to protect robust debate on issues of public importance, ensure parliamentary officers and resources are used in the public interest and discourage political office holders from clear unethical behaviours that discredit the integrity of the Commonwealth parliament. This new code of conduct will give the parliamentary standards commissioner a clear metric to identify and assess unethical conduct that we have seen countless examples of in this parliament. The parliamentary standards commissioner will have the same powers of the Auditor-General to conduct investigations with appropriate safeguards to protect rights to procedural fairness, rights to privacy and the protection of personal reputation and the advancement of the public interest. It will also be empowered to refer the most serious and systematic cases to the new Australian federal integrity commission for stronger, objective investigation if necessary.
It is incumbent upon this parliament and all MPs to lead by example. The public holds us to high standards and so should we. This bill is an important component of the national pro-integrity framework proposed in the Australian Federal Integrity Commission Bill 2020. It is my pleasure to comment this bill to the House.