I believe that as members of parliament we should act with integrity, in a way that maintains the upmost public confidence. Our culture should not be that of finding loopholes; Of taking advantage of laws to their fullest; Of breaking or bending rules.
It should be the opposite.
In our judicial system there is an oft-quoted aphorism “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” This principle forms an integral part of the rules of natural justice. And in administering this duty to act fairly, the mere appearance of bias is sufficient for a judicial officer to be excused, or a judicial decision overturned. The basis for this rule is very squarely, the need to maintain public confidence in the judicial system.
If we look elsewhere, fiduciary obligations in financial relationships exist to ensure that those who manage other people’s money act in their beneficiaries’ interests, rather than serving their own. Breach of these fiduciary obligations will result in heavy sanction.
I point to these rules as examples that protect the integrity of the systems in which they operate.
And I question, why in this public office, similar rules are not in place here?
Australians are disengaging with politics at a rapid rate. In 2015, only 19% of our population had at least some trust in political parties – a statistic in steady decline. If we renewed this survey now, I am pretty sure public confidence would be at an all-time low.
And there is a very clear reason for this; political parties prioritising election (or re-election) over public good. For the sake of $350 odd thousand dollars out of an estimated in a $10 million dollar election campaign, the actions of the Labor party in 2014 now tarnish the integrity of this Government.
This parliament needs to be better, and it can be.
The mere appearance of wrong-doing will affect public confidence in this institution.
Although Labor are currently under scrutiny, you need not scratch the surface very far, to unearth conduct by elected members of other parties, that could be perceived in the same light.
I will give you some examples…
Right now advertised on Ethical jobs, headed with the Greens party logo, the newest member of this house Ms Truong is advertising a job position for a ‘Community Campaigner’ to be based out of her electoral office. On its face, this role looks to me, to be almost identical in form to the Labor party roles that are the subject of this debate!
Mr Finn’s electorate officer Cassandra Marr is the preselected Liberal candidate for Sunbury. If like my electoral staff she was paid for her electoral work on Tuesday 6 March 2018, then she should not have been campaigning in Sunbury at Goonwarra Neighbourhood House, as she posted on twitter. Nor should Mr Finn have necessarily held a Western Metropolitan Liberals fundraiser at his Electorate Office on 2 August 2017, with a suggested door donation of $20. The details of which were published on Facebook.
It may well be that neither Ms Truong or Mr Finn are in breach of the Members guide, but it could easily be perceived that they are, and as such they should provide clarification.
I use these as examples to highlight that even a perception harms the reputation of our parliament and that the issue likely runs deeper than the Labor party.
We need to prevent this type of conduct from reoccurring and, if possible, restore integrity and trust in our Parliament.
– Fiona Patten MP, 29.03.18 Photo by: David Peake