Ministerial Code Of Conduct

03 May 2005 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Industry and Trade, representing the Premier, a question about the ministerial code of conduct.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The ministerial code of conduct dated May 2002 and adopted by the current government contains the following text:

Ministers of the Crown are in a position of trust bestowed by the people of South Australia. Ministers have a great deal of discretionary power, being responsible for decisions which can markedly affect an individual, groups of individuals, organisations, companies, local communities or all South Australians.

For these reasons, ministers must accept standards of conduct of the highest order. Ministers are expected to behave according to the highest standards of constitutional and personal conduct in the performance of their duties.

It goes on:

The Premier must take responsibility for his or her ministers and deal with their conduct in a manner that retains the confidence of the public.

Under general standards of conduct, at 2.3—‘Reputation’, it states:

In the discharge of his or her public duties, a minister shall not dishonestly or wantonly and recklessly attack the reputation of any other person.

I will now quote some comments made by Premier Mike Rann and some of his ministers. The arts community was told to ‘stop whining’ and ‘grow up’; electricity generators were called ‘greedy bloodsuckers’; lawyers were called ‘the gang of 14‘, ‘trendies’ and ‘snobs’ who ‘live in the leafy suburbs’; hoteliers are ‘pokie barons’; criminals are ‘low lifes’; and those who own property and rent out their homes are ‘wealthy property accumulating opportunists’. In an article in The Advertiser of 2 February this year, the Public Service Association was quoted as warning the government as follows:

South Australia will lose its ‘best and brightest’ public servants unless the state government stops berating its work force.

An article in The Advertiser of 8 April this year stated:

Premier Mike Rann will scare off potential investors in the state’s energy industry and force up power prices even further if he publicly ‘terrorises’ the independent regulator. . .

The Premier was recently cited as referring to a certain barrister as a so-called ‘mullet head’. My questions are:

1. Will the Premier advise whether he or any of his ministers are in any way in breach of the ministerial code of conduct and, if so, will they resign?

2. Will the minister advise under which part of this document bullying applies under this code?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Industry and Trade): Our Premier is quite forceful at times in defending the interests of the people of South Australia. To my knowledge, he has not breached the code of conduct. Of course, at times, if people attack the Premier, he will defend himself, as he should. Heaven help us if we have a situation where any government of the day cannot respond to attacks on it which are often incorrect. For example, and the honourable member’s question is an example of the sort of misinformation that goes on. She accused the government of berating its work force. Any government can and will defend itself. There might be some very thin-skinned people who get upset at some strong language but, to my knowledge, none of those examples relate to the government heaping abuse on anybody who has not gone out to deliberately attack the government.

If the government is attacked, the government can and will defend itself.

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: Of course we will, and we will do so forcefully. This government will defend itself against incorrect or malicious attacks—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: Well, of all the examples, nothing that the Premier has ever said would come anywhere near some of the disgraceful personal attacks that the Hon. Mr Lucas has made in this parliament. He has maligned public servants in a way that no-one in this place could come near.

The Hon. T.G. Cameron: Answer the question.

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: I am answering the question.

Look at it. One senior public servant who was attacked by the Leader of the Opposition has gone to get a job in another state. One might well ask why. If we have the opposition of this state personally attacking people quite unfairly and dishonestly, that is the real abuse. They are the real abuses by the Liberal Party of Australia. Talking generically about pokie barons—

The Hon. T.G. Cameron: You’re out of time.

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: Well, I am going to continue, the Hon. Mr Cameron, because you are just about out of time, too.