Members of Parliament (Code of Ethical Conduct) Bill

After the poor behaviour in parliament last week, hightlighted by the speaker Lockwood Smith and blogged here – Addressing disgraceful parliamentary behaviour – I emailed MPs asking for their opinions on it.

Ross Robertson (Labour MP for Manukau East) replied saying he has a Member’s Bill in the ballot that addresses MP ethics and behaviour. Whether this makes it into parliament is subject to the chance of the ballot. Roberston tried to promote his bill a few months ago:

Tuesday 24 April 2012 Media Statement

Local MP Calls For Support For Parliamentary Code

New Zealand should be a world leader in democratic accountability and transparency, according to Ross Robertson, Labour MP for Manukau East, who spoke to an audience of Rotary members this morning on good governance and democracy.

“Unfortunately New Zealand is not leading as it should be,” Ross Robertson said.

“My Members Bill, title the Members of Parliament (Code of Ethical Conduct) Bill would see a Code of Ethics adopted by MPs and followed according to its spirit and purpose. Unfortunately this bill is yet to be drawn from the members’ ballot.

Ross Robertson told Rotary members that he was frustrated that Kiwis were being put off politics due to often inaccurate perceptions about standards of behaviour.

 “New Zealanders expect parliamentarians to serve out of conviction and a commitment to the public good,” Ross Robertson said. “This bill aims to clarify that purpose and engage young people who are being turned off politics in droves.”

“We need to demonstrate the relevance of Parliament in order to earn the respect for democracy that is so vital to our future as a free and thriving nation.

“With regard to my goal of raising respect for both Parliament and our New Zealand democracy by improving the performance of Parliament, I believe that to do nothing is not an option, for the biggest advantage of a code lies in its ability to regain the trust of citizens in the institution of Parliament and its Members.

“While progress on my bill is at the mercy of the ballot, I will continue to advocate for these important principles.

“This code is about good governance. It is about such things as integrity, transparency, legitimacy, accountability, an acceptable standard of behaviour, and acting in good faith.

“Good governance and transparency are non-negotiable for a healthy democracy,” Ross Robertson said.

I think there will be a lot of public agreement with this. How to get parties and MPs to take some notice?

Part 2, 7 (2):

It is the duty of every member of Parliament to conduct themselves in a
manner that will maintain and support the public’s trust and confidence in the
integrity of Parliament.

Many of the public would argue that some MPs are not conducting themselves in an appropriate manner in parliament. As this bill is “declaratory rather than mandatory” there should be no reason why parties can’t adopt it’s principles anyway.

Members of Parliament (Code of Ethical Conduct) Bill

Member’s Bill

The purpose of this Bill is to provide a Code of Ethical Conduct for members of
Parliament.

The legislature plays a key role in promoting good governance and curbing corruption and poor administration in all sectors of society. Citizens expect parliamentarians to maintain a high moral standard in their professional and private lives. They expect parliamentarians to serve out of conviction and a commitment to the public good, rather than for aspirations of personal power and the pursuit of private profit. In turn, they have conferred on them the legitimate authority to take decisions that determine the fortunes of both the state and its citizens.

Failure by parliamentarians to live up to these expectations can seriously undermine the trust citizens have in the ability of their elected leaders to act in the public interest, and also in the legitimacy of the state and its institutions. At best, this leads to cynicism and apathy on the part of citizens. At worst, it leads to a questioning of the entire political system.

It is crucial therefore, that elected members of government act, and are seen to act, in an ethical manner.

The Code of Ethical Conduct is deliberately modest and declaratory rather than mandatory. There is no evidence in New Zealand of the sort of corruption that has plagued other Parliaments from time to time or is endemic in some other countries. 

The role of a member of Parliament comes with both legal and moral responsibilities. The Code deals more with the moral and ethical responsibilities than those imposed by law. This is reflected in the Code’s guiding principles of selflessness, integrity, confidentiality, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.

The Code promotes principles of common courtesy and decency whilst sustaining the sense of cut and thrust that is vital in any legislature at the cutting edge of ideas, creation and consideration. The overall purposes are;

  • to promote high standards of service by politicians;
  • to inspire the quality of behaviour which reflects the honour and dignity of the profession;
  • to encourage and emphasize those positive attributes of professional conduct that characterise effective political leadership;
  • to enable politicians to declare themselves publicly accountable.

3 Comments

  1. Quentin Todd

     /  21st August 2012

    Well, well, well -this is most interesting and one I’ll be watching.

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