Photo of President’s Chair from Tas Parliament website: http://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/parl2.htm#
Jim Wilkinson is a lawyer, consultant and former partner inWallace Wilkinson & Webster, Barristers and Solicitors based in Hobart.
In his other role as Member of the Legislative Council, he was Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Integrity and was instrumental in the development of the Integrity Commission Act 2009 having chaired the Joint Select Committee on Ethical Conduct which presented its final report to Parliament on 23 July 2009.
It therefore seems more than hypocritical for the Legislative Council, and Mr Wilkinson in particular, to ignore the recommendations of the Tasmanian Integrity Commission in June 2011 to implement a Code of Conduct for all Members of Parliament.
The comprehensive recommendations incorporated within the Code include clear provisions to prevent conflicts of interest, the prohibition of gifts, benefits or favours which may give the appearance of an attempt to improperly influence the Member in the exercise of his or her duties and the preclusion of any outside employment that involves a substantial commitment of time and effort such as to interfere with their duties as Members of Parliament.
This was reinforced by the following Media Statement issued by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Rev Prof Michael Tate AO on 23 June 2011:
CHALLENGE TO THE PARLIAMENT
“The Parliament should set a target to adopt a Code of Conduct by the end of the year. Anything longer would be procrastination.”
Rev Prof Michael Tate was speaking after the tabling of a Report by the Integrity Commission recommending Codes of Conduct for Parliamentarians, Ministers and Ministerial Staff.
“In particular, the Legislative Council needs to rise to the challenge. There is no Code of Conduct currently applying to Members of that Council.”
Prof Tate, who is Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, said that he hoped the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Integrity could hold hearings over the Winter recess and that the whole process could be wrapped up shortly after that.
“In the meantime, it would be good if the Leaders of the Labor, Liberal and Green parties could indicate their support in principle.”
It should also be noted that under the provisions of s.4(1) of the Integrity Commission Act 2009 Members of Parliament are effectively protected from investigation by legislation as misconduct “does not include conduct, or an attempt to engage in conduct, by a public officer in connection with a proceeding in Parliament.”
In addition the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner has advised me that he is only able to provide advice to Members of Parliament and the Integrity Commission (under the provisions of s.28 of the Integrity Commission Act 2009).
I am therefore unable to clarify whether the Commissioner was even consulted in regard to the conflict of interest held by Paul Harriss MLC and any other members of the Legislative Council Select Committee on the Tasmanian Forests Agreement Bill 2012 who are also members of Timber Communities Australia.
The President of the Legislative Council, Sue Smith, has also completely abdicated her responsibility as supposed leader by her abject failure to display that she has addressed let alone resolved this fundamental issue before she retires at the end of her term in May.
The bold title of the Final Report by the Joint Select Committee on Ethical Conduct “Public Office is Public Trust” is now looking decidedly hollow.