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Button's code of ministerial conduct



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MEDIA RELEASESENATOR FRED CHANEY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN TH.E SENATE

BUTTON'S CODE OF MINISTERIAL CONDUCTI ««bssr? . ω ' * " | 50/88

An extraordinary new code of Ministerial conduct was laid down by the Government Senate Leader today.

The freedom to express personal views in public was defended by the third most senior Minister (Senator Button) in relation to comments on A.B.C. Canberra radio by the fifth most senior Minister (Mr Keating) about government ownership and funding of public enterprises such as Qantas and Australian Airlines.

According to Senator Button, Mr Keating was "expressing his own view of the matter of whether a government should own airlines or not. I mean, after all, in the ultimate these matters are all matters for decision by government".

According to Senator Button, in answer to my question about how anyone is to know whether a Minister is speaking on behalf of the government or not:

"I think if a Minister starts off, as Senator Chaney quoted in his question, by saying, 'I don't think the government ought to be running airlines', that is an expression of a personal view and it has nothing to do with any government decision on this matter".

So the Button doctrine, which of course he has sometimes practised himself, means that no matter how senior the Minister, he or she can get away with anything as long as he or she uses these magic words.

That is an absurd proposition.

It reflects yet another Labor double standard.

The government, and the media, scream "split" when an Opposition member, let alone a Shadow Minister, has the temerity to put forward a personal view on policy.

Yet it is now suggested that Ministers at the level of the Treasurer should be free to think aloud in this way.

CANBERRA 23 May 1988

Contact: Keith Kessell (062) 726380