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Wednesday, 21 May 1980
Page: 3035

Mr YATES (Holt) - I feel that those who come to read our parliamentary debate on this very important issue concerning the assets of private members will be somewhat surprised to read the somewhat uncharitable and vicious speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). Indeed, it was a great disappointment to me because I had hoped that we would get a debate tonight which would be constructive, and which would concern the conduct of honourable members in trying to make quite certain that the standard of their dealings and the standard of their public conduct was that which would receive the approbation of the nation. The last few moments of the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) were spent on the Sankey case which had no relevance to what we were asked to discuss tonight. It is very sad that as a result of Khemlani, Iraqi dollars and personal attacks on members' private lives, their families, their children and themselves, we have reduced the standing of honourable members. It is entirely our own fault for having so done. The Leader of the Opposition knows only too well that, by custom both in the House of Commons and in the United States Congress, whenever a member is about to speak on any matter in which he has an interest, he automatically informs the Chair either directly or indirectly- and in the House of Commons, one must do so directly- that he has an interest. The country expects members of parliament to be honourable members and if we go on in this way we will only do ourselves a great disservice. Standing Order 196 provides that, if a member has an interest in a matter before the House, he cannot vote on the matter. I do not dispute that there might be some code of ethics for the House. But the House is supposed to have its own code of ethics in the way in which it behaves, in the way in which it conducts its business and in the way in which one honourable member deals with another. If each member of this Parliament wants to propose a code of ethics for himself, which he does not have, it is entirely up to each honourable member to propose it.

A great deal of criticism has been levelled at the report of the Bowen Committee of Inquiry into Public Duty and Private Interest. Why? It is because the Opposition insists that members register their holdings, as if that will automatically solve the problem. Hey presto, register them, let the public look at them and everything will be all right. What an extraordinary idea: That just by registering your wife's holdingsfour ducks, three chickens, nine beehives, shares in a couple of racehorses or whatever it may be- the general public will be happier. I have never heard of such a proposition being made to this Parliament. It could be workable. Apparently it is also suggested that a sanction should be imposed on any honourable member who forgot to register something. Honourable members ought to know that their lives are as honourable members of this House; that their conduct should be such that there is no need for any register of that sort at all. If the House feels that the general public is so suspicious of our standing, of our dealings one with another, and of our dealings with members of the public, we might consider giving to Mr Speaker a register of our assets. In that way, if a member of the general public wanted to know what assets a member held, for one reason or another, he or she could do so. I would not see anything wrong with that.

I am disappointed that the Opposition has taken the view that it has. I would have thought that by now what the Government had proposed was not in itself a bad proposal. I am sorry about the judiciary aspect. I do not understand it. The Committee actually said that it saw no need for such a code for the judiciary; that there had been no need for a new code of judicial conduct in the

United States. The Committee examined that aspect for some time and concluded that there was no discernible need for such an extension of the rules which now govern the judiciary. Surely we will have further debate on this matter. Before the Opposition becomes wild and vicious about the actions of 1975 concerning the Governor-General, the Chief Justice, Iraqi dollars, Khemlani or whatever happened at that time, I would hope that we would have another debate; that we could persuade its members, especially the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones), to approach the matter in a more open, friendly, Christian and charitable way.

I hope that the Leader of the House (Mr Viner) would discuss with the Cabinet during the coming recess the fact that whereas the code of ethics is something on which we should work, we could perhaps consider having a further debate upon it at a better time of the day, when honourable members are in a better frame of mind to discuss a matter which the country believes to be exceptionally important. It would be quite wrong and uncharitable for someone who went before the Bowen committee and discussed the matters that have been raised here not to say that that Committee endeavoured to do this House and the Parliament a great service. If honourable members opposite do not like, or disapprove of, the Bowen Committee's report, let us have a further debate so that we can explore these matters as a House and as honourable members, in order that our standing in the nation will remain high. That responsibility rests upon us.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Hayden's amendment) stand part of the question.

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