Chairperson, I hope I have the attention of the House because what I have to say affects every individual in this House. The Joint Committee on Ethics and Members' Interests has the following functions: Firstly, to implement the code of conduct of this House; secondly, to develop standards of ethical conduct of this House; thirdly, to serve as an advisory and consultative body, generally, and to all members on the code; fourthly, to review the code; and lastly, to report to the House annually ... [Interjections.] I shall answer you in a moment.
On the first issue, the implementation of the code of conduct, a primary function relates to the disclosure of financial interests and material benefits received by members. I have the report of 2011 here, which is the register of members' interests, and I hereby table it in the House for your perusal and interest. We also deal with the disclosure of conflicts of interest. Now, on the first function, the disclosure of financial interests, the registrar of the committee conducts this process and all Members of Parliament, I am pleased to say, have complied. This book contains all your replies and we are very pleased to note that there has been total disclosure.
Having said that, however, there have been breaches. These were reported to the committee by Members of Parliament and by the press. On the second issue, the disclosure of conflicts of interest, there have been complaints to us and the registrar has conducted investigations. The Public Protector has also asked us on several occasions for information and we have done our best to comply.
On the second question, standards of ethics, the committee has drawn up a revised code of ethics and a new section is included on ethical principles. We have drawn on the experiences internationally, especially of the House of Commons and other parliaments, to try and ensure that the ethical principles accepted internationally for parliamentary democracies are included in our particular code.
This report has been referred to political parties for consideration. I regret to say that progress in adoption is slow. We hereby appeal to all parties in the House to conclude this process. We do desperately need a revised code of ethics and code of conduct. There can be absolutely no complacency about ethical conduct in this House or in the conduct generally. I do hope that all the members who are having discussions, including the Deputy Ministers across the way, listen to what I have to say. It is very important. I repeat: There can be no complacency about ethical conduct in this House or in the country generally. We ask for the full support of this House. [Applause.]
On the advisory function of the committee, the committee had various consultations with members and other people. In fact, this happens all the time, and the registrar is fully occupied with advice to members, especially on this document - the declaration of members' interests.
I would like to make one point in passing: When you make a declaration, material benefits are also included in the declaration. Members often think that financial interest is all you have to comply with. There are material benefits included in the code of conduct, which you are expected to comply with.
On the review of the code, it has been apparent for some time that the code of conduct before us requires amendment. The Presidency has also consulted our committee, and me, on revising the Ministerial Handbook, but that too requires updating. Because of that, the committee is planning a series of seminars with leading experts, lawyers, judges and others on the provisions for spouses and conflicts of interest. The question of spouses and conflicts of interest is very complicated. There are no simple formulae. We need to get advice from the best people we can get. This report is therefore presented to the House as required by the Rules.
To conclude, the purpose of the code of conduct is to help members conduct themselves appropriately as public representatives. Our task is to outline acceptable behaviour, establish minimum standards and ensure that members' personal interests are open to public scrutiny. At times these duties upon us are very difficult, onerous and sensitive but we have a responsibility to uphold the standing and reputation of Parliament. We hope that we have fulfilled our task in a responsible manner. I thank you and I table this report. [Applause.]
There was no debate.