A few days into the ongoing Independent Integrity Commission Against Corruption proceedings in NSW, it seems that two former premiers of NSW and Cabinet colleagues Gladys Berejiklian (now Mike Baird) may have markedly differing views on integrity in public office.
Baird, however, is not charge with any wrongdoing. He told the hearing that he was incredulous when he learned about the relationship between Berejiklian, former MP Daryl Maguire and that he believed she should have disclosed it.
Following the ICAC hearings questions have been raise about the system that supports and may enable perceived acts of integrity.
A moment is unfolding that will challenge many assumptions about politics, beyond NSW. In Australian politics, integrity has become a commodity. It reflects the views of what constitutes good government. It is the foundation of faith in political systems. Democracies require us to have faith in the integrity of political structures, elections and parliamentarians.
This is something that even the most experienced political actors are aware of. They know this because they keep returning to the question of integrity in both the attack bluster and the defense stoic. In her recent resignation speech, Berejiklian said exactly that. She stated. My record will show that I have always performed my duties with integrity to the benefit of the people in NSW.
Historical Record Integrity
This is exactly the proposition ICAC tests. The historical record will be significantly shape by the ICAC’s investigation into Berejiklian’s conduct that constitute or involved a breach in public trust.
It has been again question whether the integrity of the political process behind the NSW deployment of public moneys was being maintain. This is not the first time this has happened. In fact, if you look back at recent history, there may have been hints of structural vulnerability.
Berejiklian said, It is not illegal. This was a strange response. It was an open admission that electoral imperatives can influence the stewardship public resources. She was correct, however.
According to the NSW Ministerial Code of Conduct the integrity of the system will not be compromised if ministers make decisions which might lead to the expectation of the manner in which a specific matter is handled will enhance a person or party’s popularity standing.
The code warns that ministers have a responsibility to manage conflicts of interest in a way that maintains both the appearance and the factual integrity of the Ministerial. This is the problem here.
The ICAC is currently investigating whether McGuire, the former premier who denies wrongdoing, failed to declare a conflict of interest regarding her relationship to McGuire in relation the decision on allocation of public funds for specific projects in Wagga Wagga’s electorate.
Subject Were Sharp
The comments made by Baird Berejiklian’s predecessor at ICAC on this subject were sharp. His comment that Maguire’s relationship to her should have disclose, is a key point in the matter.
According to Baird, the integrity of the public funding deployment depends on proper public disclosure. It is becoming more apparent how different approaches to this proposition being treat, both under the code and politically. What about the public service?
Public servants advise ministers and make sure public money spent properly. The Government Sector Employment Act 2013 lists four core values: integrity, trust and service, as well as accountability. The act also includes 18 principles that guide. How these values should apply to those working in the public sector and other government sectors. The act requires that public servants make decisions that ensure fair service provision.
Importantly, the act states that public servants must be fiscally. Accountable and should focus on efficient and effective use of resources.
Ministers are required to take care to protect public servants against compromise. The ministerial code states that ministers have a responsibility to ensure others, including public servants. Do not get into a position where they would be forced to violate the law or their ethical obligations.