NSW Government Ministers who breach the Ministerial Code of Conduct will in future be subject to the full authority of the Independent Commission Against Corruption under changes announced today by Premier Mike Baird.
“From now on, Government Ministers who substantially breach the Code of Conduct will be open to being found corrupt by ICAC,” Mr Baird said.
“This makes the Code for Ministers in NSW the toughest in the nation and implements key recommendations made by the ICAC in 2013.
“As well as making the Code of Conduct an ‘applicable Code’ under the ICAC act, the new rules prohibit Ministers or their staff from pressuring NSW Government agencies into changing their recommendations.
“This was recommended by ICAC following its investigations into the conduct of Ian Macdonald and Eddie Obeid in Operations Acacia and Jasper.
“Under the changes we will introduce into parliament next month, the provision of ‘frank and fearless’ advice from civil servants will be strengthened in NSW.”
While the new Code replicates many of the obligations in the existing Code of Conduct – including those relating to conflicts of interest - the current Code is aspirational and general in nature, while the new Code has been redrafted in the form of legal rules, in consultation with the ICAC.
The new Code includes strengthened requirements for disclosure of pecuniary interests of Ministers and those of their immediate family members.
It also includes a Schedule that sets out specific Ministerial obligations and provides that a substantial breach of the Schedule, if done knowingly, could amount to corrupt conduct.
The Schedule stipulates, among other things, that a Minister must not hold or acquire an interest in any company or business, with limited exceptions.
A copy of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Amendment (Ministerial Code of Conduct) Regulation 2014 is available on the NSW Legislation webiste www.legislation.nsw.gov.au.