21 June 2011

Public trust and confidence in politicians seems to be universally low.  In the Readers Digest somewhat unscientific annual survey of occupations most trusted by New Zealanders, published yesterday, politicians have slipped even lower than in 2010. Last year they rated in 38th place, below sex workers.  This year, they don’t make the top 39 occupational groups, probably because  new caring professions – rescue workers and para medics – have joined the list, influenced by the disasters at Pike River and Christchurch.  Firemen, again, are the most trusted according to the survey.

A more considered report about misbehaving politicians was tabled in the Canadian Parliament last week by the Conflicts of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. She indicated that MPs should be made subject to a code of conduct.  Her Commission investigates abuse of conflicts of interest regulations, but has no role in managing the distasteful personal attacks, misleading statements and inappropriate behaviour by MPs, which cause many public complaints.

Ross Robertson MP has been attempting since 2003 to get the New Zealand Parliament to enact an Ethics Bill that will impose a code of conduct  on its Members. He has not yet been able to marshal sufficient support from among his colleagues, who feel they are adequately policed by Standing Orders and Speaker’s Rules. Ministers are also subject to the requirements of the Cabinet Manual.