MPs abusing bureaucrats: ‘it’s not on’

South Australia’s new code of conduct for members of state parliament will crack down on aggressive behaviour towards public servants.

This wasn’t an academic exercise — some MPs and ministers have developed quite a reputation for abusing bureaucrats.

It will also cover “conversational swearing”, which came to the fore in October when Premier Jay Weatherill publically admonished Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis for his language in front of senior public servants.

Koutsantonis explained why he deserved the sanction on 5AA radio:

“If you use the occasional f-word that can be conversational swearing and that is inappropriate. People can’t discern its intent if they answer to you.”

He said if there was swearing in a conversation with a friend, “I can discern its intent because we have a relationship… therefore it has no impact.”

But swearing at someone who works for you, “they can’t discern what that means.”

“They take it as a form of insult of a form of derogatory verbalisation about an action,” he said.

But there was no use of the “c-word”, he swears.

Introduced this week, the code of conduct also requires MPs to declare conflicts of interests during debates. Punishment for violations will be up to the parliament.


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