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Standards in public life

The Cabinet Manual contains guidelines on the public duty and private interests of Ministers and Parliamentary Under Secretaries. Identifying and managing potential or apparent conflicts of interest is an important aspect of being a Minister.

Ministers must ensure that no conflict exists or appears to exist between their public duty and their private interests. Conflicts of interest can arise because of the influence and power they wield – both in the individual performance of their portfolio responsibilities and as members of Cabinet. Ministers must conduct themselves at all times in the knowledge that their role is a public one; appearances and propriety can be as important as actual conflicts of interest in establishing what is acceptable behaviour.

To identify any personal interests that might influence them, all members of Parliament, including Ministers, must lodge an annual declaration of the following kinds of interests:

  • remunerated directorships or employment
  • substantial interest in a business enterprise or professional practice
  • ownership of shares or beneficial interest in a trust
  • ownership of property.

    In 2006 all MPs began to make the same type of annual declaration of interests outlined here for Ministers. The MPs Pecuniary Interests Register replaced the Ministers' Interests register from 2006. The Office of the Clerk is responsible for the MPs register declaring interests, and at the outset it delegated this role to a former Ombudsman, Anand Satyanand. The prior register for Ministers and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries was maintained in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

    When, from time to time, conflicts arise between the public duty of Ministers and their private interests, the Cabinet Manual sets out procedures to manage those conflicts. There are also guidelines for approving ministerial travel overseas, and the relationship between Ministers and Public Service officials.

  • Updated 10 February 2006