something to make you shudder!
The Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, has reluctantly entered his older years. He has cleverly handed the more in-your-face, complex portfolios to his Labor colleagues, a couple of whom obviously aspire to occupy the chief minister’s chair as soon as he looks to make an exit.
The first to be mentioned is his deputy, Yvette Berry.
This is difficult to imagine happening given her handling of ministerial matters and how she handles difficult events. I believe she is highly skilled at using spin and propaganda to cover up what, to others, are serious shortcomings in her portfolio areas.
In December, the ACT auditor-general reported on the mishandling of the tender for the refurbishments to Campbell Primary School. This was followed by the news that the ACT Integrity Commission has taken these probity issues seriously and is looking into what has happened.
As Minister for Education, Ms Berry stated she could not see why this needs to happen – and that she was looking into this in due course. The translation for that would have to be – nothing wrong to see here.
A side comment: The Campbell School project is handled by Major Projects Canberra together with the Education Directorate. Major Projects is responsible to the Treasurer, the Chief Minister. Is the Chief Minister allowing someone else to be solely responsible for the finance issues around a major development?
Back to Yvette; a week or so ago, the news broke that ACT Housing had sent out more than 300 unsigned letters to social-housing tenants letting them know that the time was approaching when their properties will be taken back for sale or for redevelopment – and they will have to move.
After many outcries and a harsh response from ACTOSS, the unsympathetic response from the minister, that would be Yvette Berry again, was that this needed to happen and the housing tenants knew what was happening and had been consulted and counselled.
Trouble being that stories emerged quickly that contradict this official ministerial version. And to quote from ACTOSS: “To send these types of letters, without adequate support in place for tenants, is incredibly callous and cruel.”
This action and the minister’s unfeeling bureaucratic response indicates that those in charge of this portfolio, including this minister, have a problem with how they view the people they are supposed to be caring for on behalf of the people of Canberra who pay them to do so.
And please note, there has been silence from the caring and sharing ACT Greens on this callous action.
In recent years Yvette Berry’s name and reputation has become firmly linked to many controversial actions. This includes taking over parklands for housing at a time when open and green spaces are becoming vital in dealing with climate issues. She is also on record as doing little about the serious need for new community and sports facilities in Woden. And should we mention the on-going lack of social housing?
While normal people think their chief minister should be admired, does Ms Berry think that an aspiring chief minister needs to be on record as being viewed as callous and cruel?
The other possible new chief minister would be that other Labor minister usually seen in his high-vis jacket out checking on verges and footpaths, directing road works or taking his boy band to Woden to tell the pesky residents a thing or two.
Is Yvette Berry looking over her shoulder to watch Andrew Barr’s favoured candidate for the job? That would be Chris Steel.
Has Chris Steel been practising nastiness? Does he do his best to ignore letters from his constituents? Does he avoid attending Woden meetings in his electorate because they might ask difficult questions about those many questionable projects on the south side?
If ACT Labor and the ACT Greens were to form government again, and if Andrew Barr were to depart, who among them could be an acceptable next chief minister?
Best not to dwell on that. Not a pleasant thought.
This article is a version of the piece originally published online with City News
Paul Costigan is an independent commentator and consultant on the visual arts, photography, urban design, environmental issues and everyday matters.