Page 3289 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 19 October 2022

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We have already heard from my colleague Mr Cocks that during the estimates hearings there was a series of questions regarding the appointment of former Labor minister Gordon Ramsay as the new CEO of the Cultural Facilities Corporation. Prior to being a minister in the Labor-Greens government, Mr Ramsay served as a minister in a church. He is also a lawyer. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with these occupations. However, it does make me question whether he is the best person to run a leading arts organisation. When the new CEO was the minister for arts, the arts portfolio was a very small component of his other portfolio responsibilities—perhaps the biggest being Attorney-General, which took up a lot of his time.

Similarly, as has already been spoken about again by Mr Cocks, the fact that Mr Ramsay’s previous chief of staff, from his time at the Assembly, was appointed to the newly created role of chief of staff at the Cultural Facilities Corporation, following his appointment as the CEO at CFC, raised alarm bells. Canberrans deserve to have faith that applicants for high-level government jobs are being selected on merit and nothing else.

A report in July from the Grattan Institute, looking into political appointments, showed that this Labor-Greens government had made the highest number of government board executive and other position appointments with political affiliations, all of which were Labor, in comparison to other Australian jurisdictions. At this point, this included the years of the federal coalition government, where there were Liberal and Labor appointments. But this Labor-Greens government has the highest number of Labor-affiliated appointments of any government in Australia. It is jobs for mates.

It is no wonder that the appointment of an ex-minister into a high-level government position raised concerns in the community. While we gave the appointment the benefit of the doubt at the time and did not raise any concerns—in fact, we wished Mr Ramsay all the very best in the position—concerns were raised by members of the arts community, who sent us information and a range of documents. Obviously, as the opposition, it was our responsibility, our duty, to represent their concerns and ask these questions during estimates hearings. That is exactly what we did, for the benefit of transparency and accountability.

Nevertheless, the Cultural Facilities Corporation is a staple of our arts industry here in the ACT. I hope that, despite the questions that have been raised about the appointments, it prospers under the new leadership and continues to deliver a wide range of outstanding events and activities and contributes to the cultural fabric of Canberra. There are many, many fantastic things happening across the CFC, not just wonderful events at the Canberra Theatre but also exhibitions and events at CMAG and events at ACT historic places. This is a sign of a mature city, this involvement in the arts and cultural sphere. It is important. It contributes tourism dollars, to our economic benefit. So it is great to see that there are a wonderful range of activities, experiences and events happening at our Cultural Facilities Corporation centres.

We would just like to see the murkiness around some of these appointments cleared and ensure that it is clear and transparent. The questions, I think, to some degree remain. However, that does not take away from the work of the CFC on an ongoing basis. We look forward to more of that and their continuing work to deliver COVID-safe activities and events.

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