Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 March 2018) . . Page.. 671 ..
forward a robust debate in this place and in this country over the coming 12 months on the range of public policy issues that are undoubtedly going to be at the centre of our national election in 2019, as there are very clearly a range of policies that already are being labelled in that context. That will be what it will be.
But for now, Madam Speaker, having acknowledged a mistake, recognised that it was the wrong thing to say and apologised again, I thank the Assembly for granting me leave to make these statements this morning.
Motion of censure
MR COE (Yerrabi—Leader of the Opposition) (10.25), by leave: I move:
That this Assembly censures the Chief Minister, Andrew Barr MLA, for expressing hatred of journalists and contempt for seniors.
When I came into this place this morning I expected that we would be discussing the events of the last seven or eight days. I did not expect that I would be responding to Mr Barr’s comments to date. What he has made is the apology when you do not want to make an apology. It was a sham. Had he just left it at the last minute of his 25-minute speech he would have actually shown some wisdom and he would have shown some leadership. Instead, what he did this morning was, in fact, pour fuel on the fire. What he did was incite even more animosity from his government towards journalists and seniors. It was a conditional apology; it was an apology you make when you actually do not believe it.
On Friday, after several days of being berated by media outlets across the country and having dozens of letters to the editor and calls to talkback radio saying his comments were hurtful and offensive, he reluctantly apologised on morning radio. That could have been the end of it, but we all know that that apology was not a genuine apology, just like his words this morning were not genuine.
The reality is that the words of the Chief Minister matter. The words of the first minister, a head of government, really do matter. When you have the Chief Minister saying that he hates journalists, it has an impact. It has an impact on those in Canberra in the profession, striving to report on the comings and goings of the ACT government and the Assembly. It has an impact on the status of the profession. It has an impact on the students at the University of Canberra studying journalism at one of the premier journalism schools in the country when the Chief Minister of that jurisdiction says, “When you graduate, I will hate you.” It has an impact on the school students that might strive to become journalists one day and have that noble aspiration to report on the news, to report on our democracy and to hold our parliaments to account.
That is why it was not just a passing comment; that is why it should not just be seen in isolation—it has an impact. And on Friday Andrew Barr tried to book-end it; he tried to say, “It’s done.” Well, I think it is incumbent upon the ACT Legislative Assembly, the representatives of Canberra, to stand up and say, “We don’t tolerate this. We