Page 5616 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 9 December 2009

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We saw an article in the CityNews recently, and it is worth reading part of it into Hansard. This is by Ian Meikle in last week’s CityNews. It starts with a quote:

Thank you for the question, and do bear with me while I just try and find some information that I have on that, which seems to be escaping me just at the minute. Can you repeat the question, so I might be able to …

Then Ian Meikle goes on:

Oh dear. Question Time for new Minister Joy Burch has been an uncomfortable daily ordeal during the ACT Assembly’s last sitting fortnight as she stumbled from one fumbled answer to the next.

The Greens and Liberals seemed initially gentle on the minister for Umming as she struggled to find departmental briefing notes, but by the end of the second week the mood towards Ms Burch, who took over from John Hargreaves, was starting to harden in frustration against her continual fumbling and inability to answer direct questions.

Her colleagues tried to help her out of trouble, but there was an almost uniform look of anxiety along the Labor front bench every time Ms Burch got to her feet to face the Assembly’s fairly straightforward portfolio questioning.

Hansard is littered with her reticence and uncertainty, her apologies and her tiresomely having to take the questions on notice ...

And it goes on. It does make for embarrassing reading. If Ms Burch is going to sit there and criticise her opposite number, perhaps she should reflect a little bit more and a little bit more deeply on these first 40 days and what she has actually brought to the job. We saw it again this week on WIN news, when she admitted to not having read the report that she was announcing.

Rather than focusing these cheap slings and arrows on her shadow ministers, Ms Burch would do better to focus on doing the job, working on answering the questions that are put to her in the Assembly. She can talk about how many questions have been asked of her, but very few coherent answers have been given to us on the day. What we have instead been subjected to is this constant ritual of Ms Burch coming back the next day and reading the prepared answers that have been given to her by the department.

As I said before, departments are important, but so are ministers. If Ms Burch wants to throw slings and arrows at my colleagues, she should be prepared to accept the legitimate criticisms that are being thrown at her and her performance.

Ethiopia-Australia adoption program

MS HUNTER (Ginninderra—Parliamentary Convenor, ACT Greens) (6.40): I rise this afternoon to talk about an incredibly important issue that I have been alerted to only in the last 24 hours or so, the federal Attorney-General’s recent announcement of the interim suspension of the Ethiopia-Australia adoption program.

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