Page 670 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 9 March 2011

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pertinent issue of what the government got with the money it spent, how it could spend better and how it could deliver better public value to Canberrans.

Here are some of the media headlines for the $1.5 million government overspend mentioned earlier: “Unsightly mess”, “Jungle out there as lawn order breaks down”, “Weeds choking ACT biodiversity”, “Capital nature parks go to seed”, “Presidential preening for tatty city”, and “Locals fuming over unmowed grass”.

From spring of last year to now my office has received its fair share of complaints from my electorate in Brindabella regarding the government’s lack of attention to the state of the grass in their communities. Many have commented on how their neighbourhood is looking totally uncared for. Some have commented on health and safety issues, such as increased instances of allergies and sightings of brown snakes where children play. As a constituent commented quite prudently:

I pay my rates and I pay my taxes, so why can’t I expect the grass in the public areas of my neighbourhood to be cut?

Another called up to vent, saying:

We now live in an eyesore, I’m taking matters into my own hands and mowed the public strip in front of my house. I’m embarrassed that house guests have to walk through knee-high grass.

It is becoming quite evident that Canberrans are not happy with the Chief Minister’s management of this issue, and we can understand their grievance. To date, the representation letters that have been sent to the Chief Minister’s office from my office regarding grass and basic urban services matters have taken an average of approximately 28 days for a response. I have let the residents affected decide whether this is a satisfactory time frame, though I must compliment my constituents for their patience. It must seem like a trying time for them.

I was, however, shocked at some of the Chief Minister’s responses to some of these letters. Take, for example, a letter on behalf of a concerned constituent in Gordon regarding an unfinished mowing job, tall grass and sightings of a brown snake. Although the matter was resolved, my constituent was somewhat taken aback by the Chief Minister’s comments regarding the sighting of the brown snake. This is what the Chief Minister wrote:

I also note your constituent’s report of a brown snake entering her backyard. Eight species of snakes are known to inhabit the ACT and whilst all snakes in the ACT are venomous (except the blind snake) they are shy, non-aggressive creatures that quickly retreat if not provoked.

This is from a Chief Minister who cares so much for our constituents that the sighting of a brown snake can elicit such a cavalier response. Perhaps this callousness was brought about by a momentary lapse of judgement, perhaps a brief outburst of irrational exuberance or witticism or it may be even the mark of a complacent leader too long in power. That said, my constituent’s reaction to this says it all:

Does Stanhope expect my toddler to understand this?

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