Page 83 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 10 February 2015

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good, you might say, but in this case the handouts were application forms to join the Labor Party and, far worse, applications to become a member of the ACT Labor Club. This was going to year 8 students, some as young as 12. No wonder former Chief Minister Stanhope finally recognised the serious conflict of interest for the Labor government. So we had Minister Burch handing out Labor Club applications; but, worse still, when pressed on the issue, she said that she could not see anything wrong in what she did. At least at the time she was not the minister for education, because the mistake she made would have been even worse.

Fast forward to December 2014, and again the minister had a blind spot when supporting, without question and without consideration, the needs of a gambling venue. Again she could not see the harm; she was just clearing her desk before Christmas.

If we move to her conduct as education minister, we have some appalling examples of poor judgement, lack of consideration and appalling taste. Surely none could better demonstrate her lack of a sense of propriety than when she retweeted a message that anyone else would have had cause to think about reading in the first place, much less sending out under their name. I refer, of course, to her offensive remarks about the federal minister for education, with whom she had just concluded a meeting. While he was within metres of Ms Burch, she obviously thought it quite funny to send on such a tasteless commentary about a political adversary. It was not funny; it was base and tasteless. And her defence was hardly plausible. She claimed “ignorance of modern technology”. She should have just stopped at “ignorance”.

We move on to her handling of the ongoing allegations about the workplace culture at CIT. This was a situation inherited from three earlier education ministers, and each had handled it less than satisfactorily. However, in fairness to her immediate predecessor in the portfolio, Dr Bourke, who had shown courage in pushing for change and an examination of the issues, former education ministers Mr Barr and Ms Gallagher had done nothing other than try to bury it and deflect any complaints.

Ms Burch could have taken up the cudgels provided by former minister Bourke and shown leadership and support for all members of the CIT teaching staff. Instead, she followed the lead of the current and former chief ministers and put her figurative fingers in her ears and simply did nothing. Well, not quite nothing. She has made several attempts to shut down any further discussion and today no doubt believes the matter is dead and buried. But even now there are teachers and ex-teachers out there who are still hurting and still feel badly let down. I know, because I listen to them—more than this minister has ever offered to do. This minister has been silent, has said nothing and done nothing.

Doing nothing is not just contained to matters affecting CIT. On various occasions I have had reason to seek a briefing on issues that are current and important. One particular issue was critical and involved a family at risk, with elements involving community services, protective custody and education. The family had sought my help and I thought it best to work through the appropriate channels. That involved the minister for education and community services.

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