Allan Takes Aim Blog

Do we have an Assembly of principle

Posted on: 9 October 2009


Published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 29 September 2009

I have always thought Members of the Legislative Assembly were people of principle who accepted that if they didn’t follow the rules of conduct demanded of them their parliamentary careers would be cut short.

During the twenty years the Assembly has existed, some Members occasionally exhibited behaviour that came close to cutting short their careers, but didn’t.

At election time, however, they got their comeuppance.

Much I hate having to say it, but it seems to me the time has come to sever not one but two MLA s, Barr and Hargreaves, from their Assembly seats.

Worse still, both MLAs are Ministers.

I do not say this lightly because at some time in life, the likelihood is that many of us have indulged in actions that contravened workplace or society’s rules with the result we were dismissed.

In some cases, incarceration and community rejection was the result. I am not suggesting the actions of the two Ministers merit the latter, but it has to be said that if they are not penalised, the value of the ACT Assembly as a whole is diminished and the reputations of its members sullied. Not least their actions add grist to the mill for those who think an Assembly is not needed.

Most politicians get dismissed because, arrogantly, they think they are a law unto themselves and so don’t need to observe the same rules as everyone else.

What they don’t understand is, that while most voters are prepared to tolerate a certain degree of arrogance, they cannot tolerate people who, in their arrogance, suffer from an even worse condition: blindness to responsibility.

In addition to their arrogance these politicians do not inspire respect although, like all arrogant, weak and egotistical people they demand it.

No doubt you have noticed that these egotists are also addicted to publicity, much of it about matters trivial, in which they see themselves as the main interest.

Sadly, too, Canberra has many sycophants employed in the political field who pander to them. The action that require Minister Barr to be censured and dismissed follows his being accused of the very serious charge of misleading the Assembly, a charge he denies.

This charge stems from his putting words in the mouth of an Opposition MLA – verballing as it is known – in a statement he made to the Assembly and a letter he wrote to the head of the Non-Government Schools Education Council.

After considering the matter the verballed MLA place asked Mr Barr to apologise.

The verballed Member’s party raised a censure motion that was watered down by a Greens amendment that requested the Speaker ask Mr Barr to apologise.

This was done but Mr Barr still refused, thus committing one of the most serious offences a Member of Parliament can commit: refusing to obey the Speaker.

Minister Hargreave’s action is quite different. Attending a charity function being staged to raise funds to buy a special wheelchair for ten years old girl, he and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Opposition Brendan Smyth, manhandled Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan as a joke, according to the Minister.

Neither Ms Bresnan nor anyone else seemed to see the joke and demanded an apology. It appears, that without the prompting of party Leader Mr Sejelsa, Mr Smyth immediately tendered his apologies through a written and personal apology.

Not so Mr Hargreaves. However, after some delay, he made a conditional apology that was not accepted by Ms Brosnan. Later, however, she accepted a less conditional apology.

Anecdotally, suggestions have been made that Mr Hargreaves was intoxicated at the time of the occurrence. Unfortunately for Minister Hargreaves, his history with alcohol – and other matters – is not good, not long ago having appeared on a charge of Driving Under the Influence. Found guilty, he was not convicted because of a trouble free record.

After consideration, the Chief Minister decided to give him a second chance, as did voters, by re-electing him. The question: does he deserve a third chance? Although many Canberrans might not like the Chief Minister, over the years they have respected him for his capacity to make hard decisions.

He will enhance that respect if he makes the necessary hard decisions about these Ministers.

The Chronicle for the best community news. Published every Tuesday

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2 Responses to "Do we have an Assembly of principle"

1 down 1 to go!

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