After six years as an ACT Government minister, Labor MLA Joy Burch announced today that she will not seek a portfolio in Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s cabinet reshuffle this week.
See Ms Burch’s media statement here.
Ms Burch made the announcement at an emotional media conference outside the Hyperdome on Anketell Street in Tuggeranong, a symbolic gesture as she said she will now focus on her constituents in Brindabella as well as getting Labor re-elected in the October election.
“I will contest the 2016 election and the people of Brindabella will have no greater advocate than I,” Ms Burch said.
“My passion for delivering the best for the people of Tuggeranong has in no way diminished; my resolve has in no way weakened. There is always more to do and I look forward to putting my focus into my local community.”
Ms Burch denied any link between the decision and an ongoing investigation into the actions of a former staff member. She resigned as Police and Emergency Services Minister on December 16 when ACT Policing commenced an investigation into Fairfax Media reports that her most senior adviser briefed Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union ACT Secretary Dean Hall on the contents of a meeting between Ms Burch and Chief Police Officer Rudi Lammers.
The Minister said today that the investigation was of her former staff member only.
“It’s not been about me. It never has been about me. It never will be about me,” she said.
“What I am absolutely clear about is that the Chief Police Officer and the Chief Minister and the Attorney-General have been very clear: this is not about me.
“It has not impacted on this decision. This decision is about ensuring my focus is on the people of Tuggeranong and Lanyon Valley and ensuring the Labor Government is re-elected in 2016.”
Ms Burch held back tears at one point when talking about her achievements as a Minister, giving examples including the introduction of 4000 extra childcare places in the territory, the delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme to the ACT, and making English compulsory to the end of Year 12.
Shortly afterwards, Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced that he will this week be expanding his cabinet to seven, with two new ministers to be appointed in coming days.
“I will appoint a strong team of highly experienced ministers and fresh faces who will bring energy and enthusiasm to the renewed ACT Ministry,” Mr Barr said.
He paid tribute to Ms Burch’s efforts to seek reform in service delivery within her portfolios over her six years as a minister.
“Minister Burch has worked in her ministerial career across a number of portfolios as ACT ministers get to do, so she’s had the opportunity to reform areas of public service delivery and has done so. That has, as she’s said herself, from time to time meant the ruffling of some feathers.
“I think that’s the nature of politics. Anyone who is in the business to reform, to get better outcomes, will from time to time ruffle the feathers of some stakeholders, but I want my ministers to be reformers, to be out there looking at better ways to deliver services.
“Minister Burch did that during her time. She has very gracefully stood aside at this point, noting as I indicated prior to Christmas that there would be a reshuffle before the assembly resumed, she’s made way for a new generation of Labor ministers.
“I am very grateful for her contribution and for the way she has handled herself through what has been undoubtedly been a very difficult period, where she has had a great degree of media and personal scrutiny.
“But today’s decision reflects a period of reflection for Minister Burch over the summer period. It’s the right decision for her and the right decision for the Government, and will allow me to bring some new faces into the ministry.”
The Chief Minister said he and Police Minister Simon Corbell had received an update from the Chief Police Officer in relation to the ongoing investigation into Ms Burch’s former staff member which had indicated that it would come to a conclusion in coming weeks.
He confirmed Ms Burch herself was not under investigation.
“At no point now, or in the past have the police been investigating Joy Burch. She was not the subject of their investigation.”
He stressed that police operational matters were independent of the government and that he would therefore await the conclusion of the investigation.
“I did communicate to the Chief Police Officer and he agreed that given the public interest in the police evaluation that it would of course be necessary for the Chief Police Officer to make a public statement in relation to the outcomes of the work. He agreed and will do so.”
Ms Burch will retain her remaining portfolios of Education and Training, Disability, Racing and Gaming and Arts until after the reshuffle later this week.
Nominations for the ministry opened at a caucus meeting yesterday and close at 5pm today, Mr Barr said. He will allocate portfolios after caucus elects the seven ministers.
Neither Ms Burch nor Mr Barr ruled out the possibility of Ms Burch returning to the Ministry post-election should Labor retain government.