Embattled ACT Government Minister Joy Burch has this afternoon resigned from the Police and Emergency Services portfolios as ACT Policing investigate 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.
Ms Burch is on leave till the new year from tomorrow, but retains her seat in cabinet and other portfolios (education and training, disability, racing and gaming and the arts) at this time.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Ms Burch announced her resignation and Mr Barr’s acceptance of it in a joint statement tonight.
Mr Barr said there would be a ministerial reshuffle before the Assembly sits in 2016, and that Deputy Chief Minister Simon Corbell would take on the Police and Emergency Services portfolio in the interim.
“I will consider the allocation of portfolios over the summer break and announce the revised portfolios in the new year,” Mr Barr said.
“It is important to be clear that, based on advice I have, there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Minister Burch.
“However, following yesterday’s announcement by ACT Policing that they will evaluate the veracity of allegations relating to Minister Burch’s office, she has resigned in accordance with her responsibility under the Ministerial Code of Conduct. Under the Code, Ministers are not only accountable for their own behaviour but also for the decisions and actions of their staff.
Minister Burch said she remained committed to making a contribution to the current government.
“We have an important agenda to deliver and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Canberra.
“As the police have said, the ACT Government does not direct ACT Policing in relation to how it undertakes its operational activity, and did not do so on the occasion that has been the subject of recent public attention.
“It is nonetheless entirely appropriate that I step aside from this portfolio while ACT Policing conducts its evaluation,” she said.
Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson said Mr Barr’s acceptance of Ms Burch’s resignation from the police portfolio was a weak and inadequate response.
“If Ms Burch is unfit to be the Police Minister then she is unfit to be the Education Minister, the Gaming Minister, or hold any other position in Cabinet,” Mr Hanson said.
“The Chief Minister has failed in his responsibility to the people of the ACT by not removing Joy Burch from Cabinet.
The Canberra Liberals Leader said Mr Barr needed to “fully explain other matters beyond the inappropriate briefing of the CFMEU that he claims led to her resignation”.
“Andrew Barr’s failure to stand up to Labor’s factions and the CFMEU further erodes the integrity of his government and is to the detriment of our community,” Mr Hanson said.
“I once again call on Andrew Barr to sack Joy Burch and cut financial and political ties with the CFMEU.”