Labor’s Gentleman and Burch should have made way for new blood

Ian Bushnell 14 October 2020 41
Mick Gentleman

Mick Gentleman has been an unimpressive minister in key portfolios. Photo: File.

Labor has missed an opportunity this election to reinvigorate its presence in the ACT’s south, the team overall and the Assembly by sticking with two of its worst performers.

This should have been the poll when Mick Gentleman and Joy Burch bowed out after not-so-distinguished political careers and, without being ageist about it, allowed younger candidates with fresh ideas and energy to make their contribution.

When the Liberals’ Vicki Dunne and the Greens’ Caroline Le Couteur announced that they would not be contesting the 2020 election, it only seemed a matter of time until Labor tapped their Brindabella MLAs on the shoulder and said it’s time.


READ MORE: Vicki Dunne and Caroline Le Couteur bid farewell to the Assembly


But no, they have lined up again, prompting the question whether Labor is serious about challenging the Liberal majority in the deep south?

Is the Labor talent pool so shallow that it could not find new candidates capable of winning over Tuggeranong voters and bringing some new expertise to the Assembly?

Or is it a case of favours still owed?

In any case, Ms Burch, Speaker in the last Assembly, has been an MLA since 2008 and, if returned, will have been a member for 16 years if she gets through a fourth term.

She joined cabinet in 2009 and has held 11 portfolios over seven years, including Arts, Education and Police – all of which experienced controversies on her watch.

In 2014, she came under fire for her decision to award a Fringe Festival contract without tender, and ignoring warnings about contentious adult content.

Joy Burch

Joy Burch has had a train wreck of a ministerial career. Photo: Facebook.

The next year as Education Minister, she presided over the Telopea Park School land row and the ‘boy in the cage’ controversy. She was then forced to resign as Police Minister over claims her chief-of-staff was too close to the powerful Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

By January 2016, she had quit all her portfolios.

It was a ministerial career that could be described as a train wreck. But she managed to take out the consolation prize of Speaker in 2016.

Mr Gentleman has never been one to court controversy and the fact is his career is just plain dull.

Elected in 2004, he was booted out in 2008 only to be sent back to the Assembly in 2012, becoming a minister in 2012.

He has held a swag of portfolios but it’s as Planning and Land Management Minister that he has come closest to making waves, particularly during the Tradies land swap controversy and when he used his call-in powers to approve contentious developments.

Most recently, in 2019 he called in the Coles’ Dickson shops development, which is still to see the light of day, and the Common Ground social housing proposal again in Dickson.


READ ALSO: Coles blames COVID-19 for delay to Dickson development


Despite Planning and Environment being key portfolios, Mr Gentleman is considered generally to be a lacklustre minister, a journeyman without any ideas of his own.

Perhaps that suits Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr in a jurisdiction where land is the currency of government.

But it is also a place where planning and development are top of mind, and deserves a minister who is pro-active and immersed in the issues that matter to Canberrans.

Mr Gentleman is neither, and his media conferences are sketchy affairs at best, slim on detail delivered in fractured, tortuous speech.

He is also 65 years old, which will put him just shy of 70 come the 2024 election.

Experience can be an asset but with Mr Gentleman and Ms Burch it should have been “thanks for your efforts but your time is up”.

Brindabella voters can take matters into their own hands, thanks to Hare-Clark, so it will be interesting to see come Saturday night just how far name recognition and Labor loyalty will take them.


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41 Responses to Labor’s Gentleman and Burch should have made way for new blood
Ian Ian 11:15 pm 14 Oct 20

I don’t think anyone should be able to make a career out of politics. There should be term limits, for example 2 or 3 terms of the Assembly. People get in, have a chance to make their mark, and get out. If you haven’t been able to make your mark in 5-10 years, chances are you’re not going to achieve anything useful hanging around for years longer.

Heavs Heavs 9:04 pm 14 Oct 20

This is so excellent. Yesterday Ian wrote an article about Young Alastair being junk and a bunch of folks come out and accused him of being a Labor shill. Today he’s backed out this one and a bunch of folks have come out and accused him of being a Lib shill.

And the clicks continue. Excellent work Ian.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:13 am 15 Oct 20

    It’s in the name I think. I have a Bushnell telescopic sight on my rifle and it tends to wander from left to right occasionally.

    chewy14 chewy14 1:11 pm 16 Oct 20

    It’s definitely a bit strange.

    Ian’s articles are typically left leaning in their topics and the opinions presented.

    But if he writes a mildly critical article about Labor or the Greens, some people jump out of the woodwork to claim he must be a hard right winger working for Rupert Murdoch or similar.

    And i dont even think this article was critical of the ALP as a party, just picking out two members who he thinks are under achieving.

    Clearly these people don’t read too much of the rest of his content.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:32 pm 14 Oct 20

I met Taimus Werner-Gibbings on voting day 4 years ago. Damn nice chap and I would have given him my vote this election but I had already resolved not to vote for anyone.

I hope my endorsement doesn’t put the moccas on you, Taimus.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:16 pm 14 Oct 20

With Labor now running “Say no to Coe” adverts (because three word slogans are the stuff of vacuous Tories, but four word slogans are schmick as) showing Coe with an L-Plate, hanging on to the warhorses is probably part of the “play safe” strategy – standard stuff for governments past their use-by date.

Anyway, the rusted-on Laborites should cool their jets – tomorrow’s hit-piece from Ian is due to be anti-Liberal, and then watch out on Friday……

bj_ACT bj_ACT 11:50 am 14 Oct 20

Joy Burch hasn’t stood up for Tuggeranong at all on her watch. If you’re a died in the wool Labor voter in Tuggeranong at the very least choose the other Labor candidates for the sake of your fellow residents.

Whilst I like to stand up for my former Tuggeranong neighbours, at least I now have a solid Independent option In Deakin. I wish Brindabella had a true Independent such as Fiona Carrick to vote for.

As long serving Labor MLA John Hargreaves lamented “Tuggeranong is not where ACT elections are won or lost”.

franky22 franky22 10:36 am 14 Oct 20

Great article. These 2 oxygen thieves are complete duds. Mind you they are not so very different to the majority of ACT pollies.

Spiral Spiral 10:13 am 14 Oct 20

The Coombs Shopping Centre debacle has unfolded under his watch.

Something he still can’t fix and his response seems to be akin to: Sorry it is such a disaster and I can’t think of a way to fix it. But don’t worry, I’ve changed the rules so it doesn’t happen to other people, so be happy.

chewy14 chewy14 10:01 am 14 Oct 20

Yes, this is one of the advantages of Hare Clark.

Far easier to knock off someone on your own team than it is to gain a seat off another party.

We can only hope.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:48 am 14 Oct 20

That image of Joy Burch is not the same one on the roadside corflutes.

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