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
Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:48 am 14 Oct 20

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

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.

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.

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.

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”.

Matt White Matt White 12:13 pm 14 Oct 20

This piece could/should have been done and made the same overall point with a lot more balance as well as respect for older political candidates. Instead it’s just an attack piece. Was it seriously written by Ian Bushnell? It’s more the style of SkyNews and Andrew Bolt. You can (and usually) do better RiotAct.

Erin Papps Erin Papps 12:41 pm 14 Oct 20

This seems unfair, I sure as hell wouldn’t vote for the new Labor candidates in Brindabella, having spent many hours with all of them.

    James Ellis James Ellis 12:48 pm 14 Oct 20

    Erin Papps have you met Taimus Werner-Gibbings?

    Erin Papps Erin Papps 12:49 pm 14 Oct 20

    Sorry Taimus 😂

    Erin Papps Erin Papps 12:52 pm 14 Oct 20

    James Ellis that’s not true - as Greens we tend to preference Labor in our own order. I can and do vote for the ALP regularly.

    I guess my point was that this is shoddy journalism - it condemns the incumbents without any exploration of the alternatives - all three I get along with personally but don’t support their political visions.

    There is a lot of information about Labor preselection in Brindabella and what went on, and there are many loose lips ready to share it. This article lacks substance on that front too.

Daniel Gerrard Daniel Gerrard 1:25 pm 14 Oct 20


“I don’t want to sound ageist but...”

Coming soon

“I don’t want to sound racist but...”

Peter Norton Peter Norton 1:39 pm 14 Oct 20

I think some of Labor’s newer people are idealistic and naïve. Need to balance this with experience in key Ministries. Look at Victoria for what happens when a politician thinks their job is only about innovative policy setting and then saying “I have no role in operational matters”. It is critical to have governance skills and experienced judgement for supervising the public service. You do need a renewal cycle, but don’t throw all the experience out at once.

Daniel J. Fitzpatrick Daniel J. Fitzpatrick 3:54 pm 14 Oct 20

Far out riot act get bought out by CT too? Very biased coverage of this election guys...disappointed!

Greg McConville Greg McConville 4:11 pm 14 Oct 20

"He has held a swag of portfolios but it’s as Planning and Land Management Minister that he has come closest to making waves"

For the record, Mick Gentleman as Emergency Services Minister guided a package through Cabinet that will deliver the single largest expansion in the fire service since its inception.

*99 additional Firefighters over four years, requiring unprecedented recruitment of 180 firefighters to cover attrition and deliver the 99.

*2 new fire stations.

*3 additional trucks on the road

*greatly improved training regime

*an Australian first firefighter wellbeing initiative, and more

Further detail can be obtained from the Firefighters ACT Facebook page

A keen observer might have noted that in 2016, the United Firefighters Union asked voters to not vote for Mick Gentleman. In 2020 the union has acknowledged that Mick Gentleman (along with Bec Cody) was an advocate of the Barr Government commitments to Fire and Emergency Services. Credit where credit is due please.

In the 2016 election, fire and emergency services was a hot topic, with media coverage week after week. This election it is not: the work of Mick Gentleman as Minister and Bec Cody in delivering this package has literally "taken the heat out of the issue", to the extent that the current opposition appear to be accepting the Government's plan.

    Raffy Sgroi Raffy Sgroi 6:50 pm 14 Oct 20

    Greg McConville for the record he delivered a plan suggested by the opposition for the past 5 years!

    Raffy Sgroi Raffy Sgroi 6:51 pm 14 Oct 20

    Greg McConville and the opposition accepted the plan because was Giulia Jones plan!!

    Greg McConville Greg McConville 7:12 pm 14 Oct 20

    Raffy Sgroi really Raffy? I suggest that you go to Read the expert reports, and you will see that they were developed by the UFU. Nobody other than the UFU can claim proprietorship of those documents and the costings. We paid for them. As laudable as Giulia Jones' efforts have been, I guarantee you that she would not claim its her plan. Its ours. Mrs. Jones became aware of it when we briefed her on it once the enterprise agreement was signed off. Nice try.

    Raffy Sgroi Raffy Sgroi 7:15 pm 14 Oct 20

    Greg McConville apology I was actually pointing out in regards Mr Gentleman package. Mrs Jones did much more then him, he only took merit for it

    Greg McConville Greg McConville 7:18 pm 14 Oct 20

    Raffy Sgroi in your opinion, but I don't think anyone other than Mr Gentleman can claim credit for getting the package through Cabinet, can they now?

    Raffy Sgroi Raffy Sgroi 7:22 pm 14 Oct 20

    Greg McConville well as a Minister of course he can claim credit. Thought little to late in my opinion. Very happy that finally you guys get what you deserve and need to work safe and efficiently. It’s a great plan and I am please to see money well invested

Catherine O'Neill Cooney Catherine O'Neill Cooney 5:20 pm 14 Oct 20

Really, how ridiculous. It’s usually an argument that the team is too young and WOKE and out of touch with ordinary (older) Canberrans

Alix O'Hara Alix O'Hara 5:49 pm 14 Oct 20

They all need to make way for new blood.

The minor parties deliver.

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……

Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 6:21 pm 14 Oct 20

Maybe it’s time for Ian to lead by example, and retire from his opinion pieces.

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.

Geoffrey Hugh Miller Geoffrey Hugh Miller 7:14 pm 14 Oct 20

As a Tuggeranong resident I'm unimpressed by all the candidates, but Burch in particular should have been given the boot a long time ago.

Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 7:15 pm 14 Oct 20

I thought it a bit ballsy for the author, but fair comment

Maria Greene Maria Greene 7:39 pm 14 Oct 20

What about Barr? Main reason I didn't vote Labor for nearly 30 years. Him and ridiculous trams

    Stephen Esdaile Stephen Esdaile 10:18 pm 14 Oct 20

    Barr is the reason you haven't voted Labor for 30 years? I think you may need to check your history or your memory...

    Maria Greene Maria Greene 10:59 pm 14 Oct 20

    It's the reason I haven't voted Labor for the FIRST time in nearly 30 years. He makes me so angry I have trouble writing correctly.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:42 am 16 Oct 20

    Barr hasn't been leader for 30 years. A fib I believe, or satire?

    Maria Greene Maria Greene 12:40 pm 16 Oct 20

    Just amistake. Barr is the reason I'm NOT voting Labor for the first time in 30 years

Jack Hearps Jack Hearps 7:44 pm 14 Oct 20

Crazy article ... I've spent several hrs right beside Mick G at a forum looking at future challenges especiall irt workforce ageing health education energy water and food security ... he was across these topics and welcoming of ideas and the type of programs govt could deliver ...several years later the ACT Govt has progressed many of these crucial aspects ... i have been very impressed with the all the Emergency Services in the ACT ... just fantastic as it ramps up to meet the future ... the growth of Canberra has been exceptional under Labor... constantly amazed and appreciative of these Departments delivering services. Perhaps Mick should of attended media marketing courses like ScoMo ... but I've seen him and his big team deliver ... not walk away from responsibilities and spin crap. Go get me Mick.

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