[This is the text of a letter from the office of Joy Burch MLA, Member for Brindabella, Minister for Housing, to me.]
Dear Mr [name],
Thank you for your email of 19 April 2012 regarding the lack of bus services to and from Oaks Estate, Queanbeyan, NSW.
Minister Burch has asked me to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence and to inform you that the issues you raise fall under the portfolio responsibilities Ms Katy Gallagher MLA, Chief Minister. I have forwarded your correspondence to Ms Gallagher for her attention and consideration.
Thank you again for taking the time to write.
So Oaks Estate is part of NSW.
Someone should tell ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell. Then tell the seven MLAs for Molonglo.
Does Joy Burch really think Oaks Estate is part of Queanbeyan?
More likely is that Minister Burch never even saw my letter which asked for her views on the total lack of ACTION services to Oaks Estate.
The way correspondence is handled, my letter would have been dealt with by her office staff and passed up to an advisor to respond to, as per office protocol for ministerial correspondence.
Why did I write to Joy Burch?
Because as Minister for Housing, she is responsible for the approximately 90 people in a suburb population of 242 who live in the seven blocks of public housing in Oaks Estate. (Refer to table 8, line 122, on the excel spreadsheet for Population Estimates by Statistical Local Area.) When I discovered that there were no ACTION services to Oaks Estate, I thought it was both wrong and unfair. I saw several glaring contradictions between the actual state of affairs in Oaks Estate, and ACT Labor’s 2011-12 policy platform regarding public housing and transport.
Given that easily accessible public transport would be very helpful to public housing tenants (it costs several thousand dollars a year to own a car), I would have expected the Housing Minister to pursue an ACTION bus service rather than leaving some of the most disadvantaged people in the ACT stranded on the border. It makes sense to have a stack of public housing connected to public transport, so the tenants can commute to jobs and training, right?
Instead, because my letter had the word ‘bus’ in it, the advisor palmed my letter off to the Minister with portfolio responsibility for ACTION bus services, Katy Gallagher. The advisor ignored all my references to Joy Burch’s portfolio and the public housing in Oaks Estate, and ignored my questions specific to the housing portfolio.
This advisor then would have crafted their response according to rules of standard practice:
- Make no promises (in politics, you never give anything away for free – it’s all about leverage – so you wait for an ‘issue’ to become a ‘problem’ and then you ‘solve’ it through two-way deals)
- Say as little as possible (so your words won’t come back to haunt you)
- The Minister must appear to care (the truth would damage the facade)
- Get the response out quickly (there are so many other letters from other constituents whose concerns you have to ignore and palm off)
So we have a member of the ACT’s Legislative Assembly whose advisor is not even clear on the location of an entire ACT suburb where a bunch of people live – people that this advisor’s Minister is supposed to be looking after.
Presumably, this would be one of a small group of advisors to Joy Burch.
So Minister Burch, I’d like to know:
- Are all your advisors this rubbish?
- Does this advisor repeatedly get key details of other issues completely wrong when they brief you?
- Is the standard of this specific advisor general to all the advisors in your office, or in your party?
- Are you aware that there is an election this year (or did this advisor tell you that was for NSW too)?