To hell in a hessian bag

John Hargreaves 19 April 2016 3


Since I seem to be destined for Hades for my support for same sex marriages and asylum seekers, I may as well prepare for the inevitable. Part of my preparation is what happens to my mortal remains after I kark it.

I have some knowledge of the post-death system in Canberra and I have been agitating for a cemetery in the Tuggeranong area for nearly twenty years. I thought we were close when the Mugga Lane option seemed a goer but then the ACT Government reneged on the deal and expanded the Woden cemetery instead.

What these giant intellects don’t get is that Woden is filling fast and should be expanded just to cope with the older cohort in the South Canberra area. But Tuggeranong is changing its demographic rapidly and now needs its own cemetery or crematorium.

The case was agreed by the government some years ago and a memorial park, with a crematorium and burial sites (natural or otherwise) was in the pipeline. I guess the set up costs scared them off.

But this is false economy. What people don’t know in Canberra is that we inherited a perpetual care liability (PCL), which ensures that graves are looked after long after families have moved on.

When you buy a plot or a cremation site, you pay a premium for the perpetual care of that site. The money is put into a PCL trust to pay for that upkeep.

The trust was created in 2003 and has an annual revenue of about $250,000. This revenue is just enough to look after grave sites from 2003 onwards. But what about those before that? The ACT inherited quite a number of sites when self-government arrived and that increased between 1989 and 2003. The cost of upkeep of these sites requires an investment of in excess of $11 million to return recurrent revenue to look after the sites. The government has known about this since about 2004.

What this means is that either the government stumps up the maintenance costs annually or it gives the PCL trust $11 million to invest and deliver the service. But there is another way…

If a crematorium was to be operated by the ACT Government in conjunction with Norwood Park, the government would make a handsome profit on current rates to plough funds into the PCL trust which over time would eliminate that taxpayer burden of $11 million. An added benefit would be the introduction of competition into a monopoly service in the ACT. Even if the costs were reduced due to the competition, everyone is a winner.

But the intellectual giants can’t or won’t see it!

Did you see the article in the Crimes the other day? The Greens Minister got sprung arranging for his erstwhile colleague to serve on the cemeteries trust at a per diem of around $400 a day.

Of course, interference from the minister was denied by his TAMS Directorate saying that proper process was followed. Well I’m not sure about that. They said that “the government had not confirmed the appointment, with a spokesperson saying that five names had been put to the Assembly’s planning committee for approval [my emphasis]”. And my spies tell me that some of the unsuccessful folks have already been told.

The process is that advertisements are placed then the Directorate makes recommendations to the minister, then the minister takes recommendations to cabinet after which the minister refers those proposed appointments to the planning committee. The committee offers or not, comments on the proposed appointments.

The minister appoints the people and does not require the approval of the committee. They have no executive power as part of the separation of powers doctrine. It is interesting that the minister or his /her office is the common denominator. He approves it all along the way.

But the committee is not given the CVs of the unsuccessful applicants – only those of the minister’s preferred candidates. So, given there were fifteen applications for five positions, who were the other ten applicants and why were they unsuccessful? Will the committee ever see their applications and CVs? Were there any current serving members in that list of ten and why were they found unsuitable?

The process must be transparent. I don’t think it was.

One would have thought that trusts should be administered by people who have corporate interests at heart and bring no personal agenda to the table. A strident and vocal proponent of the natural burial process would have, in my view, a conflict of interest.

Another concern I had was the picture in the Crimes on Saturday with the CEO of the Cemeteries Authority standing with a candidate with particular views on natural burials, and the Directorate (I guess with the blessing of the Min’s office) saying the Govt hadn’t made its mind up yet. Yeah right!

I would have thought a commitment to addressing the perpetual care liability issue of $11 million is far more important than pushing an agenda of burying people in a hessian bag. Natural burials are acceptable but the Cemeteries Authority must provide for all preferences. Some religions require coffin burials; some require cremation and natural burials are a personal preference.

Further, with the minister involved all along the way surely this smells like a job for the boys/girls?

Before anyone starts chucking spears, since retiring, I have neither performed nor been offered any type of paid board, committee, commission or authority membership by the government.

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3 Responses to To hell in a hessian bag
miz miz 12:50 pm 22 Jul 15

I can’t understand why Tuggers ‘needs’ a cemetery – surely it would be better to locate a new cemetery in Molonglo, which is handy to north and south siders and could be planned properly, not retrofitted alongside a tip!

MERC600 MERC600 5:41 pm 21 Jul 15

Well thank you John for the tidbit “Did you see the article in the Crimes the other day? The Greens Minister got sprung arranging for his erstwhile colleague to serve on the cemeteries trust at a per diem of around $400 a day.”

I seem to remember our green member was allowed to let us pay for him to have extra office staff when he was made kingmaker. So logical perhaps he now needs to increase his reign over the dearly departed.

rubaiyat rubaiyat 6:27 pm 20 Jul 15

All we really need is another Otto bin labelled “Dead Rellies”. Problem solved.

We are also long overdue for one around the back of Parliament House and the ACT Assembly labelled “Party Hacks”.

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