ACT News

License article

Fight over plan to block Joy Burch from Assembly roles

The heated politics of the Joy Burch affair are set to overshadow the first Assembly sitting period, as the opposition seeks to block the dumped minister from committee positions and the deputy speakership.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr accused Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson of playing rank politics, weeks after Ms Burch quit the ministry and as police continue an investigation into her office and former chief of staff.

The opposition will try to use its numbers to stop Ms Burch replacing retiring backbencher Mary Porter as deputy speaker and say it is inappropriate for her to serve as deputy chair of a number of Assembly committees, including on justice and community safety committee.

In response, Mr Barr said Labor would use its numbers in the full chamber to overrule the opposition's blocking tactics in committee hearings. He warned Labor might retaliate against the Liberals.

The Assembly returns on Tuesday, the first of eight sitting weeks before the October 15 election.

Mr Barr accused the opposition of showing "pettiness and the vindictiveness". He said it would be unrealistic for Ms Porter's replacement, expected to be lawyer Jayson Hinder, to serve as chair or deputy chair on all the Assembly's committees immediately after joining the Assembly some time in March.


"If the opposition chooses to continue their vendetta against Joy Burch, then they have members who we have no confidence in, in terms of their capacity to fulfil their roles in the Assembly. It would be a very dangerous path for the opposition to pursue.

"Under the agreement in relation to committee responsibilities, where certain committees are chaired by a Labor member with a Liberal deputy and vice versa, the Labor Party will allocate those responsibilities.

"Those appointments will proceed according to those long held conventions."

"This would appear to be a new low from the opposition and it just speaks volumes to the sort of person that Jeremy Hanson is and the sort of team he leads," Mr Barr said.

He said the government was yet to receive a any further information on the progress of ACT Policing's investigation into Ms Burch's office. The embattled former police minister stepped down from cabinet in January and police are considering actions of her former chief of staff, Maria Hawthorne.

Mr Barr said he believed the political fall out from the police investigation had been contained. Any possible frontbench position for Ms Burch after the election was a matter for the Labor caucus.

Mr Hanson said the matter wasn't a game of "political tit-for-tat".

"Just as he doesn't want her in his ministry, Mr Barr should acknowledge that Joy Burch should not be in a position of responsibility in the Assembly.

"My specific concerns are that somebody who has had to stand aside as the police minister because of these very serious concerns in her office ... should not have a position of authority within the Assembly or the justice committee that presides over police performance."

The government would be arrogant in using its numbers to overrule the tactics, Mr Hanson said. He denied trying to keep the issue alive to further damage Labor.

"I am doing this because it is the right thing to do. It is essential that the community has trust in the committees, trust in the Assembly and that we as members have confidence in chairs and the speaker and deputy speaker," Mr Hanson said.