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Joy Burch's challenges as an ACT minister

Minister Joy Burch helping promote an earlier Multicultural festival - by standing on Kung Fu grandmaster Neal Hardy before a world record attempt that had him lie on a bed of nails with more than 500kg of bricks placed on his torso.

Minister Joy Burch helping promote an earlier Multicultural festival - by standing on Kung Fu grandmaster Neal Hardy before a world record attempt that had him lie on a bed of nails with more than 500kg of bricks placed on his torso. Photo: Andrew Sheargold

Prince Harry and Joy Burch have one thing in common: Nazi caricatures have got them in to trouble.

In Prince Harry’s case, he was forced to apologise for donning a Nazi costume at a party.

For Burch there has been no such fancy dress, but the ACT Labor Minister is facing a political storm thanks to the less subtle choices of her Fringe at the Multicultural Festival director, Jorian Gardner.

The Arts and Multicultural Minister’s problem is not the artistic worthiness or unworthiness of the Hitler in tassels routine that was part of Friday night’s burlesque show at the Fringe in Civic Square. Burch’s mistake was made last year when she hand-picked Gardner to run the festival, instead of calling for applications.

The Brindabella MLA knew the political risk of appointing controversy-prone Gardner to the role, but failed to insulate herself from damage by having an open selection process for the festival directorship.

It is this lack of political shrewdness that has defined Burch’s tenure in cabinet.

Recent blunders include Burch’s accidental retweeting of an offensive post calling federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne “a c---”.

tweet face

The incident led to social media training for the minister, who delivered her apology with an outpouring of empathy for the young, old and technophobic trying to navigate the treacherous world of instant publishing.

Last year, Burch ignored the advice of her education directorate by granting initial approval for an independent school - which has now been found unfit for registration.

The minister closed Canberra’s women’s information and referral centre but could not clarify why this was necessary when called upon to do so in the midst of public criticism.

The opposition has recognised this weakness on Chief Minister Katy Gallagher’s frontbench and will be relentless in their pursuit of Burch.

The minister has had some shining moments and showed courage and determination in standing up to anti-Islamic sentiment when a new mosque was approved for Gungahlin in 2012.

As community services minister, she has been known to demonstrate real compassion for some of the most vulnerable people in the Canberra community.

But as a political operator she continues to be hampered by a frequent inability to articulate her thoughts and anticipate the consequences of some of her decisions.

Gallagher has defiantly stood by her minister.

Even large governments have weak frontbenchers.

Gallagher’s problem is that if Burch continues to face scrutiny – which she will from the Canberra Liberals – there are very few alternatives within the Labor ranks to groom as a replacement.

Already, the Labor Caucus has the task of appointing a sixth minister from a four-person government backbench with few standout performers.

13 comments

  • Burch should have been sacked over the Chris Pyne tweet - one can only imagine the outcry if this had been a tweet by a man about a woman. I can only assume that she had felt insulated about the unsavoury tweet because Gillard had previously made the famously and outrageously homophobic attack on him in Parliament by calling Pyne a "mincing poodle". Burch is a liability for the Gallagher government and needs to go...

    Commenter
    Bronte
    Date and time
    February 12, 2014, 10:00AM
    • Nice of you to stand up for poor Christopher. You have got to be kidding. The Coalition character assassinated Gillard with venomous bile for three years, accused her of corruption(an outright lie and only in Coward's Castle) threw everything but the kitchen sink at her including saying that her recently departed father should be ashamed at her and you 're crying foul over a tweet. The double standards of Coalition supporters are earth shattering. Gillard was pilloried for lying about the Carbon Tax, Abbott is now in the double digit lie column and nothing is said. He has lied about not cutting education funding or funding the ABC amongst dozens of other lies. Maybe men are permitted to lie and women aren't. As a Labor supporter I think Burch is a C grade idiot and a complete party hack but compared with the Motley crew in the Libs here she's a cross between a Stephen Hawking and Einstein. This saga shows how desperate the Libs are. If this is the best they've got then they're in trouble. Isn't the fact that the Liberals financial statements show a difference of $300,000 slightly more important. This is the beat up to end all beat ups.

      Commenter
      Lord Lucan
      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 10:14AM
  • I am not a fan of Ms Burch, but give me a break - this is a beat up on monumental proportions. It is a fringe festival folks, what did you expect The Sound of Music??? (could be a poor example, that is fringe stuff really)

    Commenter
    Irene
    Date and time
    February 12, 2014, 10:29AM
    • Exactly. Storm in a (canberra) tea cup.

      Commenter
      FD
      Location
      Singapore
      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 12:10PM
    • +1

      Commenter
      WorkingMum
      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 1:00PM
  • The Coalition is on a roll now with a Royal Commissions. Why don't they show their fairness and impartiality by appointing Burch to Head a Royal Commission into the links between business and the Coalition. We have royal commissions into everything else and some of the links look decidedly dodgy so I feel it would be a good move.
    She could also head an inquiry into the local branch of the Libs for throwing policies overboard and a lack of accounting skills. If Jeremy wants to get elected he could copy Abbott. "We decide who comes to Canberra and the manner in which they come." He could have life boats located on the Queanbeyan river to send back any undesirables.
    Joy Birch is a twit but this is a non event.

    Commenter
    Realist
    Date and time
    February 12, 2014, 11:03AM
    • Why do you think that no state or territory government has enacted the model laws proposed in 1995 to deal with private-sector corruption? no-brainer really....

      Commenter
      FD
      Location
      Singapore
      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 12:23PM
  • I think we should nominate Joy Burch for the next Big Brother competition!

    Commenter
    Sharron
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    February 12, 2014, 11:13AM
    • "Last year, Burch ignored the advice of her education directorate by granting initial approval for an independent school - which has now been found unfit for registration."

      The real issue here is not the whole (and very tired) public vs private debate. The real issue here was the uncritical support given that school. It's great that Ms Burch showed "courage and determination in standing up to anti-Islamic sentiment when a new mosque was approved for Gungahlin in 2012" - as we need people to stand up to the lunatic bigots in our society, be they red-neck racists or militant atheists seeking to ridicule and exclude people of faith (any faith) from all aspects of public life.

      Sadly however, in this instance Ms Burch was the lack of critical appraisal and the provision of uncritical support. That said, it's a double edges sword. If she had acted properly re: the private school, then it would have been delayed.

      In turn, that would have led to the lunatic left-wing bigots in our society labelling her as 'racist' or 'islamophobic' etc etc.

      So I have some sympathy. Damned is she does, damned if she doesn't.

      Commenter
      FD
      Location
      Singapore
      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 12:09PM
      • Joy Burch has been a waste of taxpayers funds from day one, she must have a large family and friend ring in her location.

        Commenter
        NITRO GANGSTER
        Date and time
        February 12, 2014, 12:09PM

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