Parton / The wobbly Joy of being a minister

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SO many listeners to my radio program have called for the sacking of Education Minister Joy Burch over the boy-in-the-cage saga. I think they’re a little hasty.

Mark Parton.
Mark Parton.
I don’t think Joy makes a good government minister, but I believe she’s doing her absolute best and she’s probably the government’s best option. There are only 17 members in this current assembly and eight of them are in opposition. With all respect to Joy Burch and others, the talent pool is wafer thin.

I played AFL for the North Coffs Kangaroos. I was their number one ruckman, which was laughable because I sucked, big time. But I was the only genuine “tall” they had. I rucked for them because they had no other option. I had no idea how to play in the position when I started, but I kinda grew into it.

And that’s the way it works for most government ministers in a small jurisdiction like this one. They are placed in ministerial positions that are way above their ability and most of them grow into the role.

When you win a seat in the Legislative Assembly you’ve actually just won a popularity contest. It’s one step up from “The Voice” or “Survivor”.

Those who become MLAs are obviously well qualified to attend party meetings, knock on strangers’ doors and campaign at shopping centres, but for many that’s where it ends.

Being a backbencher in our little tinpot parliament is about towing the party line, dealing with constituents and parliamentary process. When you’re given a ministry, it’s a whole different ball game. Being a government minister requires the same skillset as the CEO of a major corporation and those skills don’t grow on trees.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has admitted to me that when he entered the ministry he wasn’t fully across his brief. He just had to bluff his way through until he worked out what he was doing.

Andrew has very loudly supported Minister Burch because he knows she’s his best option, but I’m telling you now, I betcha he’s hangin’ for a 25-seat Assembly if for no other reason than the expanded talent pool.

For Joy, it doesn’t help that at that press conference she looked like a rabbit in a big spotlight. And whose bright idea was it to have her never utter the word “cage”?

For the minister it started off as a “cage-like structure” and eventually became an “inappropriate structure”. For God’s sake, Joy, it’s a cage!

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Mark Parton
Canberra Liberal MLA and former breakfast announcer on 2CC.

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