Minister Steel not ‘stupid’, simply out of his depth

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Letter writer RICHARD GORRELL, of Belconnen, says Minister Chris Steel’s real weakness is his willingness to defer to his minders’ capricious, inaccurate or ill-informed advice. He is ‘out of his depth’.

I WAS almost seduced by Paul Costigan’s argument that ACT Minister Steel is “stupid” (“How the minister kicked problem down the road”, CN, January 30), but at the same time felt obliged to acknowledge that Minister’s wizardry in finding the most unlikely opportunities for getting his person in front of uncritical news cameras. 

After all, self-promotion is the real game, and it matters not that his pedestrian announcements promise inevitably fake solutions to long-festering problems. When the really tricky questions are asked he is also cunning enough to hide behind walls of disdainful silence.

But his real weakness, to which Costigan rightly alludes, is his willingness to defer to his minders’ capricious, inaccurate or ill-informed advice. 

His obvious dependence in this regard leaves him captive to their whims, even on the subjects of who he should communicate with and whose questions he answers. Really, in the several portfolios he is supposed to manage he is not stupid but simply out of his depth. His colleagues know it but keep to their own silence in solidarity with “the team” rather than the electorate.

Therein lies a broader issue. There is more than one underachiever in the ACT government happy to simply mouth popular values while ignoring the need for timely action on genuine community concerns. 

We need to replace them with more conscientiously independent leaders and managers who are not simply beholden to “teams” or “machines”, but how can such identities emerge in publicised imagery when our local media so often favours the self-promotion of those already entrenched ?

Richard Gorrell, Belconnen

Let’s support Deepak-Raj

WELL done, Deepak-Raj Gupta MLA for searching out Walter Burley Griffin’s Lucknow grave and arranging for its cleaning and redecoration! (“Griffin’s forgotten, sad grave gets a little love”, CN February 6-12)

It is, in fact, a rediscovery, since my colleague and friend, Graeme Westlake, travelled the same path as Gupta in 1987. 

Then, the Australian-American Association raised money to have the grave restored. Graeme died early, in 1991, which might be one reason why care for the grave has lapsed.

Let’s publicly support Gupta and Chief Minister Andrew Barr in the establishment of a more permanent arrangement. It must be time for a sister-city agreement between Canberra and Lucknow or the ACT and Uttar Pradesh!

Ann Smith, Curtin

It’s not Griffin’s lake!

I AM following the “CityNews” Walter Burley Griffin story (“Griffin’s forgotten, sad grave gets a little love” CN, February 6) and it is certainly good to see recognition of the Griffins’ contribution and the pursuit of a broader recognition. 

I must, however, take up the statement that Walter Burley Griffin designed the lake. His plan was very different to the end game. 

Robert Charles Scrivener, who established the Commonwealth Survey Office, had a testy relationship with Griffin and their disagreement on how Canberra should evolve led to a Royal Commission in 1916 that confirmed support for Griffin. 

However Scrivener’s design for the lake prevailed; Griffin had proposed a three-level lake (East, Central and West Basin) with water cascades at each change of level while Scrivener proposed a single-level lake). 

So perhaps, more correctly, it should be named Lake Scrivener. As the dam was an initiative by Griffin, then perhaps the dam should be Burley Griffin Dam.

Brian Franklin, via email

Yes, to national approach to disasters

AS a former ARES Member, I think Michael Moore’s piece supporting an ARES-type pay scheme for our amazing rural fire brigades has lots of merit and deserves consideration (Fighting fire with financial fairness”, CN, January 30). 

At the very least these brave men and women must be paid their civilian wage while fighting fires so as to ensure that none of them will be out of pocket for lost wages etcetera. 

It was also about time the ARES was called out to assist. I know many serving members who were chafing at the bit to be able to help and indeed all members of the ADF got great satisfaction in being able to assist their fellow Australians during this national crisis. 

It was good to see the start of what must be a national approach to national disasters now and in the future. Let’s ensure we use all our assets for any future disasters.

One thing I would suggest we must also do is to use all available resources, especially heavy equipment from wherever it can be sourced, on a regular basis to control fuel loads, and to clear and make fire trails as required. 

If more workers are needed, I’m sure a scheme could be designed to complement our rural firies who are stretched, whereby students and maybe unemployed youngsters could be paid to do a few weeks work on an as-needs basis to help ensure fuel loads are kept in check. 

The shorter back-burning seasons necessitate other types of fuel management to be used as well as the more traditional methods. 

Bill Stefaniak, Narrabundah 

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