So Mick, what’s the going rate to hire a firie?

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There’s a smouldering mystery in Minister Mick Gentleman’s office: How much does a firefighter cost? Pre-election tight lips aren’t telling as the minister signs up 99 more firies. It’s “Seven Days” with IAN MEIKLE.

IT’S a simple question: how much does it cost to hire a firie? 

Ian Meikle.

Worryingly, it seems, the ACT government, which has had 19 years of experience, can’t tell you. 

Here’s the background: on June 25 Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman virtuously announced that we were to have, among other things, 99 new firefighters over four years in a new deal he’d struck with the United Firefighters Union. 

Given the tenacity of the UFU to push a cause, one can only marvel at the happy timing in Mick getting some signatures sorted this close to the October election. 

We wondered how much that was going to cost; it would have to be known before Mick agreed to sign, right? 

So my colleague, the equally tenacious Danielle Nohra, sent the minister’s office a polite enquiry: “Can you please share the cost of how much it will be to employ 99 firefighters over the four-year term in the new deal between ACT government and the UFU?”

No reply. 

On a second enquiry, communications adviser Ryan Curran, unhelpfully wrote: “The total cost of the new enterprise bargaining agreement is subject to standard budget processes.”

The suspicious Ms Nohra grimaced and alerted him that his obtuse response and avoidance of a simple question was becoming part of the story.

Clearly, poor Ryan was getting a departmental runaround.   

“I’ve chased it up,” he sighed, “but looks like we’re unable to provide more specific information at this stage.  

“Sorry I can’t be of more help, if you have any further questions let me know.” 

Just the one, Ryan: how much will the 99 firefighters cost the ACT taxpayer? 

WITH hundreds of travelling Canberrans grounded by quarantine, it came as no surprise that chief health officer Kerryn Coleman refused to ease any more restrictions in the ACT right now. 

The housebound hordes have been caught by the interstate hotspot caution despite there being (as I write) no new covid cases in the ACT. 

She’s going to review things – like letting the community clubs turn on their pokie machines again – on a weekly basis.

ClubsACT chief executive Gwyn Rees has been banging his head against the Health bureaucracy for months now as other states open their clubs.

He wants to understand why ACT clubs can’t open in the same way that they are open in NSW, QLD, NT, WA, SA and Tasmania.  

Via a freedom-of-information application, he asked to see the gambling advice ACT Health had been provided by the all knowing Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

Back came 275 pages with more than 200 of them redacted. 

“In our democracy, transparency is absent during COVID-19,” he sniffed on Twitter.  

In an open letter to Dr Coleman he wrote: “ACT residents are travelling to Queanbeyan to attend activities not allowed here e.g. poker machines. They can also enjoy these services by travelling to Batemans Bay or any other surrounding town. So the current policy is not avoiding the risks you identify but simply forcing an alternative way for Canberrans to enjoy them. 

“By ‘encouraging’ travel outside the ACT, the current policy is if anything increasing risks, not reducing them, compared with keeping people in the territory.”

Prophetic words given the letter was published in “CityNews” on June 18, weeks before the Batemans Bay covid cluster sent an estimated 400 holidaying Canberrans back to their spare bedrooms. 

“IT would be ludicrous for a 13-year-old to be able to murder someone, knowing full well it was wrong and not be able to be prosecuted for it,” harrumphed lawyer Bill Stefaniak at the suggestion of raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 in the ACT.

The Belco Party candidate for Ginninderra should know because he’s also the former ACT opposition leader, attorney-general, police minister, juvenile corrections minister and a former crown prosecutor.

“I have prosecuted, defended and known a number of 11, 12 and 13-year-old offenders who were well aware of the wrongfulness of what they were doing,” he says.

Belco Bill blames the ACT government, saying it’s failed a generation of juvenile and adult detainees while blithely chanting empty words about human rights.

“The appalling record of the ACT government over the last decades with record high recidivism rates in our detention centres and jail is something Barr and Rattenbury should hang their heads in shame.”

AND while they’re doing that, they might like to wash their hands because shadow attorney-general Jeremy Hanson reckons the ACT government has blood on its hands over its failure to implement anti-consorting laws in the territory.

Speaking in the Assembly, the optimistic Mr H said he would make introducing the laws his number one priority… subject to the Liberals winning the October poll.

The issue has arisen again after Comanchero bikie-gang boss Pitasoni Tali Ulavalu was killed in a bar brawl in Civic. 

Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay wasn’t for turning and hurtfully accused the poor Liberals of searching for a media headline. 

Ian Meikle is the “CityNews” editor. He can be heard on the “CityNews Sunday Roast” news and current affairs program, 10am-noon on 2CC.

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Ian Meikle
Ian Meikle is the owner and editor of "CityNews".

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