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Canberra Today 6°/7° | Friday, July 1, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

I’m a survivor, get me out of here, comrades 

The minister saves his job, Ben Chifley loses his pipe and the Queanbeyan-Palerang council helps itself to a pay rise. It’s “Seven Days” with IAN MEIKLE.

STEEL “survives” no-confidence motion, the headlines chorused when in fact no such thing happened to the underwhelming skills minister.

Ian Meikle.

Nothing even close. St George survived the dragon, Chris Steel survived a red face, not continuing “to live or exist, especially after coming close to dying or being destroyed or after being in a difficult or threatening situation”. 

The toadies on the government benches all put their hands up on cue and, like magic, the opposition motion to censure the minister over a series of “questionable” contracts awarded by the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) fell predictably on its face in the Assembly. What a survival!

I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t a flicker of guilt on the part of just one non-Liberal MLA who thought that perhaps, just maybe, quite possibly opposition leader Elizabeth Lee might be on to something.

She taunted that any MLA who voted in support of Steel was helping to “run a protection racket that breeds the toxic culture that we see permeating through this astonishing misuse of public funds”.

But no, the comrades compliantly waved through a virtuous affirmation that this minister is beyond reproach. There would be no doing the decent thing and withdrawing to the library to shoot oneself, despite an unexplained $8.87 million paid to Think Garden and Redrouge Nominees Pty Ltd since 2018, both run by a “complexity and systems thinker” Patrick Hollingworth.

Lee said it was “astounding” that Steel knew as early as March last year about millions of dollars in taxpayer funds awarded to a single person, and linked entities, to “effectively provide mentoring to the CEO” and that he didn’t prevent the misuse of funds.

Skills Minister Chris Steel.

“Since the minister raised these procurement issues with CIT 15 months ago, a further two contracts worth a combined $5.5 million have been awarded to the same individual,” Lee fumed.

Tellingly, the latest contract – of $4,999,990 – was $10 below the threshold at which it would have needed to face scrutiny from the government procurement board.

Meanwhile, back in the Assembly, Lee railed: “There is no excuse for this gross failure of duty. If the minister does not resign, the chief minister must sack him.”

LOL. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t happen with Chief Minister Andrew Barr bristling that there was no evidence to support a no-confidence motion, and disparaged the opposition for personal attacks on Steel’s integrity.

Greens sidekick Shane Rattenbury admitted the contracts didn’t pass the pub test, but best let the auditor-general (eventually) come to a view.

Despite the inevitability of the outcome, it was good to see the opposition giving this corpulent government some heartburn. My guess is there’s more to come from this. 

AH, but we haven’t heard from the CIT. In a brutally bewildering burst of verbal diarrhoea a spokesman told the ABC the purpose of the latest $4,999,990 contract was to “guide and support CIT through a time of unprecedented change and opportunity”.

 

He said the contract aimed to “progress the evolution of its complex, adaptive systems-informed approach to CIT’s transformation, from its initial exploration, designing and testing phases to a wider systemic implementation.

“CIT envisions this will occur through the continued acquisition and embedding of knowledge, tools, activities, practices and structures that will ensure CIT can function as a system that learns.” The learning has just begun. 

Ben Chifley without his pipe, left, and before.

THE iconic statue depicting prime ministers Ben Chifley and John Curtin appears to have been professionally vandalised with Chifley’s pipe sawn off at the mouth. 

Reader David Crossley, of Kingston, wrote to say his wife and he were saddened and then angry to see what had happened to the Peter Corlett bronze on Walpole Cresent in Barton. 

“Whoever undertook this act of vandalism went to a lot of effort to cut through the bronze and steel rod of the pipe’s stem,” he says.

And he’s right, I legged it down there and Ben’s pipeless. 

“Could it be the latest target of cancel-culture mentality to airbrush history by pretending no-one ever smoked?” David wonders. 

THE Queanbeyan-Palerang council, one of NSW’s – if not the world’s – most inexperienced, have given themselves an unseemly 22 per cent pay rise!

Unbelievably, at the last council meeting a majority of councillors (seven to four) thought it was okay to bump up their pay packets to the maximum allowed under the relevant NSW council pay structure, a collective cost to the council of $77,000 a year. From July, councillors will earn $25,310, a 22 per cent increase, while the mayor jumps 33 per cent to $87,820. And this from a group of 11, of which only three had been re-elected at the December poll.

Apart from the dreadful optics, why would this matter? It comes as the council faces a $10 million deficit and rates are soon to rise. 

SPEAKING of Queanbeyan, ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith shamefully thinks it’s “fine” for Canberrans to swamp our small neighbour’s health system to get a free flu vaccine because, unlike NSW, she’s refused to pay for everyone to have it. It’s not fine at all. 

 

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Ian Meikle

Ian Meikle

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2 Responses to I’m a survivor, get me out of here, comrades 

Carol says: June 16, 2022 at 6:20 pm

Why suggest that Chris Steel “do the decent thing and shoot himself”? Surely that’s just wrong in every way.

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Robin Underwood says: June 27, 2022 at 5:25 pm

The complexity thinker Hollingworth’s message is simple: adapt to change or fail. If Mr. Steel in his capacity of transport minister took this advice, he could save us taxpayers billions. With the manufacture of increasingly high-tech electric buses in Australia, the tram from Spain has become redundant. So has high density housing producing the Urban Heat Island Effect. The resulting extensive use of air conditioning causes high energy consumption, and for those who can’t afford this or work outside, these temperatures can be fatal.
Could Mr. Steel please pay me $8 million for this important piece of mentoring?

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