April 18, 2005 | Jeff Wall

The Honourable De Anne Kelly – our most hopeless minister????

WHEN you have observed politics for as long as I have – and participated in it – you get into the habit of comparing politicians, governments, and political eras.
Some weeks ago I offered the view that the Honourable De Anne Kelly, Federal Minister of State for Veterans Affairs and Minister Assisting the Defence Minister, is almost the most hopeless, and hapless, Minister I have come across.
I thought then that only the Honourable Delba Biri, Minister for Justice in the second Somare Government of PNG was worse. He was quite hopeless, and was regularly tripped up in Parliament by my then boss, the Opposition Leader, Iambakey Okuk,……..and Delba had been his driver when Okuk was a Minister in the first Somare Government!
I owe Delba Biri – if he is still with us – a humble apology.
He was an embarrassment, utterly out of his depth. But the more I observe Mrs De Anne’s Kelly’s “performance” the worse she looks. And poor old Delba looks better all the time.
The revelations over the weekend that Mrs Kelly signed a congratulatory letter to a high school student who had earlier died in a tragic accident when he was in the cadets – notwithstanding the fact she attended his funeral and signed the condolence book – is simply appalling.
It is appalling for the grieving family. And it is appalling that a Member of Parliament, representing a regional community where such tragic events are more widely known than they are in capital cities, could be so utterly negligent.
It is not the first time an MP has sent a letter to a deceased person. And it is truly pathetic that Mrs Kelly has sought to ease her culpability by trying to drag in a State Labor MP who did not attend the funeral, or, apparently, know the young man had died.
Over the last nine months or so I have watched with utter amazement at Mrs Kelly’s “performance” as a Minister. Her explanation of the hand outs to regional groups made when she held the low Office of Parliamentary Secretary have been truly awful.
Her handling of questions without notice has been painful. And the questioning from the Opposition has hardly been willowing!
Every possible device has been used to protect her from proper parliamentary scrutiny. But Mr Speaker Hawker, to his credit, has allowed at least some questioning of the Minister on her former responsibilities. And the more questions she has been asked the worse she has performed.
And as the Parliamentary Inquiry into the regional grants program proceeds, more doubts than ever are cast over the decisions she made as a Parliamentary Secretary.
But even as Minister for Veterans Affairs she has been found wanting.
When the Sea King helicopter crash occurred in Indonesia a few weeks ago, the community – not to mention the families of the servicemen and women who so tragically lost their lives – wanted a number of assurances, not the least being assurances about the compensation and benefits the families of those who died would receive.
There are a silence from the Federal Government for some days……….ensuring the Government got some highly unfavourable publicity, especially on radio. It required (once again) Prime Ministerial intervention to rescue the position.
When the Minister finally made a statement it was too late, and too little.
Like it or not, the issue of support for veterans, and for the families, of servicemen killed and injured on duty overseas, is now very much on the political agenda. And, at the Ministerial level, it could hardly be in more unsafe hands.
The Parliamentary Inquiry is highly to be highly critical of Mrs Kelly’s performance as Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the regional grants program.
That should provide the opportunity for John Howard and John Anderson to show her the door. But don’t bet on it!
And back to poor old Delba Biri. He was unsuited to the Justice portfolio in every way – uneducated, did not speak English, a first term MP.
So in a handicap race against Mrs Kelly you would surely give Delba Biri 30 metres start over a 100 metre course?
She is, to put it bluntly, just not up to the job!
She is the Member for Dawson…..the seat that turned so dramatically against the then Country Party in the 1960’s. While it has been held by the Nationals since 1975, the woeful performance of its current Member, especially as a Minister, must surely put the seat on the watch list at the next federal election.
There is no doubt Mrs Kelly built up a personal vote during her time on the backbench, when she could take pot shots at her own Government.
But I would not count on that saving her in the volatile political times we live in today.

Posted by Jeff Wall at 9:14 am | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

1 Comment

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    Comment by BOSS_realty — April 19, 2005 @ 5:43 pm

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