Bruce Hawker is a leading campaign manager with 30 years experience advising leaders in business and politics. As MD of Campaigns & Communications, Bruce manages crises and plans and executes communications campaigns.

Environment needs a competent advocate, not more bad days

After only eight months in the job, Environment Minister Robyn Parker is almost on her last legs. The simple truth is, if the O’Farrell Government were a little older, if it were already starting to look a little dog-eared, Parker would no longer be a minister.

The Minister’s failure to respond quickly and adequately to the first Orica chemical emission incident in August was inexplicable. Her media conference appearances around that time and since, have been deplorable.

To this day, no adequate explanation has been given for the Minister’s unconscionable two-day delay in advising the community adjacent to Orica’s Newcastle plant of a potential health risk.

Asleep at the wheel was the obvious conclusion.

The company has this week confirmed that 45 kilograms of the potentially carcinogenic chemical - hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium VI – rained down on the plant and a further 20 kilograms fell on the residential community of Stockton.

Of course, Robyn Parker isn’t the only party at fault over the Orica incident and another incident has seen the plant shutdown.

For crisis management however, Robyn Parker gets a fail grade. As Minister, she has little or no grasp of the issues or knowledge of her responsibilities to the people who employ her, most notably the residents of Stockton. And yet, she survives.

As the new Premier, after ousting a long-term government, Barry O’Farrell has a lot of political credit left in his account. That’s why he still has a choice to retain an obvious under-performer like Robyn Parker.

And it’s why he can get off lightly with journalists by offering the line that the Minister was having a “bad day” in response to her latest hapless media conference.

Premier O’Farrell makes an obvious point when he said of Parker’s performance: “We sometimes have bad days. I've had bad days''.

That may be so, but for the Environment Minister, ‘bad days’ seem to be her default position. Over Orica, on other aspects of her portfolio, in media conferences, in parliament, the Minister just doesn’t have a clue.

The Coalition had 16 years in Opposition to hone its skills, to learn the craft of government and to select its personnel.

So the people, supporters and critics alike, are entitled to better than we are getting from this Minister.

It’s absurd for the Coalition to think they can rehearse for government when they are already there.

Barry O’Farrell can’t afford for the tag of incompetence to stick to the government as it has undoubtedly taken hold of Robyn Parker.

The environment, always at risk from elements within a Coalition Government, needs a competent ministerial advocate – not more ‘bad days’.



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