Facebook Google Menu Linkedin lock Pinterest Search Twitter

Advertisement

Sep 9, 2002

The rare highs and many lows of Kate Carnell

Crikey doesn't mind former ACT chief minister Kate Carnell. She was the local pharmacist to Mrs Crikey in Red Hill for many years and would be a preferable Senator to someone like Gerry Wheeler. But she sure has built up an impressive list of critics and this bloke, who calls himself Arthur Act, has gone in even harder than Alan Ramsey.

Share

Crikey doesn’t mind former ACT chief minister Kate Carnell. She was the
local pharmacist to Mrs Crikey in Red Hill for many years and would be
a preferable Senator to someone like Gerry Wheeler. But she sure has
built up an impressive list of critics and this bloke, who calls
himself Arthur Act, has gone in even harder than Alan Ramsey.

When Kate Carnell nominated for and succeeded in winning the position
of Vice President of the ACT Liberal Party at the Party’s recent annual
meeting, she took her first practical step in her campaign to replace
Margaret Reid as an ACT Senator.

There is little doubt that those who cast their vote in her favour
knew that her nomination for the position was a precursor to her
nomination for the ACT Senate vacancy which will occur later in the
year with the resignation of Senator Margaret Reid.

It can reasonably be assumed that of more than half the one
hundred and seventy delegates who attended and voted for Carnell, each
was casting a vote for Carnell’s future political ambitions.

Ms Carnell’s election is in keeping with the appalling state into which
to some degree, every State and Territory Division of the Liberal Party
has sunk in recent years. Accompanying a dramatic decline in
membership, finance and political activity, has been a remarkable
decline in the quality of people offering themselves for parliamentary
preselection. Carnell’s candidature epitomises the quality of current
candidates.

The blatant and crude assault by Ms Carnell on Reid’s seat must dismay
Reid, whose career, while not having been spectacular has not been
touched by the slightest whiff of scandal or impropriety. She is widely
regarded as a thoroughly honourable and decent person who has achieved
the distinction of being President of the Senate.

It is a career and reputation which could not contrast more vividly
with the self promoting, free wheeling and outlandish Kate Carnell.

Carnell is attempting to resurrect a political career which ended in
ignominy and disgrace when she was driven from the office of Chief
Minister in the ACT government. It is precisely because of people such
as Carnell that the Liberal Party is in opposition in every State and
Territory in Australia.

In Carnell’s case, she almost single handily drove the ACT Liberal
government into opposition. To now wish to represent the same
constituents in the Australian Senate is breathtaking in its audacity.

By any measure, Ms Carnell’s political career has been controversial
and checkered. On December 7, 1997, Carnell, then the Chief Minister of
the ACT government rolled her motor vehicle just outside the border of
the ACT while returning to Canberra from a social function at a winery.
Carnell left the scene of the accident. The New South Wales police
arrived at the scene shortly after Carnell had left it. A male friend
travelling behind her brought her back to her Canberra office.

Carnell was not breathalysed because having left the scene of the
accident and returned to Canberra, she was no longer within the
jurisdiction of the New South Wales police.

In a quaint irony, Ms Carnell was subsequently appointed to the Board
of the NRMA. In an election which was required for her further
membership of the Board, she was dumped from the Board. On the occasion
of a subsequent casual vacancy caused by the resignation of another
Board member who had been popularly elected, Carnell was again
appointed to the Board. She recently resigned ahead of an election in
which it was anticipated that she would again be defeated.

The male friend who was following Carnell from the winery and who drove
her to her office, was local real estate agent and land developer,
Derek Whitcombe. Crikey does not intend and nor is any inference to be
drawn that Whitcombe had a curious and potentially, very beneficial
relationship with the ACT Liberal government and Carnell in particular.

On 18 December 1997, Carnell signed a secret Cabinet submission
recommending an exclusive joint-venture land deal in which her
government would give Whitcombe rights to develop a large package of
land on the ACT-NSW border at Hall. Carnell was not the relevant
responsible Minister and officers of the local planning authority had
advised against developing the land.

The recommendation was considered at a Cabinet meeting on December 22.
The submission caused an acrimonious debate among the Ministers with
fierce objection to the submission from a number of Ministers.

In spite of the division that the proposal had created at Cabinet, on
13 January 1998, three days before going into official caretaker mode
for the February ACT elections, the ACT government signed a Preliminary
Agreement with Mr Whitcombe in his capacity as a director of a shelf
company he had set up on January 6.

The leaked Cabinet submission disclosed that Ms Carnell had committed
the government to an exclusive deal with Whitcombe even though he had
not lodged a formal application for development as required under the
ACT Land Act. This agreement was in direct conflict with previous
Cabinet decisions which recommended against joint ventures in favour of
open tender.

Remarkably, no checks on the financial status of the developer, no
assessment of the risks to the government, no probity checks and
apparently, no land-title search had been undertaken before the
agreement was entered into and Carnell drove it through Cabinet.

At a committee meeting called urgently on May 8 to brief other Assembly
members, bureaucrats were unable to explain why or how it had all
happened. As late as February, officials of the government’s planning
office appeared to know nothing of the deal.

At the next Assembly sitting day, May 19, the Chief Minister’s
explanation for entering into an exclusive deal with Whitcombe was that
he had exclusive authority over the land in question. Carnell claimed
that it was only on May 15 that the government had learnt that
development rights over the leases rested in fact with the Government.
Ms Carnell said that as a consequence, Whitcombe had withdrawn from the
arrangement.

This appears to contradict Government correspondence to Hall residence
on the NSW-ACT border over the previous year which showed the
Government was aware of the status of the leases. That is also
indicated in the Cabinet submission.

Pressed in the Assembly by Labor, Carnell released the termination
document signed between the Government and Whitcombe. The document had
not been signed on May 19, as Carnell had led people to believe, but
rather, hastily on May 28, the day the Opposition demanded it be tabled
in the Assembly.

More public and at a personal level, more tragic, was the decision by
Carnell’s government to turn the implosion of the Canberra hospital in
July 1997 into a public spectacle with the public encouraged to attend
and watch the occasion. The incident resulted in the death of twelve
year old Katie Bender, struck by flying debris.

The Coroner found that Ms Carnell was not responsible for the death of
Katie Bender, however what did indirectly lead to her death was the
propensity of the Carnell Government to indulge in bread and circuses.
The Coroner concluded that Carnell’s office had been cavalier in its
attitude to the warnings from a health union about the possible dangers
of some aspects of the proposed implosion.

He stated that “the evidence on this topic leads me to conclude that Ms
Carnell was poorly briefed and advised on this subject matter. The
quality of the reply to the HSUA was sacrificed in the interests of
speed and expediency.”

The event which did cause Ms Carnell to be driven from office was
Canberra’s Bruce Stadium scandal. Carnell resigned rather than face the
inevitable motion of no confidence which was proposed due to the
massive blow out in costs of Bruce Stadium.

This fiasco was the sole responsibility of Chief Minister Carnell. In
his twelve volume report, the ACT Auditor-General, Mr John Parkinson
described the submissions taken to Cabinet by her as “inaccurate”,
“incomplete”, “unbalanced” and “unreliable.”

Carnell claimed that the cost of the Stadium was to be $12.3 million in
public funds and that an additional $15 million would be derived from
the private sector It now appears that the 110,000 ACT ratepayers have
been left by Carnell with a bill of $82 million.

As was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald at the time, the
Auditor-General found that Ms Carnell’s estimated $27.3 million cost
was based on notional sketches only and never subjected to analysis,
assessments or review. No private funding had been promised, and none
was offered. Funds were being drawn into the fiasco at such a rate that
by 1998, money was being spent that had not been appropriated.

The ACT Auditor-General also found that an overnight loan for $9.7
million from the Commonwealth Bank signed by Ms Carnell, was illegal.

To add insult to injury, the Canberra residents did not get the
additional minimum 3,600 covered seats promised, but rather just 1600.

This bread and circus mentality at any price also extends to a V8 car
race series, a Futsal slab on which no games of Futsal has ever been
played and a Wedding Chapel.

Whatever the dream of the international futsal (a five a side soccer)
slab, it did not eventuate in the way Carnell had envisaged. Built
directly down the road from the front door of Parliament House, it now
appropriately hosts circuses.

Carnell committed $17 million of ACT Government funds to staging five
V8 car races around the Parliamentary Zone. This fiasco was accompanied
by the usual extravagant claims. Four hundred million homes throughout
the world were going to be watching Canberra on television. Tourists
were to be arriving in their jumbo loads from every corner of the world
pouring millions of dollars into the local economy. The Auditor General
found no evidence of the race being shown internationally anywhere.

The ACT Auditor-General reported on the costly flirtation with V8 car
racing earlier this year. Rather than the $52 million that Carnell
initially claimed the five races would provide to the ACT economy, the
Auditor-General found that the series would cost the ACT taxpayers $29
million after just three of the races had been staged, the last being
in June this year. His most telling point was that “all financial risks
from the races are borne by Canberra Tourism and Events Corporation and
therefore ACT taxpayers.”

The Carnell government entered into an open ended agreement with the
promoters which placed all risk and financial responsibility onto the
ACT taxpayers. Upon obtaining office and learning of the full financial
implications of Carnell’s agreement, the Labor government recently
cancelled the Supercar contract, paid a $2 million penalty and settled
with the promoters rather than have the taxpayers incur further very
substantial losses.

At one stage Carnell was promoting the building of a mock wedding
chapel on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. The wedding chapel was
designed like an American prairie church. It was to attract Japanese
brides. Carnell boasted that Canberra would benefit from a $30 million
industry by attracting brides who could then be photographed draped
over national icons like the National Gallery.

She was competing with Hawaii, the Gold Coast and Sydney Harbour which
are the favoured destinations of Japanese couples wanting to “remarry”
in western style weddings. For obvious reasons – not the least
Canberra’s weather, the whole thing fell over.

Having been driven from office for conduct and behaviour which did not
meet the minimum standards of the ACT’s miniature parliament, Ms
Carnell now wishes to ascend to the national parliament. There has been
no evidence from any of her public utterances at least to the knowledge
of the writer that she has any regrets, remorse or contrition for her
past failings, least of all for the massive debt legacy which she left
the very constituents she now wishes to again represent.

If a failed provincial politician who has already once been driven from
office by the representatives of the people of Canberra is the best
Liberal that is available to represent the people of the National
Capital in the National parliament, may we need ponder why the Liberal
Party has been dumped from government in every State and Territory in
Australia.

ends Feedback: Margaret Reid was no saint

Heh Crikey,

whoever wrote that crap about Margaret Reid:

“The blatant and crude assault by Ms Carnell on Reid’s seat must dismay
Reid, whose career, while not having been spectacular has not been
touched by the slightest whiff of scandal or impropriety. She is widely
regarded as a thoroughly honourable and decent person who has achieved
the distinction of being President of the Senate”

is either one -eyed (most-likely) or stupid. Perhaps your
‘correspondent’s should have asked about Reid’s massive use of travel.
Or perhaps her utter abandonment of her constituents in the ACT when
she sat back and let the midget gut Canberra…..

In Arthur Act’s favour – at least he got it right on Kate Carnell.

Cheers, James.

Advertisement

We recommend

From around the web

Powered by Taboola

0 comments

Leave a comment

Advertisement

https://www.crikey.com.au/2002/09/09/the-rare-highs-and-many-lows-of-kate-carnell/ == https://www.crikey.com.au/free-trial/==https://www.crikey.com.au/subscribe/

Show popup

Telling you what the others don't. FREE for 21 days.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.