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Australian Capital Territory: Chief Minister refuses to sack his environment adviser for painting graffiti about the Prime Minister.

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Thursday 14 April 2005

Australian Capital Territory: Chief Minister refuses to sack his environment adviser for painting graffiti about the Prime Minister


MARK COLVIN: An emotional fight's erupted between the Federal Government and the Australian Capital Territory's Chief Minister. 


The Commonwealth is demanding that the Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, sack his environment adviser who was caught painting graffiti about the Prime Minister on a building in Canberra. 


But Jon Stanhope has twice refused to accept his adviser's resignation. He says he'll stand by the young staffer even if he's found guilty. 


Rachel Carbonell reports. 


RACHEL CARBONELL: The Federal Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, started his press conference on the environment minister's meeting in Darwin this afternoon with a stern directive to the Australian Capital Territory's Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope. 


IAN CAMPBELL: Could I firstly say that one of the unusual things today is that we have one of the environment ministers and his environment adviser here with us who has made an issue out of refusing to accept a resignation from this adviser, the adviser having admitted to spreading graffiti around the national capital.  


Could I say that Jon Stanhope should do the right thing, he should accept the adviser's nomination, otherwise he's sending a signal to all Australians that graffiti's okay. Graffiti's not okay. Local councils, communities, governments around Australia are spending millions of dollars trying to defeat the graffiti menace, and Mr Stanhope through his lack of action is effectively saying that there's no consequence for spreading graffiti around Australia's national capital.  


So I call on him to send this adviser home from Darwin, send him back to Canberra, ask him to pack his desk and please help us send a clear signal that graffiti's not acceptable. 


RACHEL CARBONELL: Jon Stanhope's environment adviser, Aiden Bruford, was caught by police spraying anti-Howard Government graffiti on private property in Canberra last week. 


The young staffer has offered his resignation twice, but the ACT Chief Minister has refused to accept it. 


The pair was chased by a media pack outside the meeting, and soon after, Mr Stanhope gave his explanation. 


JON STANHOPE: I've indicated to him that I believe that for him to resign or for me to sack him was essentially the soft option for both he and for I, that it was far better for him to face the sort of public humiliation and embarrassment which you've just submitted him too.  


But really that was far tougher than resigning and scuttling away into the dark.  


It is a serious offence, but we do need to put it into context, we need not to be hysterical about it, we need to acknowledge that many of us, and there but for the grace of God of course go many of us, that many of us from time to time have major lapses of judgment, we engage in behaviours that are wrong and criminal.  


I for instance know many politicians that have breached the drink driving law. I know a number of judges that have, that have kept their jobs. 


RACHEL CARBONELL: Mr Stanhope described his adviser as a talented young man who deserved to be supported, despite the stupidity of his actions. 


JON STANHOPE: I didn't discuss with him his rationale or his thoughts, I simply indicated to him how unacceptable his behaviour was, that he had acted stupidly. 


RACHEL CARBONELL: Senator Ian Campbell said that by you not sacking him you are sending the wrong message to the community. What do you say to that? 


JON STANHOPE: I don't believe I am. I believe I have a responsibility as an employer. I think there is another, more powerful message that I'm sending to the community, is that if we are genuinely interested in supporting young people, supporting those that make mistakes, not engaging in reactionary, red neck responses to what is a serious indiscretion, but on the scale of things you know, no hanging offence.  


He defaced a building. Look, let's put this in perspective. He defaced a building. 


RACHEL CARBONELL: At the end of Mr Stanhope's media conference, events took a sour turn, as the Chief Minister became engaged in a disagreement with a commercial television journalist. 


JON STANHOPE: Any other intelligent questions? 


REPORTER 1: And you're not ruling out sir that others in your office haven't known about it? 


JON STANHOPE: Any other intelligent questions?  


No. Thank you very much for your attention. 


REPORTER 1: You're not ruling that out? 


REPORTER 2: An intelligent answer would have been good mate. 


JON STANHOPE: You're some dickheads. 


I think you need to listen.  


REPORTER 2: Well he's not working for me, mate. 


JON STANHOPE: I doubt that anybody is, or ever will. 


REPORTER 2: No, spot on.  


JON STANHOPE: Get your hands off me, mate. 


REPORTER 2: Yeah righto buddy. 


JON STANHOPE: Don't ever lay your hands on me again mate. 


REPORTER 2: I laid one. What are you going to do about it? 


JON STANHOPE: Well I say if you do it again I will take action. 


REPORTER 2: Well hopefully I won't see you again mate. 


JON STANHOPE: Well I think I'd endorse that. 


RACHEL CARBONELL: Mr Stanhope's environment adviser Aiden Bruford declined to comment. 


MARK COLVIN: Rachel Carbonell in Darwin.