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Eleanor HallEleanor Hall hosts The World Today's lunch hour of current affairs, with background and debate from Australia and the world. Monday to Friday, 12:10pm, ABC Local Radio.




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ACT Chief Minister resigns ahead of no confidence vote

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The World Today Archive - Tuesday, 17 October , 2000  00:00:00

Reporter: Alexandra Kirk

COMPERE: Let's come home now. And in the Australian Capital Territory in Canberra the Chief Minister has conceded. Kate Carnell said this morning that she's moving on, to pre-empt tomorrow's no-confidence motion and preserve a Liberal minority government in the Territory.

Yesterday, of course, she suggested her government could call an early election or simply go into opposition, or even that she could resign as Chief Minister but remain as party leader.

Those moves, of course, were widely condemned.

This morning she took the resignation option.

Alexandra Kirk in Canberra:

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Kate Carnell, the longest serving female state or territory leader, faced a no-confidence motion tomorrow to be carried by the two Independents who hold the balance of power over her handling of the redevelopment of the Bruce football stadium. The Auditor-General found the cost of the project had blown out and the government had breached due process by not seeking parliamentary approval for the extra $12 million.

For days Kate Carnell has tried to find a way to minimise the impact of the no-confidence motion or circumvent it.

Trying to stare down the Independents, she pledged no other Liberal would nominate for her position, so the no-confidence motion would in fact have meant the government would be sacked.

That prompted one of them to suggest Kate Carnell call an early poll so the voters, not the Independents, would decide the Carnell government's fate.

She flirted with the idea, suggesting her government call an early election even though the ACT has a fixed term. Or perhaps, she mused, the Labor Party could assume government ? knowing the Independents wanted to punish her but not necessarily the Liberal government.

Lastly, some dubbing it the most audacious and dangerous suggestion, as to resign as chief minister, allow her deputy Gary Humphries to take over as chief minister in name only, with Kate Carnell remaining leader and still pulling the strings.

But this morning it was back to plan A: take it on the chin, jump before being pushed, and conveniently, keep the Liberals in power.

After five years as chief minister, and surviving many political scandals against huge odds, in the end it was her reputation as a 'can do' minister that, despite the accolades, brought her down, failing to respect due process.

Kate Carnell is calling it a day.

KATE CARNELL: I have decided to resign as Chief Minister, and I will leave the Assembly before the next election.

The reason for that, Chris ? I think there's nothing more ? well, with more of a use-by date than an ex-leader. I don't think it's fair to look over what will probably be Gary Humphries' shoulder in the longer term. So, if I'm going to go, I think I really do need to go, after a hand-over period and after everything is settled down a bit.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Mrs Carnell says she was tempted to go for an early election, but it would have been too contrived, based on a single issue.

KATE CARNELL: And I know there'll be a lot of people who will be very disappointed. Lots of people have said that, you know, that you've just got to stay, and all of those sorts of things. But at the end of the day I think the greater good is taken by me stepping aside.

We'll have another party room this morning at which stage Gary Humphries will be elected as party leader. And he will be our nomination for Chief Minister when we sit, which I assume would be tomorrow.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: She is not planning to stand at the next election, but isn't indicating how long she'll stick around or whether she has a future in politics. For now she intends to remain in Cabinet.

KATE CARNELL: Obviously what portfolios occur, if I have a portfolio, is in the hands of the new leader.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: On Brisbane radio 4BC, John Howard put in the expected good word.

JOHN HOWARD: It's a decision that she has taken in the interests of the Liberal Party and the interests of good government of Canberra. She's led a very good government, and it's quite wrong that she's effectively being forced out by some Independents, just as it was wrong many years ago that Independents forced Nick Greiner out as Premier of New South Wales. She's put the interests of the Liberal Party and the interests of Canberra ahead of her own. And I compliment her on the job that she's done as Chief Minister.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The ACT Labor Leader Jon Stanhope appears to accept Labor won't be forming a government just yet, and says Gary Humphries isn't a good chief minister option.

JON STANHOPE: The Attorney-General to be chief minister Gary Humphries was in the Cabinet. But the Attorney-General was sitting at the Chief Minister's right hand whilst those decisions to expend money illegally were taken. What was the first law officer of the ACT doing through all this process?

COMPERE: That's Jon Stanhope. Labor Leader in the ACT local Assembly. Alexandra Kirk reporting for us on that story of political decisions in Canberra.
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