The Canberra Liberals are deeply saddened by the loss of a former colleague and well loved Canberra identity.

Val Jeffery was a respected Canberran who devoted a great part of his life to serving the community, particularly through the Rural Fire Service.

Val was passionate about Tharwa and preserving the historical importance of rural villages in the ACT. Val always stood up for what he believed was right and never shied away from taking on authorities in pursuit of common sense.

The opportunity to serve alongside him in his political career in the Assembly was a privilege.

The Canberra Liberals’ thoughts and sympathies are with his wife Dorothy and family at this time.

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The Canberra Liberals have welcomed the government’s announcement to establish the position of the ACT’s first Chief Engineer. However, the announcement raises questions as to whether the position would function effectively by itself and without proper support, Shadow Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Nicole Lawder said today.

“Ahead of last year’s ACT Election, the Canberra Liberals committed to establishing an Engineers’ panel, to work in consultation with the government on infrastructure. The government needs to ask itself whether a sole Chief Engineer, without a supporting panel is a half-baked policy,” Ms Lawder said.

“Having an Engineers’ Panel consisting of members who have different engineering skills and knowledge bases would ensure that projects are of the highest quality and appropriately selected so that the ACT can have the best infrastructure in the country.

“This point was highlighted by Engineers Australia’s General Manager, Sydney and Canberra Divisions, Greg Ewing who said in 2016: ‘Having a Chief Engineer, together with a dedicated engineers’ panel would provide government with a real focal point, as well as help solve problems in the design phase of major projects.’

“The government would not introduce a Chief Medical Officer or a Chief Scientist without appropriate support and the government should recognise that public infrastructure is vital to a vibrant community. The government should be doing all it can to support the new role,” Ms Lawder concluded.

New ACT deputy political party leaders Nicole Lawder and Yvette Berry discuss their priorities

The Canberra Liberals and Labor have both chosen women to take on the challenging Deputy Leaders job for their respective parties in the ACT Legislative Assembly.

ALP MLA Yvette Berry is deputy of ACT Labor, while Nicole Lawder was chosen as deputy leader of the Canberra Liberals.

Both spoke to breakfast host Louise Maher about their priorities and hopes as the 9th Assembly prepares to sit for the first time.

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Rachel Stephen-Smith should refer the disturbing allegations of systemic violence, drugs and a toxic culture at Bimberi Youth Detention Centre to ACT Policing for immediate investigation, Shadow Minister for Families, Youth and Community Services Elizabeth Kikkert said today.

“News of the sickening systemic behaviour inside Bimberi is in fact illegal if allegations of drug use and systemic violence are found to be true,” Mrs Kikkert said.

“It is imperative that Minister Stephen-Smith refer these matters to ACT Policing for investigation immediately, if she has not done so already.

“As a territory we do not tolerate this behaviour. Children, young people and staff will continue to live in this dangerous, toxic and illegal environment unless the Minister acts swiftly and decisively.

“Sadly, all we are seeing is a government that has lost its way when it comes to providing protection and care for the most vulnerable in our territory.

“Allegations of violence and a poisonous working culture are not new. The Opposition and numerous whistleblowers have for years persistently alerted Minister Stephen-Smith and her predecessors to the toxic situation, urging her and the ACT Government to resolve systemic issues.

“It was pressure from the Opposition that resulted in a Human Rights Commission report in 2011 which made more than 200 recommendations. What the Government seems slow to understand is that its continued resistance to act on these recommendations has meant more children and staff are suffering in the ACT’s youth detention system.

“Minister Stephen-Smith needs to step up and take responsibility before more people are harmed. The first step she should take is to refer these damning allegations to the police for immediate investigation,” Mrs Kikkert concluded.