Stephen George "Steve" Pratt (born 15 October 1949) is an Australian former military officer, aid worker and Liberal politician in the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly for the electorate of Brindabella.
Pratt spent the late 1990s working for the foreign aid organisation CARE Australia. Prior to that, he had a 23-year career as a Military Officer in the Infantry of the Australian Army, seeing service throughout the Asia/Pacific region. He worked in dangerous front-line locations including Rwanda, Cambodia, Zaire, Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, as well as in Yemen, Jordan and Kenya, managing up to 32 international aid workers and 2000 local staff. In 1993 and 1994 Pratt worked as a senior manager in northern Iraq alongside the UN dealing with the humanitarian problems that followed the Gulf War. He and his colleagues came under fire from Ba’athist Fedayeen as well as religious extremists.
Iraq spying allegations
Allegations that Pratt used the cover of humanitarian work to undertake spying activities for the United Nations in Northern Iraq during 1992 and 1993 were published in The Sunday Telegraph of 11 April 1999. Reportedly, Pratt's activities became known to the Iraqi Government and a price was apparently placed on his Head. He quickly left Iraq in 1993. These allegations were later found to have been inadequately verified by the Australian Press Council.
Yugoslav spying allegations
In 1999 whilst evacuating Yugoslavia, Pratt and fellow Australian Peter Wallace and Yugoslav Branko Jelen, were arrested by Yugoslav authorities and accused of spying for NATO and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Pratt was forced to make a video taped confession, which was broadcast worldwide. After spending 5 months of a 12-year sentence in jail in Yugoslavia, he was released in September 1999 by former Serb Leader, Slobodan Milosevic after appeals for clemency.
An investigation in 2000 by journalist Graham Davis of the Australian SBS network suggested an arrangement between CARE Canada, part of the CARE Federation, and the Government of Canada, a NATO member, to recruit a team of people, including former military personnel, to help monitor events in Kosovo during the Yugoslav civil war. It was also revealed that former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who is now CARE Australia's Chairman, and Graham Davis had known of the agreements with CARE Canada and the Canadian Government during the time of Pratt's jailing, but had agreed not to reveal any of the details for fear of jeopardising the release of Pratt, Wallace, and Jelen. Jelen was not released, in fact, until the following year through the help of Bernard Barron, founder of World Vision in Australia. Wallace and Jelen who were held with him sued their former employer for negligence claiming Pratt’s spying actions placed them in danger.
On 20 October 2001 Pratt was elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly as a Liberal MLA for the electorate of Brindabella. He was re-elected in the 2004 election. In September 2007, he became the Shadow Minister for Urban Services, Transport, and Emergency Services and Multicultural affairs. He was defeated in the 2008 Legislative Assembly election.
Pratt's political views are generally focused on law and order, ACT Government school closures, road safety, infrastructure needs in the ACT, the needs of the residents of Tharwa, including upgrades to the Tharwa Bridge, and opposition to the proposed gas-fired power station and data centre.
Disdain for public art and graffiti removal
Pratt gained notoriety for an ill-conceived campaign against graffiti and vandalism. In April 2007 he 'cleaned up' a legal mural that had been funded by a local disc (frisbee) golf club at Eddison Park, Woden, under a program intended to prevent unauthorised graffiti and vandalism. Despite being told by ACT Government officials prior to removing the mural the work was considered to be art, Pratt considered the work "obnoxious" and removed it anyway. The matter was later referred to the Australian Federal Police for further investigation.
On 15 August 2008, Pratt released a media release describing a new 11 metre tall outdoor wind activated kinetic sculpture commissioned by the ACT Government as 'unnecessary', and a potential traffic hazard for motorists. He stated that he had hoped the construction he had observed would have yielded another light pole or traffic sign, and not a piece of public art.
Pratt has the following decorations: the National Medal, the Defence Force Service Medal, the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal (clasps: Iraq; Great Lakes (Africa); Balkans), and the Australian Service Medal (South East Asia).
He is the author of Duty of Care, an account of CARE Australia's emergency overseas work 1993–1999 and his ordeal under detention, in the former Yugoslavia, during the NATO conflict.
In 2002, he obtained his Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS) through the University of New England, specialising in "International Community Development" (ICD).
He is married to Samira and has two children, Haydon and Yasmina.
- The secret past of Aussie aid worker; By KATRINA CREER; THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH [Sydney, Australia]; 11 April 1999, Sunday; FULLPAGE, LOCAL; Pg. 20; reprinted at http://emperors-clothes.com/archive/telegraph.htm
- Crickey; Nov 20, 2006
- Waterford, Jack (19 October 2008). "No surprises and little comfort for either side". The Canberra Times. Archived from the original on 22 October 2008.