THE ACT Government is hell-bent on spending a billion dollars on light rail and a billion dollars on getting the Mr Fluffy homeowners out of the trouble they’re in over their unfortunate real estate investment decisions (even if many of them don’t appear to appreciate the staggeringly generous offer they’ve been given).
This opens up some interesting policy parameters and, as all three parties in the Assembly appear to speak for homeowners, alternative thinking is going to have to come from somewhere else.
So with a few glasses of red under my belt, let’s pull out the butcher’s paper and the markers and get sketching.
Right up until the moment something or other convinced Simon Corbell to throw himself behind light rail he made very compelling arguments as to how bus rapid transit could deliver 80 per cent of the benefits for 20 per cent of the cost of a tram to Gungahlin.
Alrighty, that frees up $800 million for spending on other things.
How about we fix homelessness?
Increasingly, pilot programs around the world show that providing basic accommodation actually costs less than the law enforcement and health costs of leaving people out on the street.
How many victims of domestic violence had stayed in that house because they didn’t have anywhere to take the kids and the dog? (I know a few)
The Liberals are willing to throw away our freedoms to forestall just one death in Australia at the hands of a terrorist, but in the order of 50 Australian women a year die through domestic violence.
Also of concern is how many young Canberrans posting on Facebook: “Anyone got a place I can stay tonight?” Not everyone who answers that call is a nice person.
So if I was king we’d stack up the shipping containers and anyone who comes asking can have somewhere warm and dry, with a mattress and a lock on the door. No questions asked.
And we keep stacking them up until we’ve got spare capacity.
In the past housing projects like this have lead to crime problems, but cheap CCTV and DNA evidence have really turned the tide on that around the world.
What do we lose? The homelessness cottage industry has to find some other good work. But as they have the best interests of the homeless at heart, one hopes that won’t be a problem.
Next up, health and mental health. An ACT Government co-payment for bulk-billing GPs and psychiatrists would be my plan. Keep bumping that up until we’re so full of health professionals there’s room for everyone. Run an IT support unit so doctors can run an appointment system with the sophistication of, well, a free Google Calendar installation, which would be an immense improvement over the current medieval arrangements.
All this primary health and housing should free up a bit of room at the hospital while we’re at it.
If we’re still short of cash, then sacking every public servant with password access to an ACT Government social media account would bring significant savings while advancing the public good enormously.