Macklin / All aboard, the tram election is on its way

“The biggest election issue, it seems, is the cost of the Gungahlin light rail but whether that’s enough to secure the Libs the treasury benches remains to be seen,” writes Seven Days columnist ROBERT MACKLIN

ALL politics really is local this past week as the major parties gear up for the October election.

Robert Macklin

Robert Macklin.

The Libs, we’re told, are already door-knocking in some of the better suburbs while both they, Labor and the Greens are haunting the shopping centres with their sandwich boards and flyers.

The biggest issue, it seems, is the cost of the Gungahlin light rail but whether that’s enough to secure the Libs the treasury benches remains to be seen. The Barr-Rattenbury government is pressing ahead anyway with detailed construction plans and plenty of actual spade work before polling day.

CM Andrew Barr has scored well with Canberra’s travellers – those direct Singapore Airlines flights are a real winner – but, of course, they’ll still be available no matter who wins.

Lib Leader Jeremy Hanson is running hard on health with promises to spend $10 million on more than 50 nurses and protection for “frontline” staff in the Canberra and Calvary hospitals. However, those 60 extra beds promised earlier will not be “operational”, he says, until 2019-20.

IF the Libs were hoping for a “bounce” from the victory of PM Malcolm Turnbull they can forget it. Even the habitually undecideds – your columnist among them – are dismayed by his performance to date. Sadly, he’s looking like the puppy that caught the car and now doesn’t know what to do with it.

THE Australia Day concert imbroglio was a smack in the eye for Canberrans and yet another indicator that the Feds have little regard for the symbolic nature of the national capital.

And Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce’s attempt to move elements of his department to other provincial cities – starting with the Rural Industries Research and Development Organisation – is more grist to the anti-Canberra mill. Pleased to see the staffers have dug in their heels.

WHEN will anybody do anything about the way we’re gouged by the oil companies with fuel prices way above the rest? This week ACCC chairman Rod Sims said they were adding an “unjustified” three to four cents a litre to our petrol. “The gross retail margins in Canberra are really higher than I think you can justify by cost or any other difference,” he said.

His solution? Drive to Queanbeyan to fill up. Gee, thanks Rod.

EVEN the wombats are taking up arms against us with the attack on Kerry Evans, of Banks. Poor Kerry suffered more than 20 bites from the marauding marsupial while on an evening walk with her dogs Murphy and Pirate.

While it doesn’t say much for the protective abilities of her “best friends”, according to local wombat expert Martin Lind it’s not just Canberrans in their sights: “When they start to mature and hit puberty, they hate everybody and everything”.

Well, that’s something.

ON a much happier note, Canberra’s cultural community is showing what we’re really made of with the new locally produced movie “Joe Cinque’s Consolation” scoring a place in the Toronto International Film Festival. Directed by Sotiris Dounoukos, it will be showing in  our own cinemas from October 13.

AND the first Canberra Writers’ Festival highlighted the splendid work of our own authors – not least Fred Smith’s memoir of his time in Afghanistan, “The Dust of Uruzgan”. It’s a fascinating read.



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