Costigan / The 2020 vision thing looks pretty grim

“The Labor Greens coalition came to power not because the Labor Party was embraced with enthusiasm, more because what choice was there?” asks Canberra Matters columnist PAUL COSTIGAN

The Legislative Assembly… independent candidates getting elected under our democratic processes? Best of luck with that! Photo by Paul Costigan

WITH the 2020 ACT election two years away (October 17, 2020), it is timely to speculate on the performances by our local politicians and look back to the 2016 election.

The Labor Greens coalition government came to power not because the Labor Party was embraced with enthusiasm, more because what choice was there?

Paul Costigan.

The Liberals were screaming negative messages about the tram and were seen to do a Tony Abbott with “nope, nope, nope” to everything. They had some positive messages but these were pushed aside by their own negativity. They looked and acted like an opposition party, not one ready to govern.

The Liberals’ ultra-conservative side jumps into prominence every so often and puts itself at odds with the fairly progressive and humane attitudes within the Canberra electorates.

For instance, it does not do the Liberals much good to be seen attending a Sydney Liberal meeting and voting with the conservatives on cutbacks to the ABC and then recently agreeing with the voting in the Senate against giving the ACT the right to make its own legislative decisions. On top of this, the perception continues that Senator Zed Seselja’s influence continues with his fundamentalist, flat-earth views on important social and humane matters. Not a good look.

People agree that Canberra’s hospital system works well most of the time. However, recent revelations suggest there is a need for a wide-ranging independent review. But that does not mean it requires a royal commission as being argued for by the ACT Liberals.

The trouble being that the ACT Health Minister does not exactly exude transparency and so there is not a lot of trust in her government’s handling of health and hospital matters. Then there is the irony of the ACT Liberals calling for a royal commission when their federal cousins continuously resist calls for important royal commissions. Perceptions count.

As for the Greens, there were hopes that they would influence major changes around planning and development. Instead, by being in Cabinet, they own the outrageous decisions made by the Barr government on inappropriate development proposals.

Up go the towers, down come the trees, say goodbye to biodiversity and all the birds, ignore heritage and invent new ways to discredit the voices of the community groups – all seen as being part of the Labor Greens methodology for advancing the government’s (not residents’) agenda for Canberra.

People did not vote in 2016 to change our beloved bush capital into yet another city with walls of glass and steel – what another writer calls machine-architecture. It would be great to see some really innovative architecture and landscapes along Northbourne; just don’t hold your breath. Which brings me to the latest of this government’s way of dealing with residents.

Before the 2016 election people complained about the power given to the Land Development Agency and planning bureaucrats to do what they wished with the suburban infrastructure. Planning got even more horrid and complicated.

To solve this, the government put in place an Urban Development Minister, a Planning Minister, a new Minister for Community Facilities, the City Renewal Authority, the Suburban Land Authority, the ACT Planning Authority and the infamous Planning Directorate – alongside the National Capital Authority. That has definitely made things simpler!

We must mention the chances of independent candidates to get elected under our ACT government’s democratic processes. With so little trust in the major three, one would hope that independents could pop up in our assembly. Sadly, given recent changes to how things are done, the best we can offer is – “best of luck with that!” It would take an enormous effort, starting about now, for any independents to be elected in 2020. This is a real shame.

So how are we travelling on our democratic journey towards the 2020 election? Not good. The Labor Greens are definitely on the nose – but acceptable alternatives are yet to identify themselves. Anyone?

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