CANBERRA voters are about to elect Federal politicians to represent the people of the ACT. But do they?
Ever tried to get a response from your Federal politicians to an important local issue such as what is happening to West Basin or could you do something to stop those awful bland box towers dominating the Northbourne Avenue entrance to Canberra?
As the voting day gets closer the question is – will our three House of Representatives politicians and the two senators represent the Canberra voters on local matters?
Based on past performances, it is more likely that the five will concentrate on their party’s national issues and pay little attention to ACT matters. The Feds will look after their versions of national things (the big picture) and avoid local stuff as that’s the job of the ACT politicians. That sounds logical but maybe it is not that simple.
Some of that local stuff has a lot to do with the big picture and our ACT politicians continue to place your day-to-day issues way down any list of their priorities. Somewhere between this bigger-picture Federal outlook and the ACT government’s narrow view of the world, ACT voters are missing out on having any politicians take their issues seriously.
Canberra does not have a local government with councilors who remain accessible to their communities. We have an ACT government with ministers who spend too much time being important and collectively avoiding getting their hands dirty with down-to-earth issues that affect residents’ daily lives – such as questionable planning and undesirable developments.
This brings me to an election pamphlet that landed in my letterbox. This Federal candidate set out three points – climate, schools/hospitals and social justice.
These are top priority issues and ones that any progressive candidate would list. But she neglected to differentiate herself from any other candidate. She offered nothing special about herself and avoided identifying with local issues facing residents of Canberra or to state how she would assist with any of the urban issues that continually frustrate and annoy residents.
Should voters accept that our five Federal politicians think it is their duty to do nothing about the huge range of complex urban matters that affect Canberrans? This is wrong. These Federal politicians should recognise their responsibilities. Having been elected from electorates in Canberra, they should do a lot more that is tangible to honour their first contract – being the one they have with this electorate.
Here are a few issues that need to be addressed by those now hoping to be elected from Canberra in this Federal election:
What are you going to do about the horrible things that the ACT government is about to do to West Basin?
What are your views on the dangers to the heritage, the aesthetic and ecological values?
What steps will you take to bring creativity, intelligence and good design back into the planning and development that is about to happen along Northbourne Avenue?
What are you going to do about the slow reduction to Canberra’s urban forest and the subsequent effect this is having on the city’s biodiversity as well as reducing the opportunities to deal with climate change (increasing heat island effects)?
It is no longer good enough for Federal candidates to think that they can harass voters to get elected and then to walk away and be important as Federal politicians to sit on the hill and simply not care about the damage being done to the city that elects them.
It is time to look for Federal candidates who commit to staying in touch with residents and to assisting with residents in their quests for better outcomes on local heritage, ecological, urban and development issues. Link your vote to the future of Canberra’s urban environment.
Paul Costigan is an independent commentator and consultant on the visual arts, photography, urban design, environmental issues and everyday matters.