Battling on through the pre-poll policy blizzard

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The policies are coming thick and fast and the Chief Minister’s threatening to walk if Labor loses on October 17. It’s another “Seven Days” in election-charged Canberra. IAN MEIKLE reports… 

WHAT have we learnt this week as Canberrans navigate a blizzard of policies (aimed at pre-pollers) from parties large and small?

Ian Meikle.

We know the Libs don’t want you wasting money to see the GP nor wasting time to get any subsequent surgery. They have “declared war” on hospital waiting lists, promising to halve wait times and turbocharge elective surgeries and emergency departments. And they’ve suspended commercial rates for two years atop the already promised four-year pause in rate rises for domestic property owners. 

We know that Labor has promised a new, zero-emissions primary school for 600 Strathnairn kids in emerging West Belconnen (though deep down, I fancy good town planning would have already had it on the drawing board). 

That’s a lazy $45 million to build and there’s another $33 million for Narrabundah College, of which “stage one” will include upgrading old buildings and replacing the temporary transportable classrooms with energy efficient ones.

If that’s the cost of the refurb, one can only imagine what a dump it must have become under the government’s watch. Oh, hang on, they’re the same people making the refurb promises.

Then came $85 million for a new high school in Taylor and $35 million for a primary school in north Gungahlin. 

That’s a $200 million lick before we get to the vague promises to look into expanding schools in Woden and Molonglo that were met with silence when tenacious “CityNews” assistant editor Danielle Nohra asked (as she does relentlessly from all parties) for costs.

STILL on schools, Labor’s tipping $99 million into renewing school infrastructure projects on the heels of the Liberals’ pledge to spend $15 million on boosting school maintenance projects over four years. 

THE gobsmacker of the week, for me, was the news that Andrew Barr will not present himself to the next Legislative Assembly as Opposition Leader. 

In an otherwise pleasant interview with “CityNews” political reporter Belle Strahorn he made it plain that it would be the “end of an era” if Labor lost the October 17 poll. Not the commitment to public service that electors in Kurrajong might be expecting.

“If we aren’t supported in October that’s the end of an era, and I don’t intend to hang around like a miserable ghost.” he says.

No win, no Andy – it’s a proposition that, if the ClubsACT polling is to be believed, won’t be keeping quite so many people in the ACT awake at night. 

To use marketing parlance, the poll of more than 1300 respondents revealed that the shine had gone off Brand Barr and that he was being identified as a liability to Labor. His leadership style attracted a lot of unflattering commentary. Opponent Alistair Coe, by comparison, attracted only one desultory remark.

Candidate Rattesh Gumber… straight into the Liberal Kool-Aid.

WITH restrained fanfare (ie none) the Canberra Liberals have settled on the party’s fifth candidate for Kurrajong. IT project manager and company director Rattesh Gumber has caught the hospital pass after two earlier nominees very publicly fell over. 

Straight into the Liberal Kool-Aid, he says: “I am putting myself forward because I know how hard it is for families and businesses to make ends meet and we need a government that is focused on helping everyone get ahead.” 

Bruce Paine’s corflute… a bat in heaven’s chance.

WITHOUT being too technical, but “bat in hell” is the sentiment safely applied to most, if not all, independent candidates’ chances at ACT elections these days. They struggle to get seen, they struggle to get heard and they struggle to get first-preference votes, no matter how patiently political columnist Michael Moore explains the vagaries of Hare Clark, as he did last week.

Bruce Paine, an independent candidate for Kurrajong, became one I noticed in recent days from his (possibly only) red and green corflute sign on Cotter Road. 

In a note to “CityNews” he bemoans the thousands of corflutes that major political parties are using and that all the public funding they receive should instead be spent on Canberrans in need.

He notes, correctly, that candidates who win at least four per cent of the valid vote are funded from public money more than $8 a vote. 

“The three major parties received a combined total of over $1.6 million following the last ACT election: $750,488 for Labor; $717,056 for Liberals and $200,768 for the Greens,” he writes, then pluckily challenges them to donate those funds to charity.

He leads by example: “As an independent candidate for Kurrajong, I will qualify for the same $8 a vote if I exceed the four per cent threshold. I commit now to donate every dollar I receive to charities for their work in Canberra.”

Mr Paine might be a bat destined for heaven, but probably not for the Legislative Assembly. 

Ian Meikle is the “CityNews” editor and can be heard on the “CityNews Sunday Roast”, 2CC, 9am-noon.

 

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Ian Meikle
Ian Meikle is the owner and editor of "CityNews".

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