“Has the same complacency that has plagued Labor in government followed them into the election campaign? It seems to me that this time around the Labor campaign lacks drive. There is a sense below all the hype that they have almost given up,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.
THE wild cards in the ACT election are Labor’s ability to mount an extraordinarily effective last-minute campaign and the unknown impact of minor parties such as the Greens, Canberra Progressives, Liberal Democrats and the Belco Party.
Disenchantment with the incumbent parties, and particularly the leaders of the major parties, provides an opportunity for the minors in this election.
Of all the minor parties, there are a few groups that stand out with extensive policies, prominent candidates and strong campaigning. The Canberra Progressives, the Greens and the Belco Party stand out most strongly. But there are others.
A strong crossbench capable of holding the ACT government to account has been missing for a couple of decades.
The Canberra Progressives have fielded candidates in three electorates. They have an extensive set of policies and a committed range of candidates.
Tim Böhm in Kurrajong is an experienced candidate having run with the Fast Train for Canberra Party in a previous election. He has a considerable social media presence. All of the Progressives’ candidates “hope that ACT politics can be improved”.
As an example, Tim wants a Canberra with “a world-class health and education system, and a future where my kids and everyone’s kids have a bright, clean and healthy environment”. He also hopes to “make the first steps in breaking the unfair cycle that the major parties have on the local and federal political system”.
Canberra Progressives’ leader Robert Knight, in Murrumbidgee, deserves credit for pulling together such a formidable group of people and getting agreement on a credible set of policies. He explains his reason for engaging in politics because of “growing inequality, particularly when it comes to housing affordability and the cost of living”.
Bethany Williams in Yerrabi is another interesting candidate for the Progressives. Bethany has an amazing 13,000 followers on Twitter with a handle “Don’t get mad. Get elected”.
Although many followers are outside of her electorate, there is an indication of strong community engagement as a worthwhile candidate. If Bethany and David Pollard Independents can get their voters to cross-preference, chances are improved for at least one of them being elected.
Individuals are important under the Hare-Clark electoral system. Dr Julie Smith, for example, is running with the Animal Justice Party. She is an ANU economist who has been prominent in academia and media as an advocate in such areas as vulnerable populations and women’s rights. Her expertise includes public economics, health and community care as well as taxation and revenue. The party might be based on a single issue, but such people are worth considering.
The Greens have been influential in the implementation of policies that protect the environment and encourage equity. Should the Liberals take government, the experience of Shane Rattenbury as a minister will assist in improving accountability.
In the 2016 election the Liberals’ campaign peaked early. It was countered by a very successful, massive door-to-door campaign mounted by the Labor Party.
It seems to me that this time around the Labor campaign lacks the same drive. There is a sense below all the hype that they have almost given up.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr acknowledged the possibility of Labor losing government. He told “CityNews” reporter Belinda Strahorn that he would not remain in the Legislative Assembly if Labor was not returned to government. Has the same complacency that has plagued Labor in government followed them into the election campaign?
Campaigning has changed. COVID-19 has changed the landscape dominating the news and largely restricting door knocking.
Even if Labor mounted a similar campaign to the last election – it would be too late. Rather than wait until polling day, many voters have followed the Elections ACT recommendations and have already cast their ballot.
Indications do favour the major parties in a closely tied contest. However, there is still a possibility that voters will want to see a much more accountable government, independent of whoever takes power.