“The ACT has fallen further and further behind on national education comparisons. There are no excuses. A combination of lack of leadership, willingness to just let things go and failure to extrapolate from external successes has left the ACT lagging,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.
LABOR was on the front foot commencing the ACT election year. And then it went belly up. After nearly two decades in power they only have themselves to blame.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr started the election year promising savings for Canberra citizens. The third-party motor-vehicle insurance savings scheme meant savings along with the government’s program of encouraging competition to reduce the price of fuel.
Labor also did well on renewable energy with the ACT being the first jurisdiction in Australia to go 100 per cent electricity renewable. ACT Labor, with the support of the Greens, managed outstanding
leadership in the area of environment and sustainability.
Then came the start of the bad news.
Across the nation, Labor’s areas of strength, compared to the conservatives, are health and education.
ACT Labor has had two decades to have these areas simply humming. With such a high socio-economic base and such high levels of education, the ACT should be setting the gold standard for all jurisdictions in Australia.
Canberra is not an Australian leader. The ACT has fallen further and further behind on national comparisons. There are no excuses. A combination of lack of leadership, willingness to just let things go and failure to extrapolate from external successes has left the ACT lagging.
A workplace survey across ACT Health found only 29 per cent of workers had a high level of trust in the executive and management team. Even worse, only 31 per cent of employees believe they work in a
climate of trust and respect. Moreover, when change has been introduced, the vast majority at 69 per cent, feel that it is not well-planned and “client focused”. Note “clients”, not “patients” focused!
More than 4000 workers participated in a survey intended to understand how ACT Health can do better. On the surface, this is admirable. However, for an administration in power for close to two decades, these findings are revealing, embarrassing and debilitating.
It is not just the staff. The half-yearly performance report of the Canberra Health Service identifies that 80 per cent of patients needing urgent medical attention at the Canberra Hospital are not seen on time. Labor has reversed the figures from the time they came to power. In 2001, 80 per cent of such patients were seen on time.
These issues are electorally damaging. The Liberals have seized on the figures with shadow health minister Vicki Dunne describing the health system as in crisis and needing urgent intervention. “After years of promising to fix the problem, ACT Labor has proven itself incapable” she stated. Mrs Dunne then pointed out “that a poor workplace culture leads to adverse patient outcomes.”
Lack of educational achievement is even more devastating. Not so long ago the government was boasting “Top marks for ACT in NAPLAN tests” (2013) and “Canberra kids shine in NAPLAN testing again” (2014). At a time when the ACT has all the advantages to become a showcase in educational excellence, our students are falling behind. Labor has no one else to blame.
The 2016 ACT Auditor-General’s report ought to have been a wake-up call. It stated: “After taking account of intake and context differences, ACT government schools on average achieve negative results on every measure”.
On every measure!
Yvette Berry inherited this report as she became Minister for Education. Since then, NAPLAN results for ACT children have worsened.
There were further warnings. In September 2018 the “Canberra Times” reported: “The ACT tumbled again in rankings, with a particular slump between 2015 and 2017”.
On the latest raw results from NAPLAN, Victoria and NSW have now moved ahead of the ACT.
There is even worse news for the government. This year the NAPLAN results can be expected in late August or early September, just
weeks before the ACT election, which is on the third Saturday of October.
The renewable energy achievement will not be an election issue. It is highly unlikely the Canberra Liberals will attempt to reverse it. However, drastic failures in health and education will undermine trust in the performance of Labor and will undermine their re-election chances.
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health. He has been a political columnist with “CityNews” since 2006.