“Poverty raised its uncomfortable head in the ACT election campaign and from a counter-intuitive quarter,” writes “Seven Days” columnist IAN MEIKLE.
ACCORDING to the ACT Council of Social Service, before COVID-19 there were more than 37,000 people living in low-income households, including nearly 8000 children. Almost 26,000 Canberrans were living below the poverty line. That’s a lot of people and too many children.
Columnist and former chief minister Jon Stanhope writes passionately and regularly about how he believes the Labor government he once led has forsaken its traditional base – the poor and the disadvantaged – for succour among the city’s “selfish middle-class”.
It’s not a message the government of now 19 years likes being reminded of as it drives land prices up and sends young, low-income families into dour tower blocks or chasing an affordable home over the border.
The ACT Master Builders weren’t mincing words this past week when they pasted Labor on land prices, saying: “It is not accurate to describe Canberra’s affordability problem as a housing-affordability problem. The ACT has a land-affordability problem.”
But back to poverty. Astonishingly, it was Liberal leader Alistair Coe who took a stand for the poor and disadvantaged, and proposed on election his government would establish a taskforce to deal with the causes and symptoms of poverty in Canberra.
“Unlike other cities, poverty is not as obvious or visible in Canberra. However, in every suburb and in almost every street there are people living below the poverty line,” said Coe. “By almost every measure, Canberra is the most expensive city in the country.”
He then cheekily asked Jon Stanhope to chair a poverty taskforce and that was the sound of jaws dropping across the city when the former Labor chief minister accepted.
All just a political stunt, Chief Minister Andrew Barr predictably sniffed, but Coe said it would bring a huge integrity to a potential taskforce.
And that brought out rare praise for the Liberals from ACTCOSS, whose CEO Emma Campbell said: “While we await to hear more details of the commission, we welcome this announcement which responds to calls in ACTCOSS’ election platform.”
ANU demographer and social researcher Dr Liz Allen told our political reporter Belinda Strahorn: “I think it’s a fantastic sign to see that a political party would want to invest into an inquiry in to what is hidden in Canberra, and that’s this issue of poverty.
“My concern is that there is a level of complacency within the Labor/Greens coalition and with that complacency we don’t see these kinds of innovations or determination to address these issues around homelessness and poverty.
“We do a disservice to ourselves because we have hidden poverty in Canberra that makes it hard for young people and their families to survive.”
When baited on radio as to whether Stanhope’s consorting with the enemy would put his life membership of the Labor Party at risk, Barr responded: “That’s not something I give a rat’s arse about, frankly.”
And, at last, there was a spark of controversy in this tepid campaign.
ANYONE pining for normality in this less-than-normal world would have taken comfort at the news that the spring/summer mowing season has begun with the government promise that suburbs will be mown every four weeks and arterial road areas every five weeks.
But even the mowing season is different. Last year, in the absence of rain, mowing was done on an as-needs basis, but this year’s recent wet weather (and more forecast) has more contractors employed and ready to hit the ground mowing.
Each mowing pass across the city is 4749 hectares with each mower of the 70-machine fleet covering an average of 68 hectares every four weeks, if you were wondering.
Another hammer-and-sickle fanboy in the Labor ranks…
COMMENTATOR Gerard Henderson has picked up on UnionsACT president and Labor candidate for the seat of Kurrajong Maddy Northam’s unhappy recent photograph of her in front of a hammer-and-sickle poster on the wall of her campaign office, which was pictured in “Seven Days” on August 20.
In his “Weekend Australian” column he says: “The symbol was adopted by the Bolsheviks at the time of the 1917 Russian Revolution, led by Vladimir Lenin and his followers. It was supposed to represent the common interests of the industrial working class and the peasants. In fact, both groups — especially the latter — suffered under the Communist regime that was called the Soviet Union, headed by Lenin and his heirs.
“Trade union officials and aspiring Labor Party politicians should know better. They should be aware that the hammer and sickle was the symbol of choice for some of the most vicious and murderous regimes the world has known.”
Which might make Labor Murrumbidgee candidate Tim Dobson wonder about the company he’s keeping. Here he is pictured with T-shirted volunteer Tim SP. All rather chummy, just a couple of Labor comrades on the campaign trail. But a quick check of the non-candidate Tim’s open Facebook page reveals, alongside a pair of smiling dolphins, the Communist symbol.
Now in our democracy, Tim SP is perfectly at liberty to showcase whatever he wants, but one is left wondering how this reflects (again) on the Labor image.
Ian Meikle is the “CityNews” editor. He can be heard on the “CityNews Sunday Roast”, 10am-noon on 2CC.