Lee ruffles Ratters as Libs’ sap starts to rise 

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Elizabeth Lee’s leading a resurrection of the Libs, Robert Macklin’s in love with AstraZeneca and about those irritating stickers on apples… it’s “Seven Days” with IAN MEIKLE.

IT was great sport to see Liberal leader Elizabeth Lee ruffle the feathers of Greens leader, government minister and anti-gas man Shane Rattenbury in the Assembly the other day. 

Ian Meikle.

Ratters had been nudged to admit that the spanking new $300 million Civic office block, built to house 1100 ACT public servants, is powered by… (oh, no; oh, yes) gas!

Despite contradicting his own government’s (subsequent) policy on smart energy, the ACT has signed a 20-year lease with an additional option of a further five years that could lock in the power source for up to 2046.

Given he’ll be 76 when the lease expires, there’s a bleakly amusing irony that the Greens leader will see out his political career in an office heated in winter and cooled in summer by reviled gas. Only losing an election, it seems, will save him. 

Ratters accused the opposition leader of, imagine, trying to make nothing but a “political point” on the floor of the Assembly.

“The Liberal Party have done things like say that, ‘Mr Rattenbury is going to come to your house and rip out your gas heating system’ – they have actually said that,” he complained.

“That is not government policy. What we are saying to people is when your gas reaches the end of its useful life, which it will, replace it with an all-electric system.

“It’s better for the planet and it’s actually better for your bills.”

We could feel his pain when he bemoaned: “That is a source of frustration for me”, especially given his own party’s policy states: “This government leadership will make it easier for private developers to transition to gas-free developments by ensuring that all newly leased government buildings are electric”. It’s not easy being Green.

BUT Ms Lee sparked another thought that there’s a political story unfolding in front of us, one headline at a time. The short version is: Political shock – Canberra Libs behave like an opposition.

Liberal leader Elizabeth Lee… “It is an appalling thing to do to any woman

There’s conventional wisdom that says oppositions can’t win government in the first two years of a four-year term, but they can lose it.

I get the sense that leader Lee is setting out to turn that theory on its head and not give the Labor/Greens coalition time to get cosily back to indifferent business as usual. And won’t our local democracy be the better for it? 

She is modelling herself as a voice of reason, but directing her team to keep prodding the government on issues that drive the community insane. 

This past week she released a 600-response survey from the electorate that suggested e-scooters were welcome, but in the absence of any leadership or interest from the government, were being ridden too fast.

Before that she sought an inquiry into systemic racism at the AMC and, more recently, presented a Bill to the ACT Legislative Assembly to explicitly outlaw stealthing – the non-consensual removal of a condom during sex. 

The post-election Liberal activism seemed to start during summer when new member Leanne Castley, a self-described “political human wrecking ball”, started smashing it for the people of Yerrabi by championing repairs to Gungahlin’s problem-plagued pool.

It hasn’t stopped. Mark Parton (Brindabella) has been pushing the government on maintenance of public housing; Jeremy Hanson(Murrumbidgee) has accused the Education Directorate of hiding the extent of issues with lead contamination and asbestos in schools; Peter Cain(Ginninderra) has stood up for unaddressed community concerns around the upgrades to Kippax Fair shopping centre, promised by the ACT government in 2014; Giulia Jones (Murrumbidgee) took on the government over increasing burnout rates among hospital doctors and Elizabeth Kikkert (Ginninderra) has been highlighting the ACT’s shameful incarceration ratio for indigenous prisoners at the AMC. 

It’s me, isn’t it? Never mind the plastic bags, I’m waiting for our progressive government to save us from those pesky barcode stickers supermarkets seem to delight at putting on fruit, especially apples. Millions must get eaten every year. They’re made of coated paper, oil-based ink and glue. There’s got to be a health hazard in there somewhere.

“CITYNEWS” columnist and author Robert Macklin has written an unusual piece this week extolling the virtues of the controversial AstraZeneca vaccine. Since having the first jab, he says he’s enjoying a very welcome side effect.

Rob has a polite version of emphysema, a respiratory blight caused by smoking, which he quit 30 years ago. He is disciplined in keeping fit and taking “preventer” puffers to keep the discomfort at bay. 

I hate to scoop him, but since having the jab he’s breathing better. Since writing the column he’s emailed to say: “We’re down the coast now where I take my morning walk, only a kilometre, but up a very sharp hill. 

“It had been a struggle in the past, but today was much easier than I expected. 

“I realise the human mind is a precision instrument of self-delusion, but the positive side-effect does appear to be continuing.”

Here’s a man who can’t wait for the second jab! 

AND in another burst of covid quirkiness: as the world is convulsed by sickness and dying, a funeral director of my fond acquaintance was mournfully telling me the Australian death rate was currently down 2.5 per cent. 

Happily, that’s a number only an undertaker could bemoan. For the rest of us, lockdowns, hand washing and staying home has kept us away from viruses, off the roads and out of misadventure. 

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



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

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