Endless grind of opposition gets the better of Al

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“No-one goes into politics to be in opposition,” says Alistair Coe, who’s getting out of politics and away from 12 years… in opposition. Slow learner or smart guy?  Here’s another “Seven Days” with IAN MEIKLE.

Former Liberal leader Alistair Coe in campaign mode…“No-one goes into politics to be in opposition”.

WHAT a week for ending political careers. Democracy nudged America’s reviled 45th president, Donald Trump, down the laundry chute of history and, more locally, former opposition leader Alistair Coe went into the library and “shot” himself, so to speak, for who knows why. 

Ian Meikle.

Coe, the former Liberal opposition leader, is prophetically quoted as saying that no-one goes into politics to be in opposition.

And after 12 years on the opposition benches, the former Liberal leader and recently appointed shadow treasurer decided to walk the talk and turn away from his political career saying, in effect, he’d lost his mojo for the work.

To do what? Nothing, it seems. “Whilst I am not sure what the future has in store for me, my passion for Canberra and the Liberals remains strong,” he says. 

Coe, a seasoned and skilled campaigner, led the Canberra Liberals to a drubbing at the election in October. There was a lot of criticism of the style and messaging of his campaign and I reckon he’s taken this heavily.

My suspicion affirmed from Coe’s quote amid the “grateful to” blah blah: “In the weeks since the 2020 election, I’ve had the opportunity to contemplate my future. I am proud of what I have achieved and my commitment to the ACT over the past 12 years.”

I’ve always liked Al and I have rarely seen a more engaged, sincere politician who has worked so tirelessly for the two electorates he represented – Ginninderra and Yerrabi – since 2008. 

He turned up to everything and as Greens leader Shane Rattenbury generously says: “Alistair also worked hard to engage the multicultural community in ACT politics – an important contribution to making Canberra a more inclusive city, and work that will strengthen our democracy.

 “While we often disagreed heartily about issues, Alistair represented his beliefs and his constituency in a genuine and heartfelt manner.”

High praise for a hard worker, who the Chief Minister, in the heat of the election, pasted as a dangerous conservative. 

But that’s not how Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee sees him: “Alistair has been a steadfast advocate for those in our community who are being left behind; vulnerable Canberrans, the working poor, and Canberrans struggling to afford their own home.

“Alistair has also been a great friend to our multicultural and faith communities, with a long history of outreach, advocacy and representation on their behalf.”

She would say that, but Coe’s departure will prove a challenge for Lee in replacing his skills. 

He leaves after the estimates hearings, allowing time for the casual vacancy to be filled before the March sitting of the Assembly.

James Milligan, dumped at the last election, is tipped to be one most likely to assume Coe’s seat in the Assembly. But there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip when it comes to election countbacks in this town.

THE shame that is the ACT government’s long-term disinterest in the lot of indigenous people in our community was again in painfully sharp focus with damning incarceration figures listed in the latest Productivity Commission’s report on government services.

The ACT has hit a five-year high for incarcerated indigenous children and teenagers having spent 1877 nights in custody through 2019-20 in Canberra compared to 1073 nights 12 months earlier.

The 74.9 per cent surge over last year is the highest number in the territory since 2014-15.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services chief executive Julie Tongs was reported to be “exasperated” at why indigenous youth have been locked up at 18 times the rate of non-indigenous youth.

The figures continue to cast a shadow on the ACT government’s self-assumed posture as progressives.

The logged and closed Yarralumla dog park.

THE popular Yarralumla dog park has been closed because ‘a number of trees’ were deemed unsafe. A number? Looks like a logging company has been through,” writes former Assembly Speaker, novelist and Yarralumla local Greg Cornwall.

He has a point. I scooted around to the erstwhile shady dog park, which was closed for months while a hard-surface car park was built only to be closed for months more for park improvement, to confirm the trees are indeed gone. 

As the photo confirms, progress appears painfully slow and the landscape forlornly bare.

“Doesn’t the ACT government realise dogs need trees,” says Greg. “When can our canine friends next lift a leg there?”

Ian Meikle is the “CityNews” editor and can be heard weekly on 2CC’s “CityNews Sunday Roast” news program, 9am to noon.

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

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