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Canberra Today 3°/5° | Friday, August 19, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Canberra Liberals swoop on flailing ministers 

Shadow health minister Leanne Castley… drawn attention to ministerial failures that have resulted in Canberra having some of the worst hospital statistics in Australia.

“The government seems determined to remove choice and force families into apartments with their 70 per cent infill policy. Apparently, the Greens and Labor simply ‘know best’ on how Canberrans should live,” says political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.

 THERE are strong indications that the Canberra Liberals are getting on with the business of holding the government to account. 

Michael Moore.

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee has taken the government on regarding the land-release program and questionable contracting at the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT). 

Both of these issues go directly to questions of ministerial responsibility and accountability. 

Shadow health minister Leanne Castley has drawn attention to ministerial failures that have resulted in Canberra having some of the worst hospital statistics in Australia. She points to the promises of Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and her failure to deliver.

The Liberals in the Assembly were also asking hard questions of Minister Chris Steel about his failure to be open and transparent regarding a series of contracts worth millions that were approved by the CIT. The ACT Integrity Commission is now investigating these issues.

Ms Lee used the census data to continue pursuing land availability. She pointed out that the government is planning to release an average of just 834 blocks of land each year over the next five years. This planning failure came at a time when more than 7000 people went into a ballot for just 51 blocks of land to be released in the new suburb of Macnamara.

However, the government seems determined to remove choice and force families into apartments with their 70 per cent infill policy. Apparently, the Greens and Labor simply “know best” on how Canberrans should live. 

Ms Lee did not stop at just one example but painted an ongoing picture of a government that “is deliberately constraining the release of land in the ACT and they also have a history of not delivering and failing to meet their low targets”. 

She added: “This clearly indicates the balance is not right and Canberrans are not being given a choice when it comes to housing options”. 

In some ways she is stating the obvious. However, with the census data indicating the population of Canberra is 20,000 more than was thought, she gives Andrew Barr room to move by pointing out that this “provides an opportunity for the chief minister to update the indicative land-release program going forward”.

At the same time as Canberra struggles with increasing population, the community is suffering from poor management of our public hospital system. After more than 20 years of Labor-led governments in the ACT, we have moved from some of the best waiting times in the country to amongst the worst. The responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of Health Minister Stephen-Smith.

As Ms Castley highlights, the minister announced in February, 2021, that she would fix the problem of emergency waiting times within nine months. That was 18 months ago! 

Instead of her goal of dealing with 70 per cent of emergencies within clinically appropriate times, the quarterly performance report indicates that only 56.8 per cent meet this criterion.

Waiting times in emergency are likely to get even worse. Unlike all of the state counterparts, this short-sighted minister has failed to provide free flu vaccines as we move into winter. 

The Liberals continued identifying a list of failures in health going beyond waiting times in emergency. Low staff morale is identified with “one in eight workers planning to leave the system in two years”. There has been constant bullying and the government has failed to meet new nurse-to-patient ratios.

Holding the government to account is not the only responsibility of an effective opposition. With the census data showing the ACT has a population of 454,499, compared with Tasmania’s 557,571, Chief Minister Andrew Barr called for appropriate representation federally. The ACT is represented by two senators, while all states, including Tasmania are represented by 12.

When asked about support for this idea, Ms Lee responded: “The number of senators must be seriously considered to ensure all members of our community are properly represented in the Australian Parliament”. When good ideas come forward, they are also worth supporting.

Recent land ballots have shown there is significant demand for detached housing:

  • Macnamara, 7400 applicants for 51 blocks (June, 2022).
  • Whitlam, 12,417 applicants for 101 blocks (February, 2022).
  • Macnamara, 8700 applicants for 71 blocks (November, 2021).
  • Whitlam, 7566 applicants for 92 blocks (March, 2021).


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Michael Moore

Michael Moore

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One Response to Canberra Liberals swoop on flailing ministers 

Red says: July 5, 2022 at 4:31 pm

It would be off considerable help to know who these “more than 7000” people were who went into the land sale ballot of 51 blocks of land. The 70% infill policy is abominable for the “bush capital” concept and the Griffins must be spinning in their graves, causing the Eurasian and North American plates to rumble.


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