“There is still over a year to go before the next election and the Liberals are beginning to position themselves as a sensible alternative government,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.
OVER a quarter of a century is simply too long for any political party to be in power. If Labor is elected again in October next year it will mean 27 years of being continuously in government.
But what’s the alternative in the ACT?
What do the Liberals really stand for? Have they lost their ultra-conservative stripes? What sort of government would they really deliver? Any possibility of teal style independents forming a government in the ACT is remote.
Acting Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Hanson said: “People argue they have no idea what the Liberals stand for. This is not true. The Canberra Liberals have made more than 30 commitments since the last election.”
The most significant is about the light rail. The Liberals are committed to halting the expansion of light rail prior to stage 2B. Halting the light rail will give a Liberal government enough money to effectively budget for the promises they have made.
The commitments include establishing a royal commission into health, increasing the powers of the Integrity Commission, through to reversing the drugs bill and reviewing sentencing and bail.
As with all parties, there will be some policies that voters agree with and some that they oppose. In some cases, there will be a single policy (or perhaps multiple ones) that are so intolerable the party in question will never receive your vote.
However, along with the tram, addressing the health system in Canberra remains a fundamental question of contention for many voters.
The July leaflet “Our CBR” (letterboxed to all Canberrans) is the government’s sales job on its budget. Overwhelmingly, the leaflet waxes lyrical about capital expenditure in the healthcare system. Even before the mandatory takeover of Calvary Public Hospital, the Canberra Liberals had called for a royal commission into our healthcare system.
How can a system that was leading Australia in waiting times in both the emergency department and in elective surgery, have moved from amongst the best performers to amongst the worst since Labor came to power? Why is it amongst the worst performers? These are questions that have not been answered to any satisfactory extent and which a royal commission can be expected to address.
Instead, the government pursues more big-ticket items and long-term expenditure in buildings by committing a billion dollars to a new northside hospital and expanding the current Canberra Hospital. Additionally, the budget committed to “the roll out of four health centres delivering community based services in South Tuggeranong, West Belconnen, Inner South and North Gungahlin”.
Spending money on capital works does not attack the root cause of the problems with the health system in the ACT. An effective, seriously independent inquiry is way overdue. On health, the Liberals have also committed to establishing a gynaecology oncology unit, contracting private providers to reduce the extensive colonoscopy wait lists and waive the increase in payroll tax for general practitioners.
The Liberals have committed to taking on planning issues in the ACT. It is hard to believe that they will do worse than the current government run by Labor and the Greens. There are a range of policies commencing with a promise of more transparency and effective consultation. In practical terms, building a Molonglo town centre and police station and reversing the transfer of money from buses to the trams. They agree to keep the Canberra City Stadium on the table.
Of concern to environmentalists will be the policies of the Canberra Liberals that promise to reverse ending the gas supply and will keep the city open for petrol cars and the sale of new ones. However, they will take a new approach to improving Canberra’s lakes and waterways.
In housing there is a commitment to release more land for housing including that land currently held by CSIRO. They will launch a feasibility study into West Tuggeranong for housing and establish a specific minister with responsibility for housing affordability. There will be an easing of tax and regulation on rental properties.
There is still over a year to go before the next election and the Liberals are beginning to position themselves as a sensible alternative government. However, there will be many who are yet to be convinced that they provide a better alternative than Labor and the Greens.
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.
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