“The Liberals have little choice but to argue that they are a credible alternative to a ‘tired’, ‘worn out’ and ‘out-of-touch’ government,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.
IT’S just a year to the next ACT election. Political parties and candidates have begun their preparations.
Positioning a political party or an individual candidate for an election requires significant work under the Hare-Clark system. Each party, as well as each candidate, will determine how they will appeal to the electorate.
The big question is… will the Labor-Greens government be returned to power? It was in 2001 that Labor defeated the Liberals to take government. Labor has been in power since – sometimes in coalition with the Greens. Can either party run a successful campaign on their legacy?
Legacy is not enough. It will need to be combined with a clear vision for the future.
The Liberals, on the other hand, do not have a single elected MLA who has been in government previously. They will have little choice but to argue that they are a credible alternative to a “tired”, “worn out” and “out-of-touch” government.
Next October 19’s election will be the first time, since the Liberals lost government in October 2001, that the party is not led, and dominated, by conservatives. This is important for Canberra’s swinging voters. And it provides the Liberals with hope that they have a real chance to oust the Labor-Greens coalition from power.
However, any chance for the Liberals to win government will rely heavily on the perceptions of success or failure of the Barr government.
Labor will be selling their achievements as a progressive government. They have been at the forefront of innovative and socially equitable legislative and administrative change. History will be kind to Labor, and Andrew Barr with regard to this legacy.
The financial state of the ACT tells a different story. For the first time since self-government the ACT has lost its Standard and Poor’s AAA/A-1+ credit rating. This important indicator will be taken by voters to tell a much deeper story about the Canberra they cherish.
Increasing rates, the general surge in cost of living, cuts in real terms to health and education as well as police, all point to a government struggling with the finances.
The light rail will get the blame. There has been enormous expenditure on this major infrastructure project that to date has largely been focused on serving the people of Gungahlin.
The constant disruption during construction is simply rubbing salt into the wound. This even applies to the next group of Canberrans who will be advantaged by the second stage. Once this stage is completed – the network will service way less than half of our population.
The tram is a gift to the Liberals who can campaign on their already announced policy of stopping the expenditure on the expansion of light rail to Stage 2B.
The impact of the tram and the role of the Greens is integral. They have been a strong influence within the coalition on this and other environmentally friendly policies. They have encouraged socially progressive approaches. However, many Greens voters will feel that with the relationship things have gone too far in favour of Labor.
The Greens were not able to get Labor to support their policy of lowering the voting age to 16 years.
In a recent media release, the Greens’ Jo Clay attacked the government over its approach to infill. Apparently, the government has been counting “knockdown and rebuilds” in its infill quotas. Ms Clay attacked this approach by the government as “creative accounting” arguing the “ACT government has a commitment to build at least 70 per cent of new dwellings within the ACT’s existing urban footprint”.
Planning and development fuelled by the 70 per cent infill approach is yet another vulnerability that will be taken into account by many voters. The shortages of land supply and willingness to undermine amenity in many of the existing suburbs provides fodder for the Liberals. The Labor-Greens Coalition has simply failed on its land planning and urban renewal policies.
However, the strongest claim from the Liberals is to identify that returning Labor to government will take a tired, cocky government back into power until 2028. That will mean having the same party in government for well over a quarter of a century.
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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