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A year to the election, how’s everyone looking?

“Increasing rates, surging cost of living, cuts to health and education as well as police, all point to a government struggling with the finances. Light rail will get the blame.”

“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. 

Michael Moore.

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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4 Responses to A year to the election, how’s everyone looking?

Palmerston's Political Commentary says: 16 October 2023 at 8:32 am

A public conversation about what constitutes effective government into the ACT’s future is well beyond time, but with 12 months to run before the next election there needs to be space for more collective discussions.

It was good to see the vagaries of Hare Clark mentioned as it is perhaps the biggest factor in preventing change. This was flagged as an issue back at the start of Self Government, but no one was interested. But Hare Clark’s ability to retain a status quo is something that should not be overlooked.

The Greens, as predicted, have proven to be remarkable failures to act as a check and balance party. They are not, and will never be, a new version of the Australian Democrats. But I stand by my assessment at the time that the Greens’ vote was one of protest as a more palatable option to the Liberals.

The Liberal party remains on the nose due to perception issues. The fact we are still talking about this suggests they are out of the running again.

The current CM is the greatest threat to the ALP. As evidenced by the result in NZ over the weekend, a cult of personality will only take you so far and the manifold errors of public policy made of the decades are landing, perhaps rightly, directly at his feet. The Barr Brand would appear to be broken but no one is prepared to tell him that from within, and any capable successor has long since been weeded out as a threat.

So what does that leave the poor struggling electorate with? The huddled masses want change but cannot see options. The amorphous Teal Movement with its slightly left of centre, social democratic platform would seem to have the greatest voter appeal but there appears to be little movement as those with the greatest potential would appear to have no desire to strut the political stage. The other single issue parties will stand and fall as per usual, adding comedy effect but little else.

So 12 months out, whither Canberra? Another election with a tram based referendum base? Or something fresh (dare I use the word “vibrant”?) that will bring about cultural change to a stale government?

Palmerston's Political Commentary says: 19 October 2023 at 8:12 am

With the CM’s State of the Territory address scheduled for today, we might get a glimpse into his future thinking which should influence both the political elite and the voting public.

But given the lack of commentary here, I doubt it.

Palmerston's Political Commentary says: 20 October 2023 at 3:39 pm

The ABC coverage of the CM’s address was notable for his focus on population growth as the path to the Territory’s future. This time it is through higher education. As always the realities of being a student in Canberra and dealing with the cost of living were glossed over.

Vox Pop would suggest the voting population is more than ready for change, but after 23 years cannot saw what that should look like. “Teals” seem to be a suitable bloc, but it would require some solid advocacy and support from our local Teal to get this moving.

Beyond that? A yawning chasm of complacency beckons.


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