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Can the Liberals get momentum under Lee?

Stephen Cenatiempo… shouldn’t be the main spokesperson for the Liberal brand. Photo: Luke Foster

“The Green Shed decision was yet another to add to the long list of government announcements lacking transparency. But also yet another where the Opposition let that happen in far too much silence,” writes columnist ANDREW HUGHES.

 I really like Stephen Cenatiempo. The 2CC breakfast show host loves cars, Italian food done authentically and his heritage. But we most certainly don’t see eye to eye on everything. 

One thing we do though is that he should not be the main spokesperson for the Liberal brand in Canberra. 

Elizabeth Lee is the leader of the parliamentary Liberals, but outside the building on London Circuit it’s a far differen

Dr Andrew Hughes.

t story as she struggles with members who refuse to toe the line, and some who even have their own line going in who knows what. It has undermined her voice and the momentum needed to win government. 

It’s been left up to a very few Libs, such as Stephen, to help carry the conservative messaging. But wait, you say? Aren’t there nine elected Libs in the Assembly, just one less than Labor? You are right! 

So what are the others up to? After the empty chair ran the party for a while, now that a moderate is in charge, the conservative right forces have retreated to their own thing. A nice comfortable life as an opposition member of the ACT Legislative Assembly. 

And why not? It is something they have decades of experience at doing. As Paul Keating once said about Peter Costello, “All tip and no iceberg”. 

Jeremy Hanson is an exception in the right faction, but perhaps that was more to do with trying to get the leadership back, and therefore needing profile, than actually getting unity. 

They desperately need to start using Howard’s “Broad Church” strategy, so they can take Labor on and apply some much-needed pressure to a government that, while strong in some areas, is definitely drifting in others. 

Some Lib MLAs wouldn’t be seen dead in a Liberal T-shirt. One even turned up in red for the campaign launch. This is unacceptable if you want to show you are a viable alternative government. 

I have seen more than one fast-walking through a shopping centre on a weekend, trying to avoid eye contact. And for others, their only meet-and-greet has been with family and friends, instead of a street corner on a Saturday morning. 

Yes, ACT politics is hard like this. But you can’t just go digital and expect to win government. You do need to put in the hard yards at the grassroots level, as Labor does, and reach out to the electorate and build momentum. 

The system is the same. The methods used by those in it aren’t. The Liberals need to adjust strategy if they want to get momentum. 

It isn’t just going to appear out of nowhere, especially of the magnitude required to win. While the Liberals will likely pick up one to two seats at the next election, it will be probably more down to dissatisfaction with Labor than any specific policy they’ve put forward. 

As an example, the recent Green Shed decision was yet another to add to the long list of government announcements lacking transparency and clarification. But also yet another where the Opposition let that happen in far too much silence. 

Can they get momentum under Lee? They can, but time is fast running out. The strategy of small target has to be binned. That works at a national level with an unpopular leader and government, a la Morrison, but at a local level, you need voice. 

Candidates, elected or not, need to get one. But they also need something to take into the electorate they can talk about. 

Policies that give credibility to those who need to vote blue to win the day. An example? Double the police budget to help ease frontline pressures, increase resources, and allow for more proactive policing programs that focus on working with communities. And how about anyone guilty of causing loss of life or serious injury while driving a vehicle gets an immediate lifetime ban from driving? 

Or pedestrian lights that are always green with the road lights, but with timed intervals to assist with road safety for our most vulnerable? A new stadium by 2030, with a new start-up precinct right next to it, and, and… see, this is how you start engaging and putting forward ideas. 

This is the voice the Liberals need to work on. Throwing ideas around and being proud that they are Liberal. Voters love authenticity and honesty, so seeing and hearing proud Liberals is going to help. Opening up the local school’s newest reno is safe, but not enough. And far too small a target. 

Small target is silence and silence is death for the ACT Liberals. 

But then again, maybe they like life in the Opposition Lane. Nice car, good money and free invites to all things in Canberra. And occasionally they get to meet a minister and think, yeah, nah. 

Dr Andrew Hughes is a lecturer in marketing with the Research School of Management at ANU where he specialises in political marketing and advertising, and the use of emotions in marketing and tourism.  


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2 Responses to Can the Liberals get momentum under Lee?

Jim says: 28 March 2024 at 1:51 pm

Did the green shed decision really lack transparency? There has been zero credible evidence delivered to this point to say that any procurement/contract rules were broken in the re-letting of that contract. And I assume relevant procurement material can be obtained under FOI laws if people want to review that.

A disappointing decision – sure. But without any actual evidence of wrongdoing in decision making (or evidence to support some claims even made of political interference), then I don’t think you can label something done in line with current rules lacking in transparency, just because you don’t like the outcome.

David Maywald says: 29 March 2024 at 7:04 am

Elizabeth Lee spoke at the National Press Club in November last year, and here’s the reporting from Jasper Lindell of The Canberra Times: “The Canberra Liberals also released a list of 35 commitments the party claims to have already made, including overturning bans on woodfire heaters, gas and internal combustion engine powered cars. The party would also commission an audit of the territory’s budget, reduce the “tax and regulatory burden” on rental properties and release more land for standalone houses.”

There are big differences between the two major parties, with the Liberals having a $65 million cost-of-living relief package, not proceeding with Stage 2B of Light Rail, in favour of a city stadium instead of Bruce, and committed to repeal drug decriminalisation. I’d suggest that this is far from being “small target” and that Andrew’s assessment that “Small target is silence and silence is death for the ACT Liberals” is quite unfair. I urge him and CityNews readers to seek out the details of these 35 commitments.


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