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Canberra Today 2°/6° | Monday, May 20, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Clock’s ticking, watch how things start to change

Independents for Canberra Group candidate Tom Emerson.

“Canberra needs to see significant change in the ACT Assembly. With education and health that have moved from Australian leader to the bottom of the pile under Labor stewardship, it really is time for a change,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.

It is now less than six months to the ACT election. Watch how things change. 

Michael Moore.

You are about to be bombarded with election material through your letterbox, at shopping centres and electronically.

You will be encouraged to vote for the major parties (who have the lion’s share of campaign money) arguing that they are the only ones who can form government. The reality is that a powerful crossbench can ensure that government is transparent, responsive and acts with integrity.

There are excellent candidates from all parties and independents. The Hare-Clark electoral system allows voters to pick and choose candidates from across the ballot paper – irrespective of the party affiliation. This worries the major parties who refer to this type of voting as “undisciplined”.

The Labor Party and the Greens will be making announcements of amazing things that they will be doing. Of course, these will often be things that they ought to have done previously. 

After all, it has been more than two decades since Labor came to power in late 2001. Some of the announcements made previously were not delivered until after another term had passed.

The Liberals will be telling you how hopeless the current government is and seeking your support to inject Canberra with a fresh, conservative government. With Elizabeth Lee as leader, you can expect a little less conservative than would have been the case at the last election. 

The Liberals can also be expected to push hard on financial management and relentlessly pursue the failure of the government to retain the Standard and Poors AAA+ credit rating. This will cost the community dearly.

The Greens will attempt to justify their cosy coalition with Labor by pointing to the things that they have achieved through the accord they signed just after the last election. They will point to environmental and social justice issues where they really have made a difference. However, they will also attempt to identify differences with the government by launching attacks on Labor candidates.

Independents will be arguing that it is time for a more accountable government. What is needed, they will argue, is a strong middle ground crossbench that sits neither more conservative than the Liberals nor left of Labor and the Greens.

Tom Emerson, an independent candidate running with the Independents for Canberra Group, told a town hall meeting in Turner recently that he had never heard anyone saying: “I want to vote for Labor because they have done such a good job on health”. 

He reiterated the message referring to the Labor-Greens track record on the tram, on education, on city services and on planning. 

The independent argument will be more along the lines, “you don’t want to vote for Labor-Greens coalition, can’t bring yourself to vote for the Liberals. There is a real alternative in voting independent. Most independents in Canberra will also point to the success of Senator David Pocock and the “teal” independents federally.

Then there will be the attack tactics.

The government will argue that small parties and independents are just a front for the Liberal Party. The Labor Party will push the idea that independents are just trying to get disaffected Labor voters into the fold so that they can eventually vote for a conservative chief minister. This is why they constantly ask independents to identify who they will support.

However, it would be ridiculous for any independent to name who they will support before the outcome of an election. If Andrew Barr was nominated, for example, and there was a massive swing against Labor – it would leave the candidate in a very awkward position. The same would apply if Elizabeth Lee’s Liberals were in the same boat.

The Independents for Canberra Group have been prepared to support candidates who will work co-operatively with others. A series of candidates told the town hall meeting in Turner that they really wanted to do politics differently. 

They will listen to the community, “really listen” and form a view based on how they should vote. When they have not been able to support a view presented – they will take time to explain their reasoning.

It will be interesting to see how many candidates can remain focused and positive when the attacks are launched by the parties that are feeling threatened. 

Canberra does need to see significant change in the ACT Assembly. With education and health, to name just two areas, that have moved from Australian leader to the bottom of the pile under Labor stewardship, it really is time for a change.

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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Michael Moore

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