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Early taste of Labor in the next Assembly term 

Chief Minister Andrew Barr… a likely resignation after the election. Photo: Holly Treadaway

“Labor is showing why they are the number one political act in town. A nice presser by apprentice and wannabe Chief Minister Steel with some tough leadership-like words and angry frowns thrown at the Greens,” writes ANDREW HUGHES in his first CityNews column.  

Labor and the Greens this past week had their once-every-four-years-engage-the-base conflict and show. 

Dr Andrew Hughes.

Diplomats would call it sabre rattling, but really it didn’t even get to that. To quote Malcolm Turnbull, it was “angertainment”. 

How do we know? The Greens response to the latest housing development which threatens to negatively impact on Blewett’s Block, one of the most environmentally sensitive pieces of land in the ACT, was a terse press release. Yeah, that should stop the bulldozers. 

It was similar to the Greens idea of a tear up of Thoroughbred Park to build more houses right next to the light rail. The line for the developers wanting a piece of that action is already longer than a US burger chain’s recent pop-up by the lake. 

In politics, always look to the actions after the words as a sign of how serious a party is about a policy issue. The Greens, aka the Renters Party according to Adam Bandt, are now only tied to their name through brand logo attributes, rather than commitment to the cause. 

Ask anyone who uses a shared path about how any active travel targets could ever be met when maintenance is so far behind, with most paths at night darker than a black hole. Then there’s the weekend bus timetable so disconnected to lifestyle that getting a car is a smart choice if you need to travel greater than five kilometres sometime in 2024. Yes. Vote Green. 

Labor is showing why they are the number one political act in town. A bit of gentle stirring of their coalition partners, a nice presser by apprentice and wannabe Chief Minister Steel with some tough leadership-like words and angry frowns thrown at the Greens. 

The sprinkling of some policies firmly targeted at the middle, who the Liberals, like Liberals everywhere, are letting walk away from their brand via a small-target strategy, and it was an early taste of Labor in the next term. 

Labor would feel they are CBR – Confident, Bold and Ready. Perhaps more than ever as many MLAs see opportunities aplenty with the likely resignation of Andrew Barr in the not too distant future as he chases opportunities on bigger stages. 

Labor knows that Barr’s unpopularity is growing, and frontline service provision, such as health, policing and even grass mowing, have hurt them through poor budget planning and strategy. 

Where in other jurisdictions that is normally rectified via electoral defeat, that doesn’t happen here in the ACT due to the strength of the Labor-Green coalition. Taps on the shoulder are more the thing. 

Barr has long coveted an overseas posting, especially one in New York such as with the UN, but Albanese has made it clear, via recent appointments, that former Labor leaders of any stature must serve some time away from politics proving themselves in other fields before getting the tap on the shoulder for a nice gig somewhere. 

There is no way the current PM wants to fall into the quagmire that befell previous coalition governments over the Barilaro and AAT appointment dramas. 

So expect a Barr announcement sometime soonish, but it’s likely to be after the next election so a new chief minister will have years of experience before fighting the 2028 election. 

Labor MLAs though will know where they can and can’t stir the Greens pot. Hare-Clark means they have to get some message traction to get re-elected so while the Libs are the easy and soft hit, the Greens show the differentiation between the Coalition partners and provide the juicier target. 

There are also some in Labor who believe that they may even pick up one to two seats from the Greens now there is no David Pocock Party in the mix. This, added with the Greens weakness in some areas such as Tuggeranong where their sitting member is still yet to decide whether to run or not this year, has opened up Labor’s thinking on how the next Assembly may look in early November. 

It is likely that some in Labor would also believe the Liberals disunity and small-target strategy is costing them the chance to get those seats instead. And they wouldn’t be that wrong. But they wouldn’t care either. 

Because they, as the best managed and campaign team in town would know, the show must go on. And it’s still only in Act I in the 2024 election year.

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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