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ACT’s progressive policies nationally popular and proven to work, research says

Lachlan Roberts 12 July 2019 16

The research said 71 per cent of Australians support the light rail network. Photo: George Tsotsos.

Following the large swing towards the Labor Party in the 2018 Victorian election, Premier Daniel Andrews announced that his state was the most progressive state in the nation, but it looks like Mr Andrews is wrong.

According to a recent study by the Australian Institute, a majority of Australians support some of the ACT’s most controversial policies, including pill testing and 100 per cent renewable energy.

The report, which was authored by researcher Bill Browne, showed that the ACT’s progressive policies are actually more popular than people might first expect.

The Canberra-based institute conducted polling last year to measure the nation’s views on 11 of the ACT’s most progressive policies, including the decriminalisation of cannabis, introducing an assisted dying scheme and construction of a light rail network.

Even though the ACT has been accused of being “cushioned from reality”, over 50 per cent of 1459 respondents supported the decriminalisation of cannabis, 57 per cent supported the move from stamp duty to a land-based method of taxation, while 58 per cent also supported the ACT’s pill testing policy.

The only policy that was not supported by a majority of Australians was the ACT Government’s ban on outdoor billboard advertising, with 46 per cent against the policy and only 30 per cent in favour.

Mr Browne said several successful policies have emerged from the “social laboratory” that is Canberra.

“The ACT proves that governments can implement innovative, controversial policies while involved in various power-sharing arrangements in the parliament,” Mr Browne said.

“New national polling shows that most Australians support these policies. Policymakers and politicians in other jurisdictions could learn from the success of these proven and popular policies.

“The success of these reforms shows that Governments can pursue bold, progressive policies – and be re-elected. Other state and territory governments should consider following the ACT’s example.”

The Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist said that the ACT has implemented innovative policies that are politically controversial, but extremely popular with the Australian public.

“The ACT’s leadership means other governments now have a suite of popular, innovative policies that could be adopted in their own states and territories,” Mr Oquist said.

“In the wake of the recent Federal Election, reactionary analysis from some quarters has incorrectly said that the only way to win power in Australia is to abandon progressive ideals and opt instead for a small target strategy.

“Progressive governments and opposition parties across the country would do well to learn from the ACT, which has been successfully implementing progressive reforms, under a power-sharing government, for over a decade.”

The nation’s views on 11 of the ACT’s most progressive policies: 

  • spending on programs to reduce youth crime and incarceration (88 per cent support, 6 per cent oppose)
  • 100 per cent renewable energy (78 per cent support, 14 per cent oppose)
  • legalising and regulating assisted dying for the terminally ill (76 per cent support, 14 per cent oppose)
  • building a light rail network (71 per cent support, 14 per cent oppose)
  • building public housing so it is spread out throughout all suburbs including new developments (69 per cent support, 20 per cent oppose)
  • exclusion zone around polling booths on election day, where people cannot hand out electoral material (67 per cent support, 18 per cent oppose)
  • allowing people at music festivals to test the contents of recreational drugs for poisonous substances (58 per cent support, 32 per cent oppose)
  • a public holiday for “Reconciliation Day” to share Indigenous cultures and history, and explore reconciliation in Australia (58 per cent support, 30 per cent oppose)
  • removing the tax on buying and selling houses – stamp duty – and replacing it with a progressive rates system (57 per cent support, 23 per cent oppose)
  • decriminalise cannabis for personal use (56 per cent support, 3 per cent oppose)
  • a ban on outdoor billboard advertising (30 per cent support, 46 per cent oppose)

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