A week out from the election, incumbent Labor Senator for the ACT Katy Gallagher has promised $5 million to build improved cycle paths through the Inner North.
The project would be delivered in partnership with the ACT Government. Before the ACT election, ACT Labor also committed $5 million to cycle paths. Today’s announcement was made alongside Member for Canberra Alicia Payne and Chief Minister Andrew Barr.
Senator Gallagher suggested these sorts of jointly funded projects would be the norm under an elected Albanese Government.
“It’s an indication of the government that Anthony Albanese would lead, one wanting to work with the states and territories on the projects they are also working on,” she said.
“That’s something I hope to be part of.”
Senator Gallagher refuted claims she was in ‘panic stations’ due to the perceived threat from high-profile progressive independent Senate candidate David Pocock, but she encouraged Canberrans not to see her as a ‘sure thing’.
The announcement comes on the heels of a rare statement from former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who described Senator Gallagher as “more than just a good friend to me, she is a strong advocate for the values that matter to Canberrans”.
The entry of two high-profile independents into the race and a strong Greens showing at the last ACT election has created an unusual degree of uncertainty over Canberra’s two Senate seats.
While much of the attention has been directed towards the attempt to unseat Liberal Senator Zed Seselja, there are indications that the momentum behind the independents is beginning to concern the ALP.
“What our federal parliament needs is more strong, experienced women. And that’s why I believe the choice you face this election matters so much. As a voter living in the ACT, you have the opportunity to make sure we keep one of our best, brightest and strongest women in the Senate”, a statement from the former Prime Minister said.
“That’s why I would encourage you to ask yourself this question before you cast your vote – can I really risk losing someone like Katy from the Senate?”
Ms Gillard has assiduously avoided engaging in political commentary since losing the Labor leadership to Kevin Rudd in June 2013. Her intervention is a sign that Labor is genuinely concerned about a potential fracture in Senator Gallagher’s previously unassailable margin.
Senator Gallagher today said she believed there was a “real race on”, but it wasn’t between Senator Seselja and Mr Pocock, which she claimed had been the narrative for much of the campaign.
“I think there’s a very strong view that ‘I am safe’, and therefore, people think ‘I can go and vote elsewhere’, and I don’t think that’s the case.”
The Garden City Cycle Route, announced today, is expected to cover over 5 km through the suburbs of Watson, Downer, Dickson, Ainslie, Braddon and the city.
Senator Gallagher said the project, which will include a mix of off-road shared paths and protected on-road cycle lanes, would make it easier and safer for cyclists to get around Canberra’s north.
“It means fewer cars on the road, and people can have more options to cycle and be active when they are getting around the city,” she said.
The route is close to 17,000 homes along the rapidly growing inner north corridor – an area the Territory Government says has an overall growth capacity of 37,000 new dwellings.
Member for Canberra Alicia Payne said the news would be welcomed by the capital’s cyclists – of which there are many.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the funding promise from his federal counterparts was in “marked contrast to the best part of the last decade” when the Federal Government had either not provided adequate funding to the ACT or had put forward infrastructure projects which did not align with the Territory’s goals.
“It’s a practical example of the two levels of government being able to work together,” he said.
Mr Barr said the additional funding would mean a pool of “up to” $10 million could be allocated to the project, but noted final costings wouldn’t be available until after completion of the feasibility study.
“To the extent that there is an offset, that will enable the ACT Government to move forward with another project,” he said.
The ACT Government put a feasibility study out to tender in February indicating preliminary sketch plans would be completed by June 2023.
A construction tender is expected by next year’s Budget with work to commence in the 2023-24 fiscal year.