An optimistic Alistair Coe focuses on “practical, tangible” promises

Genevieve Jacobs 24 September 2020 14
Alistair Coe

Alistair Coe . Photo: Michelle Kroll.

If there is a prize for passion and optimism among the leaders of Canberra’s major parties represented in the Assembly, then it probably goes to Alistair Coe.

The Canberra Liberals leader is bullish, confident and believes his party has a good chance of winning. Asked about his own prospects if they lose and the party goes into its third decade in opposition, he refuses to countenance the prospect.

“Obviously that is not something anyone contemplates or plans for”, he says. “We are running to win with 13 seats, we are flat out on the campaign trail, doing lots of door-knocking and phones and letterboxing.

“The vast majority of Canberrans would have been approached at their local shops by a Liberal candidate. We are throwing everything at it and we want to win 13 seats”.

The strong Liberal focus is on what Mr Coe calls “practical tangible initiatives” – promises about dealing with the cost of living, making ordinary Canberrans’ lives easier and recognising the toll exacted on the vulnerable by a high cost of living.

That was behind one of the more striking moments of the campaign so far, the announcement that former Labor chief minister Jon Stanhope would head a poverty taskforce, characterised by Labor as little more than a stunt.

Mr Coe thinks anyone who knows Jon Stanhope also knows that he’s not one for stunts.

“We have 30,000 people in the ACT living in poverty. We have kids turning up at school without breakfast in Canberra. We can pretend it doesn’t exist – we don’t have whole suburbs of ingrained poverty unlike other cities but there are people it tough”, he says.

“That’s why we asked Jon Stanhope to get involved. I am delighted he agreed to chair the task force”.

Door-knocking has given Mr Coe insights into how tough people’s lives can be. He notes, for example, the rising rate of homelessness among older women and talks about meeting a woman people who are couch surfing, depending on the kindness of friends or family to keep a roof over their heads.

Politically, it’s an interesting pivot. Throughout the campaign, the Liberals have been doing some energetic brand differentiation. The spectacle of Labor hounding them on financial accountability while they push Labor on a major poverty initiative is an interesting one, as is the Liberals’ million tree policy.

The Liberals say this campaign is all about the cost of living and where it hits people hardest. That’s why there are no big-ticket infrastructure promises like light rail.

Instead, Mr Coe says his big picture thinking is about the welfare of Canberrans.

“This is a household and family-focussed campaign, our best asset is the people. It’s very much about practical and local services, allowing Canberrans to get ahead. A lot of people in Canberra can manage the cost of living but many can’t.

“Labor is running an opposition campaign – opposition to the Liberals. We are running on how to make Canberra the best place to work live and raise a family. All our initiatives, all our ideas and policies are about tangible and practical things, there is a contrast in the two campaigns”.

The problem would appear to be how to pay for them and it’s not easy to pin down Mr Coe on where the money will come from to replace the promises he’s made about freezing rates for a full term and abolishing payroll tax.

There’s discussion about growing the pie and keeping Canberrans in Canberra, but little in the way of costings or analysis. But he denies vigorously that the Liberals are standing very still and hoping to fall over the one by capitalising on the voters’ dislike of Andrew Barr.

Neither is he keen to engage in discussion about whether long stretches of incumbency are a poor outcome for our democracy, or if the Liberals are simply too far to the right for Canberra voters.

“I’ll leave that to the analysts”, Mr Coe says. “We are running to win this election, Whilst Labor may well focus on us a lot as it seems that they are, we’ll keep focussing on Canberrans.

“Only journalists and the Labor Party raise philosophy and ideology. I don’t get it when I’m doorknocking”.

He says instead that the Liberals have candidates from a far broader range of backgrounds and with a broader range of opinions than anyone opposing them.

“That range of background and experience and opinions is a strength, not a weakness, in my opinion”.

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14 Responses to An optimistic Alistair Coe focuses on “practical, tangible” promises
michael quirk michael quirk 8:01 am 25 Sep 20

It is difficult to see the Liberals winning 12 seats let alone the 13 needed for majority government. Their Achilles heel, just as it was in 2016, is their conservatism. It is probably too late for Coe and Co to be credible in presenting a more moderate face to the electorate.

If they fail again will they change their spots and develop more moderate policies?

The return of Barr-Rattenbury government will mean a continuation of an alliance that has been unwilling to provide evidence to justify many its policy positions or respond to criticism from the community..

Under its watch thev health system has been underfunded and the shortfall in social housing has grown to an estimated 3,000 dwellings.
Its urban development record is marred by a failure to consider the regional implications of its 70 per cent redevelopment policy stemming from a reduction in detached housing supply in the Territory; dubious rural land purchases and a failure to adequately evaluate the merits of alternative settlement areas such as Kowen.

In transport its obsession with light rail has led to a failure to evaluate bus alternatives on the inter-town transport route to Woden and to improve the overall bus network.

Despite the poor economic climate it is unlikely a returned Labor- Greens government will base its decisions on evidence to maximise the benefit to the community from the limited infrastructure funds available.

Marcel Bond Marcel Bond 4:43 am 25 Sep 20

The ACT Legislative Assembly has an opposition party? Really? I vaguely recall hearing from them for about 3 weeks, 4 years ago, then they disappeared. Come to think of it, for 4 years before that I heard nothing from them either, except for a couple of weeks around October 2012. Maybe if there were actually visible and doing something during their continual 4 year hibernation periods people might take them seriously (or even know who they are).

Charny Barney Charny Barney 8:23 pm 24 Sep 20

I'm running a book on Parto moving on Alistair the week after the Libs lose next month 🤡

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 11:05 pm 24 Sep 20

    The issue is will the far right religious faction of the party allow that. They've infiltrated the liberals all over the country and they are not letting go of their power.

Jeannou Zoides Jeannou Zoides 5:15 pm 24 Sep 20

Keep being optimistic 😄😂

David Perkins David Perkins 4:37 pm 24 Sep 20

The ACT Libs will do and say anything at this stage to get elected. But " Where's the money coming from?" Irresponsible mob of no-hopers.

Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 4:17 pm 24 Sep 20

Having met this guy, been promised he would follow up on an issue for me, I can honestly say he isn't great with follow through...still waiting for promised email from November 2014... I do hope his current promises don't take as long to eventuate.

Steven Lloyd Steven Lloyd 3:58 pm 24 Sep 20

He has no idea what he is talking about lol wow

thebscaller thebscaller 1:53 pm 24 Sep 20

Joke of a leader and party. They are making some bold statements and promises that don’t add up. There is no way these promises are going to be implemented if they won government which is in the below 5% range of happening. They already are backing out of reversing the greyhound racing ban (not that I care) which they, mark parton in particular made a lot of noise about when it was happening. So how can they be trusted in anything they say when there is a figure attached to it? Mark Parton in particular is living in the clouds with his statements and as his a zed lover. I wouldn’t vote for him to represent me in anything. The good old slogan of there is a better way that mr Parton is using is such a laugh. Like other liberal governments that actually win an election the good old slogan of, we didn’t know how bad labour left the budget in has now made things we promised impossible would be used.
If there was actually a better opposition with a proper leader and not mr coe and if they had some actual policies they may have a chance but with this liberal party they haven’t got a clue and will loose like always and even worse I predict this time around.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 12:50 pm 24 Sep 20

The ACT Liberals need to be fighting their federal counterparts for some projects into the ignored parts of Canberra. They may have more chance than Andrew Barr of indoor sports facilities for Tuggeranong or a transit lane down the parkway for Molonglo, Creek, Woden and Tuggers commuters.

Federal Labor promised a indoor netball centre for Calwell maybe Libs can match that.

Acton Acton 11:29 am 24 Sep 20

A conservative is someone who is averse to change. The Labor Party has now held government in Canberra for 19 years, proving that Canberra voters are the most conservative in Australia.
Labor/Greens has become the party of choice for status quo loving, risk averse, fretful, oh my goodness we can’t risk anyone else, conservatives.
Good interview Genevieve, hopefully you will also give some of the independents and community representatives a hearing.

    paulmuster paulmuster 5:57 pm 24 Sep 20

    Unfortunately for your argument there is a significant difference between the dictionary and political definitions of ‘conservative’

JS9 JS9 10:23 am 24 Sep 20

“The problem would appear to be how to pay for them and it’s not easy to pin down Mr Coe on where the money will come from to replace the promises he’s made about freezing rates for a full term and abolishing payroll tax.

There’s discussion about growing the pie and keeping Canberrans in Canberra, but little in the way of costings or analysis.”

Here is the problem that means it is unlikely the liberals can form Government. The ACT electorate in general is unlikely to be satisfied with a ‘just trust us’ answer on this key element.

They’ve had plenty of time to at least demonstrate at a high level they have had some genuine thinking into this side of it that they can reveal to the electorate. The ‘pie will get bigger’ is a cop out, and for many actually rings more alarm bells given it would need significant population growth to offset the revenue the Liberals are promising to give away (let alone their expenditure plans).

No one expects it to be comprehensive, but some indication of what they plan to do beyond trust us might get people uncertain of their votes to take their agenda seriously.

    dolphin dolphin 2:35 pm 24 Sep 20

    as someone who works in tax I find the liberals policies laughable and pretty unconvincing. they say they are going to freeze rates and charges, but have also pledged to increase spending in a whole host of areas without blowing out the debt? all this is supposed to be paid for by increasing Canberra’s population (which is presumably going to bring only revenue but no additional costs?). It’s sheer fantasy

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