Andrew Barr faces the voters with electoral equanimity

Genevieve Jacobs 22 September 2020 24
Andrew Barr

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr pledging to build a new tennis facility at Gungahlin. Photo: Tennis ACT.

Andrew Barr faces the forthcoming ACT election with both anticipation and a mild degree of frustration.

Anticipation because he’s confident of having led the ACT through the pandemic with the economy relatively intact. Frustration because he thinks some of his government’s achievements are insufficiently appreciated.

This time around (unlike 2016) there’s no meaningful talk of his departure. National Cabinet appears to have solidified his leadership credentials and left him feeling comfortable in his own skin, despite repeated opposition lines about an “old and tired government”.

ACT Election: Chief Minister Andrew Barr outlines his vision for Canberra

How are you deciding who to vote for? Region Media is interviewing the leaders of the Assembly's three key parties on their vision for Canberra. First to speak with Genevieve Jacobs is Labor's Andrew Barr on the economy, incumbency and experience.

Posted by The RiotACT on Monday, 21 September 2020

He believes that solid wins will define his government’s term. Take, for example, health.

Despite opposition to the Garran COVID-19 pop-up, Mr Barr remains adamant it was the right call. He rejects the suggestion that there’s been too little emphasis on hospital beds and too much on walk-in centres pointing to $750 million in hospital investment.

“There’s not enough recognition that we built the University of Canberra Public Hospital last term and that’s taken a degree of pressure off both the Canberra Hospital and Calvary. That’s freed up space and allowed an expansion of services,” he says.

He ticks off the Calvary Hospital emergency expansion, a successful tenderer for the Canberra Hospital expansion and the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children expansion project. But Mr Barr says the 70,000 walk-in patients who would otherwise have rolled up to emergency wards are the best retort to those who say that waiting times are still too long and performance too poor.


READ MORE: ACT Government fails to improve healthcare for chronic conditions, audit finds


“On the supply side you need to build bigger emergency departments and have more beds but you need to address demand too, otherwise, the interaction of the two is longer waiting times,” Mr Barr says.

“The solution is not only expanding hospitals but keeping people out of there in the first place.”

Light rail is also no longer a key issue. Last year the Liberals conceded it would go ahead if they were elected although question marks hover over the route and timing. Any suggestion the project could be temporarily halted has met with sharp criticism from the construction industry which says that would have a devastating effect on the economy.

Mr Barr says the government has accumulated considerable expertise after building the first major piece of comparable infrastructure since the old Queanbeyan rail line. Certainly, the pandemic has stalled some progress and there are five different approval requirements for Stage 2A, ranging from the NCA to Commonwealth environmental permissions. But there is no going back now.

“We have taken the view that we can’t put the contract out to tender without those planning approvals in place. The private sector wouldn’t take on the risk and costs if there were delays.

“If the Liberals thought they could get some mileage out of light rail, they would be doing it,” he says. “They don’t want to do it, they have no enthusiasm for it but they feel they can’t oppose it.”


READ MORE: Another light rail election on track after Libs slam contract delays


Mr Barr is also dismissive of the Liberals’ proposed ‘Stanhope poverty taskforce’, characterising the response from the sector as “an eyeroll – not another poverty taskforce when we already know what we need”.

He says a major hurdle has been overcome with the changes to JobSeeker payments, but argues that the ACT’s most vulnerable are better served with targeted concessions rather than a broad-based rates freeze that limits the ACT’s revenues.

“I don’t need the rate freeze. The fact that the rate burden falls on the top 20 per cent more than previously is mostly evidence of a more progressive taxation system.

“If you are going to spend more on reducing costs, do it for the cohort for whom it makes a meaningful difference. You don’t need to give tax cuts to rich people.”


READ MORE: Barr labels Stanhope chairing the Libs’ Poverty Task Group “a stunt”


Longer-term, he’s planning for a pandemic response that rolls on for some time yet. Public health measures aside, a Barr government expects that rebuilding will mean a prolonged transition period while we await an effective vaccine.

He’s confident there is a way forward for the economy as a whole, even for the arts, entertainment, tourism and hospitality sectors. Industries that are less labour intensive are already, he believes, rebounding well.

“Interestingly, now Canberrans are saving more, on average one-in-five dollars. Eventually, that will be spent. There will be a pent up demand for arts, culture, travel and the like. That’s the good news: when it’s safe there will be demand and we’ll be ready.”

But is the ACT ready for 23 years of the same government? Only the voters can decide.


What's Your Opinion?


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24 Responses to Andrew Barr faces the voters with electoral equanimity
Stephen Esdaile Stephen Esdaile 8:10 pm 26 Sep 20

Can't vote Liberal, not voting Labor or Green. Looking at what the progressive are offering.

Mac John Mac John 7:26 am 26 Sep 20

Election matters: Challenge to Candidates:

How about limiting the number of terms to two and get fresh (first time) candidates who have demonstrated listening abilities elected and not elect any candidate who has already served two terms. This will help get rid of corruption and self indulgence, .

Let’s request those new members to do something meaningful about poker machine ( gambling ) and alcohol addiction as well as banning individual donations above say $200 -$1,000 ( there will be conversations about what amount would be appropriate) so as to minimise the risk that a candidate will be beholden to a donor, and banning all forms of corporate or non personal donations.

The ACT Legislative Assembly recently legislated laws to progress truth in political advertising in the ACT. Candidates should consider extending these laws to cover all published material including social media posts ( made by media, politicians, political candidates and others) to ensure these publications are fact and must be supportable by defensible evidence and opinions to be labeled as opinions (with a truth integrity type body charged with calling out falsehoods) being implemented within the next 12 months. Ideally, similar laws should be enacted to cover Federal Politics.

Also we need a national corruption investigation and prosecution body now. Any candidate who promises to do their best to implement these things and who has served less than two terms will get my vote.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:24 pm 24 Sep 20

“I don’t need the rate freeze. The fact that the rate burden falls on the top 20 per cent more than previously is mostly evidence of a more progressive taxation system.

“If you are going to spend more on reducing costs, do it for the cohort for whom it makes a meaningful difference. You don’t need to give tax cuts to rich people.”

There you have in a nutshell what ACT Labor has become – an “I’m alright, Jack” version of socialism, with blinkers and an eyepatch.

John Ryan John Ryan 12:27 pm 24 Sep 20

Andrew Barr is a genuinely kind and considerate man, who believes in public service. He's the best chief minister in the country - bar none - and we're lucky to have him.

Martin Miller Martin Miller 6:21 pm 23 Sep 20

Can he shake the tag of being arrogant and patronising to certain parts of the ACT community!

    Louise Flood Louise Flood 12:39 pm 24 Sep 20

    Martin Miller which parts are you referring to? Genuine question . I’d like to understand

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 10:07 pm 24 Sep 20

    I'd also like to know who you think ha has been arrogant to. Also trying to understand why you'd think that.

    Martin Miller Martin Miller 10:15 pm 24 Sep 20

    Justin Watson He is arrogant to people that disagree with him. He patronises certain parts of the community regarding planning and developmentand also he seems to think there is only one consultation with the community is the election. Open government under him is very different from previous Labor chief ministers. Just look at the city renewal authority supports the areas that h cares about and not the ready of Canberra.

    Colin Vivian Colin Vivian 10:03 pm 25 Sep 20

    Anyone over 50.

    Letting contracts to remove trees in Parkland before public consultation was held then announcing works six months later.

    Charny Barney Charny Barney 3:15 pm 26 Sep 20

    Martin Miller maybe he doesn't agree with the things you want him to do for you? Disagreeing with whackadoodle ideas doesn't make you arrogant and patronising.

    Martin Miller Martin Miller 3:21 pm 26 Sep 20

    Charny Barney no 'whackadoodle ideas here . He's just plain arrogant to those who disagree with him. There is no real consultation anymore .

David Brown David Brown 5:28 pm 23 Sep 20

He doesn’t have too. Even though he is well past his use by, the alternative product is not fit for purpose. ☹️

bj_ACT bj_ACT 3:28 pm 23 Sep 20

i wasn’t surprised that Mr Barr skilfully avoided the monumental disaster that was the new bus network his team introduced.

But I was surprised that Ms Jacobs didn’t raise this issue on behalf of the large number of constituents that suddenly saw their bus services decline, their local bus stop removed and their travel times double. Very poor Riotact you can and must do better.

Charny Barney Charny Barney 2:59 pm 23 Sep 20

Good luck, you deserve another term. Your work during the bushfire crisis and the COVID crisis has been outstanding. I shudder to think how it would have been handled by Alistair.

Mark Scarborough Mark Scarborough 1:33 pm 23 Sep 20

If re-elected is Andrew Barr ACT Chief Minister committed to the full term?

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 1:03 pm 23 Sep 20

And arrogant in knowing this fact too. His contempt for his own public service is a sad endorsement of his attitude.

Phillip Business Community Phillip Business Community 12:06 pm 23 Sep 20

As a small business owner, and speaking with local business owners, to hear that the ACT Chief Minister thinks they have gotten through the pandemic with the economy intake is a sad thing to hear.

Because the reality is, the ACT Government is tone deaf, in fact both the major parties are, to the plight of many small business. As the Federal Government stimulus runs out this week, thousands of Canberra businesses will have had NO support from this Government – nothing compared to QLD, NSW & VIC in supporting small business.

Finally we hear there will be a Small Business Ministerial portfolio – but will it be given to someone who is already too busy to hear our concerns.

It’s time for the ACT Government to back small business and offer the financial support we really need. (Not discounts on bills we don’t pay).

Tom Adam

President, Phillip Business Community.

    Charny Barney Charny Barney 2:57 pm 23 Sep 20

    Like what? What do you actually want? What can the ACT Government do? What do you want the federal government to do?

    My business is affected by not as many events taking place, but I cant blame the ACT Government for that.

    Robert Knight - Canberra Progressives Robert Knight - Canberra Progressives 10:44 am 24 Sep 20

    Phillip Business Community vote for this guy! We’ll take this up with the government and ensure the backbone of our economy - our small to medium businesses - are given the right focus!

    Frank Koch Frank Koch 6:05 pm 26 Sep 20

    Phillip Business Community well said

Mark Bowell Mark Bowell 11:47 am 23 Sep 20

This election will give him something to think about a lot of labor voters are fed up

phillipbusinesscommunity phillipbusinesscommunity 11:43 am 23 Sep 20

As a small business owner, and speaking with local business owners, to hear that the ACT Chief Minister thinks they have gotten through the pandemic with the economy intake is a sad thing to hear.

Because the reality is, the ACT Government is tone deaf, in fact both the major parties are, to the plight of many small business. As the Federal Government stimulus runs out this week, thousands of Canberra businesses will have had NO support from this Government – nothing compared to QLD, NSW & VIC in supporting small business.

Finally we hear there will be a Small Business Ministerial portfolio – but will it be given to someone who is already too busy to hear our concerns.

It’s time for the ACT Government to back small business and offer the financial support we really need. (Not discounts on bills we don’t pay).

Tom Adam
President, Phillip Business Community.

A_Cog A_Cog 10:15 am 23 Sep 20

This piece is so one sided, reads like an ALP election ad.

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