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Andrew Barr speaks with Steven Bailey exclusively on his first big day

By Steven Bailey - 11 December 2014 24

andrew-barr

Yesterday Andrew Barr was elected unopposed as Leader of the Labor Party, and today he will be elected unopposed as Chief Minister. First Ministers have a choice to make: crash or crash through, or to slide along politely with one cheek aloft of each side of an ever encroaching barbed wire fence. Andrew is not crashing or crashing through.

AB Hello Steven.

SB Hi Andrew! Do you mind if I put you on speaker phone so I can type while you speak?

AB No, that’s fine.

(2 mins later, and after a little bit of swearing to myself under my breath)

SB Thanks. Andrew, you’re a cat person aren’t you?

AB Yes, I am. I love dogs too and had dogs growing up, but I have a cat now.

SB Andrew, you recently described yourself as a leader more similar to Katy Gallagher
than Jon Stanhope. What do you like more about Gallagher than Stanhope?

AB Having worked with both, they both brought different strengths to the role. They governed in different times. Jon was elected in 2001 based on a platform to effectively fix the health and education systems. Katy’s time in office was of a different era. Jon enjoyed good economic growth with a rapidly expanding federal government; it was a period where the government had a sustained surplus. After the global financial crisis Katy worked closely with the federal government on stimulus measures to keep the economy growing… investing in housing, schools, and infrastructure. I’ll be governing in a time more like Katy’s in terms of economic challenges. There are generational differences too. Jon is older than my dad! Katy and I are a similar age. Katy is adept with social media…

SB Ha! I’m not sure if Jon knows what Facebook is, nor does he want to know! I’m more similar to Jon in that sense. Sorry, I interrupted.

AB Jon is passionate, intense and driven by policy outcomes. Jon is a bit like Whitlam’s ‘crash or crash through’. Katy is consensus driven. I will find a balance between their approaches.

SB Given that you’ve presided over deficit after deficit, how on earth are you going to balance the budget within the foreseeable future?

AB There won’t be a balanced budget for a couple of years. I’m not suggesting that we will have a balanced budget, but we will be working towards that in the future. I’m confident that we can get there because the impact of Mr Fluffy will run off and, once done, will not be ongoing. The impact to the budget in the short-term will be significant, but in the long-term we will be better-off. Revenues need to grow more than expenditure. [We can get there] through a combination of expenditure constraint such as delays of infrastructure projects and ensuring that revenue is robust. That’s why the tax reform I started a number of years ago is so important.

SB Speaking of infrastructure, if light rail becomes too much of an electoral problem, will you ditch it?

AB We are committed to delivering the light rail project. We have changed our approach to procurement and financing. We have a public/private partnership – the key reason for doing this was to ensure that the ACT is not called upon to make payments until the project is operational. This removes risks associated with the delivery of the project.

SB But will you ditch the project if it means electoral failure?

AB I don’t believe we will lose because of the project. Publicly available research shows that more than half of the ACT supports the project, and that number will increase with further explanation and awareness of the project.

SB But will you ditch it…?

AB I accept that some are opposed and will not change their mind. I acknowledge that some who vote Labor or Green…

SB Or the Sex Party!

AB Yes, I’ll give you that. I accept that some people will be opposed to it. But I’m backing myself and my team to convince the Labor and Greens voters that this is the right project at the right time, and I hope to carry more Liberal voters with me who I know support the project too.
SB Just an historical question for you: did you fear that there was a chance that Canberra would have had a Liberal Government during the two weeks after the election in 2012 when Shane Rattenbury was deciding to whom the gong for Government would be given?

AB I felt that the overwhelming majority of Greens voters and members would have preferred the outcome that has occurred: a Labor Government – just as Labor voters and Labor members would preference the Greens ahead of the Liberals. We have many policy similarities and many areas in common. It would be highly unusual for the Greens to support a Liberal Government – especially an Opposition as conservative as the ACT Liberals. Calling themselves Liberals is a fraud. They are the conservatives. Go anywhere else in the world and call that mob liberal to people and they would be stunned considering the positions they hold on issues.
SB Do you fear the presence of smaller parties in the 2016 election?

AB I respect anyone prepared to put their name forward for public office. From time to time we might disagree on certain views. It’s important in a democratic process that people have a wide range of candidates. The Hare-Clark system in the ACT allows the people to determine more fairly which party, or parties, they want elected. Large numbers of voters within our system choose individual candidates. It’s a strength in our system.

SB Do you think our system would be fairer if you provided for seven-seat electorates instead of five (considering the redistribution from three electorates to five electorates)?

AB It was difficult to get to seven-member electorates within a twenty-five member parliament…

SB Mathematics is a poor excuse for not having fairer representation within a democracy.

AB At some point in the future I suspect the Assembly will increase to thirty-five members which would allow for larger electorates. The advantage for 2016 is a number of communities will have a greater sense of ownership over a specific area instead of sharing those areas. I think this will empower people.
SB Last question: if you’re not a ‘crash or crash through’ type of leader, you wouldn’t see yourself as a Gough Whitlam. If you had to choose, to which Prime Minister would you consider yourself to be most similar?

AB IJoined the Labor party in 1992 just after Paul Keating became prime minister. There’s no way that I have the razor sharp wit like Keating and I wouldn’t compare myself to a PM as inspiring as him. But if I had to pick, I would pick Hawke and Keating on economics, and Gillard on education and social reform.

SB Andrew, it’s been an honour and a privilege to speak with you on what I know would have been a very busy day for you. Congratulations.

AB Look forward to speaking with you again soon.

What’s Your opinion?


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24 Responses to
Andrew Barr speaks with Steven Bailey exclusively on his first big day
dungfungus 6:05 pm 12 Dec 14

Steven Bailey said :

Quite a nice chap to speak with.

Yes, considering the fact that Andrew Barr polled just over 4% of the vote he has done well.
Every single Liberal MLA from Molonglo polled higher.

dungfungus 5:35 pm 12 Dec 14

rosscoact said :

dungfungus said :

mr_pink said :

When someone is elected unopposed it always worries me. I ask myself, are the rest all rubbish? What idiot do you get stuck with if this one falls off it’s perch? If no one is breathing down his neck will he get complacent? Is it that no one wants the job because its a poison chalice? What is the poison? What’s the cure? But moreover, when did I last see Kevin?

According to the ABC TV news, Canberra Liberal leader Jeremy Hansen did nominate for the position. Hansen was only beaten by 1 vote in the count – too close for comfort I believe.

I assume that pretty much every single piece of legislation, every vote in the assembly has been won by one vote. To have otherwise in this assembly would be extraordinary and quite a big deal.

Everything you said is correct and I agree with you 100%.
My post was two part – firstly to point out that Barr was not elected unopposed and secondly to be cynical about the damage that can be done by one vote.

rommeldog56 12:05 pm 12 Dec 14

watto23 said :

MERC600 said :

astrojax said :

Holden Caulfield said :

Thanks for the rundown.

I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that it had escaped me until today that Barr is the first openly gay leader of a state/territory/federal government in Australia (unless I’m mistaken).

no, you’re not mistaken; and my take is that this is a good thing – it should be at all defining…

Well it would seem Mr Barr might be actually best remembered for ending the long office of Labour in the ACT, due to insisting on some tram network thing.

I can’t see how the tram will change the votes. It was known before the last election they were going to build it and they basically tied with the liberals at 8 seats each. I’m not for the current project either, but its wishful thinking if you think this will unseat the current Labor government especially with all the job cuts in town from their federal counterparts. Also the Local liberals have far too conservative policies to convince many swing voters to vote for them. Finally if Labor has only ever got a majority in the ACT election once, it would take a mighty effort for Liberal to do it and I believe the peak was last election, on the back of the anti carbon tax crusade against the greens.
Although we are going to the 5 electorates of 5 seats model, which is a bit unknow as to how that will pla and whether greens/other parties will win any of those 5th seats.

As a “concept’ I agree that the Light Rail went to the election as Labor / Greens policy. But, they should have included wiggle room to drop it if the Business Cost Ratio (BCR) and the other more detailed planning that was then yet to be undertaken, didn’t turn out to be as good as that “concept”. Now that the other detail (such as the obviously flawed BCR) has matured & the cost has gone up considerably, Labor/Greens have no choice but to plough on – or else break an election “promise”.

I think Light Rail will definately have a significant adverse impact on voting intentions pro Labor – but so will the 5 x 5 electorate system, more MLAs and the loss of the personal following of votes for Katy and Zed, Mr Fluffy, etc.

Its just a shame that voters here “voted” for Light Rail without knowing the detail. Voters need to be more aware of the detail these days.

rosscoact 11:41 am 12 Dec 14

dungfungus said :

mr_pink said :

When someone is elected unopposed it always worries me. I ask myself, are the rest all rubbish? What idiot do you get stuck with if this one falls off it’s perch? If no one is breathing down his neck will he get complacent? Is it that no one wants the job because its a poison chalice? What is the poison? What’s the cure? But moreover, when did I last see Kevin?

According to the ABC TV news, Canberra Liberal leader Jeremy Hansen did nominate for the position. Hansen was only beaten by 1 vote in the count – too close for comfort I believe.

I assume that pretty much every single piece of legislation, every vote in the assembly has been won by one vote. To have otherwise in this assembly would be extraordinary and quite a big deal.

GrumpyMark 11:02 am 12 Dec 14

dungfungus said :

According to the ABC TV news, Canberra Liberal leader Jeremy Hansen did nominate for the position. Hansen was only beaten by 1 vote in the count – too close for comfort I believe.

Given the Labor/Greens coalition has a 1 vote majority in the Assembly, it’s hardly surprising that the margin was 1 vote. Rather than being an indication of the “closeness” of the vote, it simply indicates it went along party lines.

watto23 9:41 am 12 Dec 14

MERC600 said :

astrojax said :

Holden Caulfield said :

Thanks for the rundown.

I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that it had escaped me until today that Barr is the first openly gay leader of a state/territory/federal government in Australia (unless I’m mistaken).

no, you’re not mistaken; and my take is that this is a good thing – it should be at all defining…

Well it would seem Mr Barr might be actually best remembered for ending the long office of Labour in the ACT, due to insisting on some tram network thing.

I can’t see how the tram will change the votes. It was known before the last election they were going to build it and they basically tied with the liberals at 8 seats each. I’m not for the current project either, but its wishful thinking if you think this will unseat the current Labor government especially with all the job cuts in town from their federal counterparts. Also the Local liberals have far too conservative policies to convince many swing voters to vote for them. Finally if Labor has only ever got a majority in the ACT election once, it would take a mighty effort for Liberal to do it and I believe the peak was last election, on the back of the anti carbon tax crusade against the greens.
Although we are going to the 5 electorates of 5 seats model, which is a bit unknow as to how that will pla and whether greens/other parties will win any of those 5th seats.

dungfungus 7:15 am 12 Dec 14

mr_pink said :

When someone is elected unopposed it always worries me. I ask myself, are the rest all rubbish? What idiot do you get stuck with if this one falls off it’s perch? If no one is breathing down his neck will he get complacent? Is it that no one wants the job because its a poison chalice? What is the poison? What’s the cure? But moreover, when did I last see Kevin?

According to the ABC TV news, Canberra Liberal leader Jeremy Hansen did nominate for the position. Hansen was only beaten by 1 vote in the count – too close for comfort I believe.

dungfungus 7:12 am 12 Dec 14

Holden Caulfield said :

Thanks for the rundown.

I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that it had escaped me until today that Barr is the first openly gay leader of a state/territory/federal government in Australia (unless I’m mistaken).

While Don Dunstan was never reported as admitting he was “openly gay” there is no doubt that everyone would have known he was. Attitudes have changed a lot on the past 30 – 40 years.
http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/don-dunstans-former-partner-steven-cheng-wants-his-history-acknowledged/story-e6frea83-1226630361906

wildturkeycanoe 5:02 am 12 Dec 14

mr_pink said :

When someone is elected unopposed it always worries me. I ask myself, are the rest all rubbish? What idiot do you get stuck with if this one falls off it’s perch? If no one is breathing down his neck will he get complacent? Is it that no one wants the job because its a poison chalice? What is the poison? What’s the cure? But moreover, when did I last see Kevin?

The term “fall guy” comes to mind.

mr_pink 10:16 pm 11 Dec 14

When someone is elected unopposed it always worries me. I ask myself, are the rest all rubbish? What idiot do you get stuck with if this one falls off it’s perch? If no one is breathing down his neck will he get complacent? Is it that no one wants the job because its a poison chalice? What is the poison? What’s the cure? But moreover, when did I last see Kevin?

MERC600 5:52 pm 11 Dec 14

astrojax said :

Holden Caulfield said :

Thanks for the rundown.

I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that it had escaped me until today that Barr is the first openly gay leader of a state/territory/federal government in Australia (unless I’m mistaken).

no, you’re not mistaken; and my take is that this is a good thing – it should be at all defining…

Well it would seem Mr Barr might be actually best remembered for ending the long office of Labour in the ACT, due to insisting on some tram network thing.

HiddenDragon 5:52 pm 11 Dec 14

“…..Revenues need to grow more than expenditure……” – but of course – they will both continue their inexorable rise, with revenues (perhaps) doing it even more quickly. Nothing changes.

astrojax 4:29 pm 11 Dec 14

Holden Caulfield said :

Thanks for the rundown.

I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that it had escaped me until today that Barr is the first openly gay leader of a state/territory/federal government in Australia (unless I’m mistaken).

no, you’re not mistaken; and my take is that this is a good thing – it should be at all defining…

Holden Caulfield 3:23 pm 11 Dec 14

Thanks for the rundown.

I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing that it had escaped me until today that Barr is the first openly gay leader of a state/territory/federal government in Australia (unless I’m mistaken).

Steven Bailey 12:28 pm 11 Dec 14

Quite a nice chap to speak with.

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