Roadside corflutes, bulging letterboxes and a flood of Facebook posts can only mean one thing – it’s election time.
The constant bombardment of proclamations and promises throughout the quadrennial display of democracy can be tiring, overwhelming and, quite frankly, frustrating. That’s why Region Media will be breaking down all the major policy announcements into bite-sized chunks to help you stay informed – but not deluged – with Campaign Trail.
Today’s (15 September) battleground is bike paths after the Canberra Liberals promised to make the ACT’s entire cycle path network road-free by 2030.
All town centres and major employment hubs will be connected with 100 km of dedicated, off-road cycle paths. A further $5 million will be allocated to improve cycling facilities at transport interchanges and other major stops, the Liberals said.
It will include increasing secure bicycle storage facilities and change rooms.
Initially, $500,000 will be spent on a feasibility study to consult with the community and determine where the bike paths should be built, but a total cost for the 100 km of paths has not been released.
Labor says it has already been building a multitude of new cycle paths across the Territory and invested tens of millions of dollars in cycle infrastructure across the city.
Transport Minister Chris Steel says one kilometre of bike path costs around $1 million and money needs to be spent on maintaining the current 3000 km of paths and building strategic links between city centres.
“Alistair Coe does not even know what cycle paths he wants to build and is only prepared to stump up $500,000 which is not going to build half a kilometre,” he said.
“We have a fantastic cycle path network in Canberra but there is a lot to do to improve it. Many of those links are off-road and we will continue to build new cycle paths where there are missing links.”
However, Mr Steel did not commit to creating a completely off-road cycle network by 2030.
The proposition has been welcomed by Pedal Power which has been calling for dedicated off-road cycleways.
Free health care and more walk-in centres
The Liberals came out swinging at Labor’s pledge to build five new walk-in health centres at South Tuggeranong, West Belconnen, the Inner South, Molonglo and North Gungahlin.
The centres will start to be built from 2021-22 and continue until the middle of the decade.
The Liberals called the announcement “a total flop” after the Australian Medical Association (AMA) said the plan was costly and failed to deliver optimal care.
“The Australian Medical Association’s public rebuke is very telling. It is vital that Canberra has a healthcare system that delivers optimal care for everyone,” the Liberals health spokesperson Vicki Dunne said.
“Labor’s commitment doesn’t help with our long elective surgery wait times, it doesn’t help with our emergency department wait times – they are still blowing out despite the nurse-led walk–in centres we currently have.”
The Liberals also criticised the varying price points for the new centres.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the plan would form part of Labor’s commitment to hire at least 400 new healthcare workers if they are re-elected.
“Nurse-led multidisciplinary teams will work closely with consumers, carers and general practitioners to help keep Canberrans out of hospital and take pressure off our emergency departments,” he said.
“A re-elected Labor team will work with local communities to ensure each local walk–in health centre caters to the needs of our diverse regions and neighborhoods.”
Labor has also promised new services for older Canberrans at Calvary Public Hospital in Belconnen, including a Centre for Excellence in Caring for Older People and refurbishment of a new $13.6 million innovative acute medical ward.
Sporting chance in the south
The Liberals have proposed a new $12.3 million indoor multi-purpose sports facility in Tuggeranong if they take government in October.
The centre will be built at the Calwell netball courts.
“Many sports communities have already expressed their interest in this new seven day a week, indoor sports facility,” Shadow Minister for Sport James Milligan said.
“This will be a great asset for Canberra’s community sports.”
The announcement was welcomed by the Tuggeranong Netball Association where youth participation in the sport has grown 20 per cent since 2015, bringing around 2,500 players to the outdoor courts every Saturday.
“Not only is it a recognition of the importance of Tuggeranong to the ACT, but also represents the importance of a multi-sport venue encouraging an active lifestyle for people of all ages and abilities, in particular women and girls,” Tuggeranong Netball Association President Jonathan Toze said.
“This multi-sport facility is aimed at being the home ground for many different sports and clubs in the Tuggeranong Valley, many of whom have large membership but no venue in which to train appropriately.
“We will welcome these sports to call the Tuggeranong Sports Complex home and it will be geared to maximise whole of community participation.”