6 November 2023

Canberra Liberals launch first 2024 election policy by 'getting back to basics' at National Press Club

| Claire Fenwicke
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Elizabeth Lee MLA.

Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee has laid out the first policy her party will take to the 2024 election as part of an address at the National Press Club. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Elizabeth Lee has used her maiden speech at the National Press Club to make one thing clear: “I want to be a different Liberal leader, not a Labor leader.”

The Canberra Liberals launched their 2024 ACT Election campaign with a $100 million policy to upgrade the suburbs.

Ms Lee outlined in her speech on Monday (6 November) that she had chosen to start with this policy as it was about “getting back to basics”.

“It does speak to a lot of people – whether they traditionally vote Labor or Liberal – and it is about ensuring that this local government gets its priorities right, focuses on getting back to basics, and doesn’t neglect the outer suburbs in some of the areas where, I think, Andrew Barr and his colleagues have decided they don’t matter because they don’t vote for him,” she said.

“We will get back to basics and restore pride in our city.”

READ ALSO Lee to launch election fight with $100m policy to lift Canberra’s ‘neglected’ suburbs

Ms Lee said this election presented Canberrans a choice to “set a new direction” for the city’s future after more than two decades of ACT Labor in power.

Her vision for Canberra included a better health system, a nation-leading education system, allowing everyone to have the type of home they want, safe communities, taking pride in neighbourhoods, a supportive environment for small businesses, a new approach to the protection of green spaces and the environment, boosting vocational and apprenticeship training, and overhauling the procurement system.

Ms Lee said that when she considered the issues of the Territory through “my lens of Liberal values”, it was clear her party, under her leadership, was needed to get the job done.

“We will, unashamedly, stand up for the community, no matter what the issues are, and we will make sure the Canberra community knows what Liberal values we will bring to government,” she said.

“That goes back to making sure there is freedom, that there’s individual responsibility, that there’s reward for hard work, and those are very strong Liberal values, universal Liberal values, that I will bring with me in a government that I lead.”

The Canberra Liberals have made no secret that they will not continue with light rail stage 2B if elected, and overhauling the procurement system would also free up more money to make their plans a reality.

There’s still one more budget to be presented before the October 2024 election, during which the state of the Territory’s finances will be made clearer, and the Liberals will also have to present their election costings for scrutiny.

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Ms Lee also used her speech and the following question time from media to outline that if people wanted change, they needed to vote for it.

While she will be aiming for the Canberra Liberals to be elected as a majority, she does expect other parties – including potential Teal-like candidates – to be elected.

Given Labor lost two seats to the Greens in the 2020 election, Ms Lee appealed to those who may think voting for the Greens will get the chance they want.

“[Last election] people wanted something different. Yes, the something different people voted for was the Greens, but if you have a look at their record, especially this term of government, there’s no doubt that the Greens are certainly not the answer,” she said.

“The Greens try to mount themselves as some kind of Labor-alternate, ‘if you don’t like Labor, vote for us’. But what we have seen is the reality that they are well and truly in bed with the Labor Party.

“So we need to make sure that the Canberra community knows: if you don’t like what you see in this local government, the only way to change it is to vote Liberal.”

While Canberra will have to wait for more details closer to October, it’s clear the fight for the top job has begun.

“At the end of the day, [this] is about putting forward my vision … and [Canberrans] will make a decision based on what they see in October 2024,” Ms Lee said.

“In one year, I ask all Canberrans: do not just wish for a better Canberra.

“Vote for one.”

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The only hope the Canberra Liberals have of winning is if they all stand down at the next election. Unfortunately, this rag tag of mostly right wing nutters will be back putting their hands up to be elected, together with the deeply conservative candidates who lost out at the last election. Many of their current lineup barely scraped over the line. Sadly the party’s significantly reduced membership gives them little to choose from.

An opposition party drives good policy and holds governments to account. Deputy leader Jeremy Hanson is a well known climate change sceptic. He has goaded campaigners for change and posted inflammatory and offensive tweets directed at Canberra students who were protesting for action. Canberrans have not forgotten Elizabeth Lee’s attendance at a Young Liberal event where she happily participated in an auction for A lump of coal. Nor have they forgotten Ms Lee’s silence during the Yes campaign while Mr Hanson used the Liberal party’s platform to run his vociferous, toxic and divisive no campaign. Not to mention his actions in undermining territory rights.

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