Coe tacks to the centre as he tries to rally Canberra’s battlers to the Liberal cause

Ian Bushnell 17 June 2019 47
Opposition Leader Alistair Coe: Try to present a new image for the Canberra Liberals.

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe: Trying to present a new image for the Canberra Liberals. File photo.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Opposition Leader Alistair Coe as he used the ACT Budget to announce a couple of big policies to take to next year’s elections, but more importantly attempt to re-position the Canberra Liberals as the party of fairness and the forgotten.

The rates freeze grabbed the headlines but it’s the language that it and other issues have been couched in that reflect how the Canberra Liberals are preparing the electorate for a poll battle in which Chief Minister Andrew Barr will be demonised for the tax yoke imposed on the ACT’s battlers.

If you listen to Mr Coe these days, you’d think he had joined the Labor Party, not declared war on it. His speeches and interviews are peppered with phrases such as ‘doing it tough’, it’s just not fair’, and ‘justice and fairness’. He has attacked corporate largesse and greed, threatening to reduce Icon Water to a simple water authority run by public servants and slashing executive salaries.

He has even raised the issue of the working poor and the creeping poverty in affluent Canberra that afflicts 8000 children.

Social welfare activists will applaud the new bipartisanship and what some unkindly might say is the Canberra Liberals’ discovery of these issues.

It’s Mr Coe’s job to cast Mr Barr as an indifferent, out of touch Chief Minister leading a government that has been in power too long, is complacent and simply doesn’t care.

Rates are up way beyond the capacity of households to pay, they’re doing it tough and they need relief.

“It’s just not fair, there is a real justice and fairness element to what we are proposing today and we think we owe it to Canberra households to relieve the pressure,” Mr Coe told ABC radio.

He’s accused the Government’s tax policies for making Canberra too costly and driving young people in particular across the border in search of affordable real estate.

“We shouldn’t be pricing a generation of Canberrans out of this city,” he said. “We need to make sure that the ACT is affordable for everyone but it just seems that ACT Labor has forgotten about thousands of people in the ACT who are really part of the working poor.”

The forgotten people – that sounds vaguely familiar.

But you could hardly call Mr Coe and the Canberra Liberals Menzian, dominated as they are by a conservative right wing in the most socially progressive jurisdiction in the land.

The other pivot Mr Coe executed was to drop the Liberals’ longstanding and futile opposition to light rail and support in principle at least the line’s extension to Woden and other centres.

The Government remains sceptical but at least now the energy of stubborn opposition might be channelled into something more productive, if only to throw off the label of being stuck in the past.

With the Government lambasting the rates freeze proposal as irresponsible and claiming the Liberals would pay for it with massive cuts to services and jobs, including health, Mr Coe has been quick to frame Mr Barr and his left-wing allies as negative, and to reassure Canberrans.

“This is the sort of thing that Getup, the Labor Party, the CFMEU and unions in general run,” he said. “Unfortunately Andrew Barr is going to keep going with these negative campaigns.

“We’re far more committed to bringing justice and fairness to the tax regime in the ACT.”

He’s not in the business of cutting public servants. “We’d rather be hiring,” Mr Coe said.

He wants to ’empower’ them, whatever that means.

So, meet the new Alistair Coe, the new Canberra Liberals, battlers’ champions, public servants’ friend, more Labor than Labor.

But the questions about the details will keep coming, about how all the obvious inconsistencies about tax and spending can be reconciled, and about the baggage the Canberra Liberals still carry.

Yes, the Government is vulnerable on rates, property issues and its long time in office but it’s going to take a lot more than a change in tone, tax trucks and social media memes to dislodge Andrew Barr.

In the most educated electorate in the country, ACT voters will want the questions answered.


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47 Responses to Coe tacks to the centre as he tries to rally Canberra’s battlers to the Liberal cause
Steve Scott Steve Scott 7:58 pm 19 Jun 19

All the over payed shiny bums coming out to defend their money for nothing...pathic.

Hamba Hamba 1:39 pm 19 Jun 19

The vacuity of most comments attacking Mr Coe are telling, as is, in its own way, former Labor Chief Minister Jon Stanhope’s reasoned assessment in the latest City News: No, the Federal Liberals have not cut grants to the ACT for health, education or anything else despite what the unionists and Labor faithful may be making up and/or repeating. And yes, the Barr government are nasty and vengeful towards anyone who crosses them. Finally, if you actually expect ACT Labor and the Greens to deliver ‘a fully functioning health system or an affordable house or a fair and progressive rates regime or justice for Aboriginal people, then dream on’.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:58 am 19 Jun 19

“Looks like a used car salesman”

That’s a better look than the incumbent Chief Minister.

Jen Dee Jen Dee 11:49 am 19 Jun 19

Looks like a used car salesman

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:59 am 19 Jun 19

For whoever ends up running the ACT (Labor, Liberals or administrator/receiver) they will have to make massive cuts to staffing levels in the ACT public service if we are to survive.

Some of the salaries offered for jobs with esoteric descriptions are beyond belief. Do we really need 23,000 people to run Canberra?

    angrycanberrian angrycanberrian 11:53 am 19 Jun 19

    Yeah who needs the 4000 teachers, 6000 nurse’s, 1000+ doctors, all the act ambulance and act fire brigade, the ESA staff, bus drivers, the staff that administer public housing, the people who cut the grass and maintain trees that hang over roads. Or the people who fix pit holes or the people who make sure they get paid.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 3:59 pm 19 Jun 19

    We could integrate education, health and a few other directorates into the NSW system and that would eliminate a whole level of high paid bureaucrats. The functions in the Territory you mentioned that are carried out by councils elsewhere could be kept under Territory control.

    Would you be happy with that?

Mark Chapman Mark Chapman 9:54 am 19 Jun 19

More Liberal BS. Cue the "budget black hole" excuse for slash-and-burn if the ACT was ever dumb enough to elect this spoilt ideologue as Chief Minister.

Prue McKay Prue McKay 8:31 am 19 Jun 19

Things have come to a pretty pass when the Libs are touted as the party of fairness and justice!

Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 7:29 am 19 Jun 19

If the Canberra Liberal Party wants to make a difference and provide an effective opposition to Labor, then they need to start thinking about sensible policy that applies to all of their constituents, not just conservative white blokes. I would love to see some effective opposition.

Alex Makedonsky Alex Makedonsky 11:59 pm 18 Jun 19

We know that Barr's tax reform claims things will be fairer. I like Barr's compassion to tenants acknowledging that rents in the ACT became highest in Australia while announcing double digit rates rise in the same speech. Apparently we want doing the same thing expecting different result?

Anka Savasci Anka Savasci 10:06 pm 18 Jun 19

Come back to us when he’s pro Choice, pro LGBTQI rights and pro secular government.

Ben Graham Ben Graham 7:54 pm 18 Jun 19

He voted against marriage equality. He has shown to be out of step with the majority of Canberrans on social issues. While rates might be an issue, I doubt many people who vote Labor-Greens could stomach voting for such a conservative leader.

Craig Elliott Craig Elliott 7:24 pm 18 Jun 19

Any government freezing rates ( which are the most expensive in the conutry compared to actual land value) has my vote.....

    Annie Wyer Annie Wyer 7:55 am 19 Jun 19

    Craig Elliott freezing rates = less services beyond your front gate.

    Craig Elliott Craig Elliott 6:11 pm 19 Jun 19

    Annie Wyer .....I'm ok with a slight reduction. Approx 30% of rate revenue goes to events...happy for a more user pay system or a slight reduction. Current government has a spending issue not a revenue issue.

    Annie Wyer Annie Wyer 7:18 am 20 Jun 19

    Craig Elliott freezing rates = less services beyond your front gate.

Mark Bundy Mark Bundy 6:02 pm 18 Jun 19

Laughable , he wouldnt have a clue where the centre was

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 5:57 pm 18 Jun 19

“He’s accused the Government’s tax policies for making Canberra too costly and driving young people in particular across the border in search of affordable real estate.”

That view is shared by Jon Stanhope, who recently wrote –

“It is virtually impossible for a family with a gross household income of (say) under $110,000 and who cannot expect family support, to ever buy a detached house in Canberra. The government has effectively dictated that they must either live in a flat or leave the ACT. These are not the actions of a progressive government.”

    JC JC 4:46 pm 19 Jun 19

    It’s not the government that has dictated that people who cannot afford a detached house must leave or live in a flat, it is the market.

    chewy14 chewy14 3:16 pm 20 Jun 19

    There are numerous detached houses that a family on $100k could afford if they so wished, just not in central areas nor near major transport corridors.

    But his point just reflects market reality, poorer people can’t afford expensive things.

    Looks like Stanhope is continuing with his bout of relevance deprivation syndrome.

Stephen Esdaile Stephen Esdaile 5:43 pm 18 Jun 19

Liberals = non-core promises.

ACT Labor = thought-bubbleocracy

Greens = Labor + even more thought-bubblement.

A hopeless position for a voter.

Julia Graczyk Julia Graczyk 5:37 pm 18 Jun 19

I was interested and intrigued when I saw the words justice, fairness and Canberra Liberals in the same sentence in the post accompanying the article. Then I read the article. Nothing to see here.

Julie Delves Julie Delves 5:19 pm 18 Jun 19

Persuading anyone that Liberals are a party of fairness and justice is going to be a very hard sell.

    Scott Harvey Scott Harvey 5:34 pm 18 Jun 19

    Julie Delves I'm not buying the socially aware thing either.

    Stephen Esdaile Stephen Esdaile 5:40 pm 18 Jun 19

    An impossible sell!

    Rae Buerckner Rae Buerckner 5:55 pm 18 Jun 19

    Scott Harvey Indeed, socialism is communism by stealth

    Julie Delves Julie Delves 6:13 pm 18 Jun 19

    Rae Buerckner ? How is socialism (the provision of pensions, health care, disability services and so on) communism by stealth?

    Mirjam Herzog Mirjam Herzog 1:20 pm 19 Jun 19

    Fairness & Justice... seems like a gap in the market of current politics... probs a catchphrase for a party yet to be founded...

Steve Aust Steve Aust 5:10 pm 18 Jun 19

In my opinion, only 1 leader of the ACT Libs can get them into office. Mark Parton.

    Mark Bundy Mark Bundy 6:03 pm 18 Jun 19

    Stephen Roberts the failed radio dill , the failed independent .. no thanks

    Elouise Aird Elouise Aird 8:01 pm 18 Jun 19

    Stephen Roberts I’ve always liked mark! Even back on his radio days ... very down to earth

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 8:19 pm 18 Jun 19

    Stephen Roberts agree - Elizabeth Lee is also not bad. The rest are turnips

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 4:47 pm 19 Jun 19

    Elouise Aird he is an opportunist not a leader.

Neenie Baines Neenie Baines 5:10 pm 18 Jun 19

I was infuriated when I saw those stupid rates trucks last week on the corner of cotter road and the parkway, Jeremy Hansen and gulia. Arggg. Vomit. Sick of being bombarded, especially just after a federal election. Leave us alone. You’re not doing yourself any favors liberals. And either is Zed. He doesn’t represent us well, why would any of the others??

Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 2:28 pm 18 Jun 19

‘Rates freeze’ is easy to throw out there but unless he’s ok with a greater deficit then the money has to come from somewhere..

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 8:54 pm 18 Jun 19

    Or cut services, which he won't detail pre election.

    Elroy Jones Elroy Jones 9:11 am 19 Jun 19

    Justin Watson rates is dumb to campaign on for two reasons: ACT doesn’t have many revenue sources but demands high quality of life. Somethings gotta give.. secondly, off FB, most Canberrans don’t really care! If services are world class most Canberrans are happy to pay.

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