17 February 2023

Do the ACT Government's priorities match the community's?

| Elizabeth Lee MLA
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Elizabeth Lee MLA Leader ACT Liberals. Photo: Michelle Kroll

Elizabeth Lee says the Labor-Greens Government has the wrong priorities. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

In the first sitting week of 2023, we got the usual statement from the Chief Minister on his priorities for the year.

From a tired old government that has been at the helm for over 20 years, it hardly made for exciting reading. The most remarkable thing about this statement wasn’t what was in it but what was missing from it.

A few weeks ago, the Productivity Commission released its annual Report on Government Services. The ROGS is a set of comprehensive data compiled from all states and territories used to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of public expenditure across Australia. Basically, it’s a report card on how efficiently all governments across Australia are spending taxpayers’ money.

The data for the ACT is grim.

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Yet again, we have the longest emergency department wait times of any state or territory in Australia. We have held last place in this public hospital indicator since the 2017-18 financial year.

More than 80 per cent of outpatients wait longer than clinically recommended for surgery, and those in the urgent category, who should be seen in 14 days, wait an average of 52 days.

Whichever way you dissect and interpret the data, no one can deny that our hospitals are struggling and struggling badly.

Last year, the Labor-Greens government announced it would finally establish a permanent surgical service for gynaecological cancer in Canberra, only to renege on its promise a few short months later and we are still in the dark about when this will happen.

We have heard about the toxic culture in our hospitals that’s driving our nurses and doctors away from the capital and repeated promises from the Health Minister that they’re fixing things.

Where was the ‘priority’ of fixing our health system in the Chief Minister’s priorities for 2023?

The picture doesn’t get much rosier when we look at our education system. The ACT Government reduced real funding for education over the past decade.

We have hazardous and toxic materials in our classrooms because basic maintenance has been neglected in our schools for years, and Labor and Greens’ broken promise to recruit 400 teachers has led to a serious teacher shortage, resulting in our teachers at crisis point, subjected to bullying and violence.

Only last year, there were WorkSafe ACT closures in some schools because they were deemed unsafe workplaces.

This is an unacceptable reality in our schools in the nation’s capital today.

Where was the ‘priority’ of fixing our education system in the Chief Minister’s priorities for 2023?

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The community’s concern about safety is growing. This is the result of the very deliberate decisions made by Labor and the Greens to starve our frontline police officers of the adequate resources they need to keep our community safe.

Our men and women in blue who put their lives on the line each and every day are being let down by the ACT having the smallest police force and lowest funding for police per capita in Australia.

Where was the ‘priority’ of fixing our police force in the Chief Minister’s priorities for 2023?

The ACT has been facing a housing affordability crisis for some time now with Canberra boasting the highest median rents in the country and a median house valued at almost $1 million. We now have fewer public housing dwellings than we had a decade ago despite a whopping 24 per cent increase in population, with the waitlist ballooning to over 3000 Canberrans needing a roof over their head and the highest rate of long-term homelessness in the country.

We are unique in the ACT in that the government controls the release of all land for residential development, but Labor and the Greens are wedded to an unsustainable infill policy that is failing the needs of Canberrans when it comes to housing. As a direct result of this deliberate policy, land is being drip-fed to the community where we see tens of thousands of hopeful Canberrans throwing their hats into a lottery for sometimes a meagre 70 blocks up for grabs. No wonder the average block costs almost $800,000 even before a single brick is laid.

Where was the ‘priority’ of fixing our housing crisis in the Chief Minister’s priorities for 2023?

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For a long time, many Canberrans took great pride in our beautiful city. We would quietly boast over the greenest grass, the cleanest streets and footpaths, and the great public amenities. Over the past decade, there is absolutely no doubt that it is no longer the beautiful, clean, green city that we knew and loved. Daily, I am contacted by constituents who despair at the neglect that has befallen our city with grass not mown, footpaths not fixed and potholes not patched. Canberrans pay eyewatering rates and see nothing in return.

Where was the ‘priority’ of fixing our basic local amenities in the Chief Minister’s priorities for 2023?

Andrew Barr has laid out his priorities for 2023 and no one can be fooled by what they are. But the real question Canberrans are asking is whether they are the priorities of our community.

With fixing our broken hospitals, schools, community safety, housing and basic municipal services all starkly missing from the Chief Minister’s priorities for this year, Canberrans can have no doubt that we will not be seeing any real leadership or commitment to address them.

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The future of Canberra that I see is one where we support our teachers, healthcare professionals, police and emergency services on the frontline; where Canberrans can access world-class healthcare when they need it; where our children have access to the best evidence-based education in the world; where Canberrans have genuine choice when it comes to housing; where we all play a part in looking after our environment and community spaces; where a local government gets the basics of looking after our green spaces, roads and footpaths; where public transport actually serves public transport needs; where we look after our most vulnerable Canberrans.

By not spending over $3 billion on the tram from Civic to Woden, the Canberra Liberals will be able to properly invest in these critical government services that have been neglected because we know how important they are for Canberrans. These may all be forgotten by Andrew Barr, but these are my priorities and I will continue to be a strong voice for the Canberrans that have been long forgotten and left behind by this Labor-Greens government.

Elizabeth Lee is the leader of the Canberra Liberals.

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Billy Monfries9:44 am 08 Mar 23

Ms Lee, your biggest issue is not that you are too ‘right wing’ or anything like that. You are a conservative party, you should be ‘right wing’. People do not elect your party here because you are minus a real position on anything, and come across as a watered down and almost like version of labor. Just like labors Yvette Berry and Chris Steel, along with the greens Jo Clay, you are not really there for everyday people in the community. Just like your colleagues who wear a different strip, your quest is one for power. Just like Berry, Clay and Steel, you were dismissive of a member of the publics plea for assistance, when a government directorate had and was found to be behaving inappropriately. Like your colleagues, this persons pleas fell on deaf ears. Your own same strip colleague Peter Cain was made aware of the improper and unethical behaviours of a local organisation. Rather than making representations of behalf of his affected constituents, he started liking this organisations posts on facebook. Desperate and devious. If you want to be a real force for change, and you are in fact genuine, then start connecting with your community and be real too. You all appear to be arrogant, dismissive, patronising and fake.

The party Elizabeth Lee leads will never get into government. The Canberra Liberals are the most conservative branch of the party in the country. Liberal supporters and its dwindling membership despair. The party has trouble attracting new members and was flat-out recruiting candidates for the last two elections. The candidates the party put forward were a mixed bag of ultra-conservatives. Two candidates were dropped and replaced due to their outrageous behaviour. Patrick Pentony was the only suitable candidate in a field of 25. Elizabeth Lee, the party’s leader and its most high profile member now that Zed is gone, barely scraped over the line and couldn’t even reach a quota with preferences. Her running mate the sitting Candice Burch was knocked out. This makes the seat of Kurrajong, arguably the most important seat in the ACT, marginal for the Liberals. The current representatives are a tired and a mixed bunch with significant internal tensions and some not even on speaking terms. The party needs renewal.

devils_advocate12:02 pm 20 Feb 23

“From a tired old government that has been at the helm for over 20 years.”

What about the tired old opposition that has yet to provide a credible alternative for 20 years?

The current ACT “government” has grown complacent and has not been held to account for decades.

This is why we see our taxes spent on toy train sets and not the essentials listed above.

Where is the credible opposition? What is their concrete plan to fix the situation? Starting with the hospitals please. I (and possibly others) wait with bated breath.

I would consider joining and supporting the effort to oust the current “government” if I thought there was a credible opposition policy platform!

In the thirteen years we’ve been in Canberra, the time under Barr’s tenure we’ve also seen a rapid decline in all the things Lee has written about in favour of Barr’s vanity projects. Will I vote Liberal? Not a chance until they lance that Conservative boil that’s attached to the Liberals. In the meantime, I’ll continue to vote for an independent.

HiddenDragon8:40 pm 18 Feb 23

By the time of the 2024 ACT election, most Canberra households will still be dealing with prices rising faster than incomes, and many will also be trying to cope with much higher mortgage repayments.

Any promises by the ACT Liberals to spend more on services (assuming that the Woden leg of light rail could be cancelled without very significant financial penalties) should bear this firmly in mind and leave budgetary room for relief from Labor-Green revenue gouging – and not just for those who meet the current arbitrary criteria for concessions and hand-outs.

GrumpyGrandpa7:15 pm 18 Feb 23

I shake my head in disbelief at certain commentators who are seemingly happy to accept substandard services within our health, education, policing, and housing sectors because anything is better than a Liberal government!

It doesn’t matter who is in government; the Liberals, or the ALP/Greens. The only important thing is whether the government of the day is doing a good job managing our critical services.

Does Ms. Lee have a chance of claiming victory at the next election; I very much doubt it. Our electoral system favours a hung Assembly or an alliance style of government. That said, in my opinion, Andrew Barr is the only thing the ALP has going for it. If he was to retire, anything could happen; maybe even a Liberal government!

In the meantime, rather than accepting abysmal levels of critical services, one-eyed party supporters should be asking the members whom they put their blind faith in, to lift their game and provide the level of services they expect.

Stan Dukic, you’re dead right, this mob of self-serving bandits need to be kicked to the sideline. But there is no-one else worthy of taking their place. Voting in some Independents will help, but the Libs are completely unelectable. They won’t even get close (again), and under current management, never will.

Ms Lee is doing a good job in this opinion piece mimicking the negative rhetoric we saw from Tony Abbott. Just over 18 months out from the next ACT election, the media needs to put the spotlight on the Canberra Liberals. Ms Lee is a conduit for the conservatives who dominate her party to get into government. Ms Lee needs to fess up and reveal her and her party’s links to the far right activist group Advance Australia. This secretive, deeply bigoted and conservative group has links to a number of people close to the Canberra Liberals. These include Zed Seselja, his various family members, his former senior adviser, recently retired MLA Vicki Dunne as well as current and past Canberra Liberal party members. Maybe Canberrans need a dose of the Canberra Liberals in government just to find out how bad things can get.

And your solution is what? Sorry dear, I wouldn’t vote for you if your name was the only one on the ballot paper.

It is easy to snipe from the sidelines when you are not in government making the hard decisions Elizabeth Lee! Nit picking and using government data selectively for cheap political point scoring. All this while refusing to reveal how your side will tackle the challenges of government. Obstruction and obfuscation, focusing on the negatives. That is how Elizabeth Lee and her party operate, treating ACT voters as mugs. The Canberra Liberals are the most conservative branch of the party in the country. Where are Elizabeth Lee’s insights into Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation currently being debated in the Assembly? These rights have been hard-fought by ACT residents and were previously removed by her party. What about reproductive rights for women which the Canberra Liberals have previously fought against? There is no mention of Indigenous rights and the upcoming Voice Referendum. There is no mention of Climate Change action and the ACT government’s ongoing and good work in tackling this issue. There is no mention of the current and significant work that the government is undertaking in Health and the major expansion of the Canberra Hospital. There is no mention of the upgrades that are currently being undertaken in schools throughout Canberra. What about the free meals initiative currently being rolled out in Canberra schools for those doing it tough, but ridiculed by your side? These are legitimate questions for the Canberra Liberals. Where are your initiatives in tackling these issues Elizabeth Lee!!

Labor is caught with their pants down, so Jack points and shouts “look at the Liberals”.

So by your reckoning nobody, the Canberra Liberals should be free from scrutiny? Is that what you are suggesting? The Canberra Liberals want to win government. At the next ACT election in 2024 they will have been in opposition for 23 years. There have been six party leaders during this time. The Canberra Liberals are the most deeply conservative party in the country. They are also linked to dubious groups connected to far-right politics. Unfortunately, Canberra voters are the losers. It is up to the Canberra Liberals to be up front with voters and provide a vision of what they will bring to government should they win the next ACT election. Not blame the media and Labor for criticisms which point out their shortfalls. I do not hold out any hope judging by this opinion piece from Elizabeth Lee. Nothing but grubby and cheap political point scoring.

Jack and Estelle defend the regime like their jobs depend on it.

Imagine of people like Jack and Estelle paid as much attention to the objective and repeated failings of the current t government as they do about the Liberals who haven’t been in charge for 20+ years.

No wonder the current government is so arrogant and complacent, they know the one eyed “progressives” will never vote Liberal no matter what they offered.

Bob the impala5:31 pm 20 Feb 23

“…. no matter what they are offered.”
And this is what voters are offered: https://canberraliberals.org.au/our-policies


Chewy14, you may have put your finger on at least one of the Liberals’ problems.

Very few political parties put detailed policy platforms out a long time before an election because it’s too easy for the entrenched government to use their incumbency to cheaply attack those policies no matter what the reality.

Although you do highlight another issue in that the ALP/Greens have used their incumbency to prepare detailed policy platforms yet have still performed woefully over many years, with poor and reducing service delivery despite ever expanding expenditure.

Perhaps a few pretty words on a website don’t actually translate into real world competency? Even when you do have the entire government bureaucracy to support you.

Bob the impala12:25 pm 25 Feb 23

How do *no* words on a website actually translate into real world competency? I haven’t noticed.

Chewy14, you tried to shift the goalposts as “detailed” policy platforms. I recognise a political point but there is nothing there at all. As policy, it’s blank, unless concealment of intentions is a policy.

Finding fault with outcomes is not proving incompetence. Federal governments/departments have shown they can very competently run illegal or injurious policies. When voting I am more or less obliged to assume adequate competency from a major party or else I give myself no choices. Not being a rusted voter, I want time to consider what each propose to do as well as what they have done, or what policy attitudes they have displayed. I trust that explains it.

I am REALLY looking forward to Elizabeth Lee and her party giving voters an insight into what the Canberra Liberals will bring to government in the unlikely event they are elected. The Canberra Liberals, the most conservative branch of the party in the country, has only been in opposition for nearly 23-years. I have read the Chief Minister’s ministerial statement in the Assembly on 7 February, referred to in this opinion piece. Contrary to Ms Lee’s deceptions, the statement is clear and detailed. All ministers including the Greens gave detailed statements into their portfolio responsibilities. The Hansard is available online on the ACT government website for all of those naysayers and whingers to make up their own minds. Elizabeth Lee, in this opinion piece has used the ROGS report selectively, in a smart alec and cheap political point scoring effort. Elizabeth Lee and her party had the opportunity to challenge the Chief Minister and his government in question time on that day on the government’s priorities, but failed to do so. Instead, they used all of question time in an attempt to dig up dirt on their opponents. The Canberra Liberals’ lack of policy detail and the party’s failure of leadership is an embarrassment. Canberra voters are the losers!

Well, Elizabeth, the choice is yours. Excise the Zed cancer from your party, or this pack of whackers will be back again. There are many Canberrans who desperately want a viable alternative, but at this time, you are not it.

calyptorhynchus10:36 am 18 Feb 23

These criticism may be valid, but you, as a Liberal, have no credibility in these areas. Can you point to one Federal or state Liberal government in Australia’s history that was interested in helping ordinary people?

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