Liberal MLA and senior shadow minister Vicki Dunne says she will be leaving the Liberal Party ready for Government when she departs the Legislative Assembly next year.
Ms Dunne, who was elected to the Assembly in 2001, announced on Wednesday that after five consecutive terms as Member for Ginninderra she would not be contesting the October 2020 election.
Ms Dunne said that under the leadership of Zed Seselja, Jeremy Hanson and now Alistair Coe, the Canberra Liberals had developed into a ‘well-oiled machine’ capable of winning Government after nearly 17 years in Opposition.
She admitted that after losing power in 2012 the party had not been a very effective opposition but was now being recognised for making a difference in issues such as health and rates.
She lamented the way the Assembly had become more polarised in recent times, attributing that to the loss of a more diverse cross-bench, but rejected claims that the Liberals had drifted too far to the right or were too negative.
“The Assembly is more polarised and less intent on having negotiated outcomes. I think that’s because we don’t have a diverse crossbench – we have people on the crossbench [the Greens] but they’re all the one stripe, and they’ll associate with the Labor Party more easily than elsewhere,” she said.
“In previous Assemblies where you might have three or four people on the crossbench you get quite different outcomes. It was harder to push through legislation and you often got a better outcome.
“In the ACT, politics is about providing services to the people of the ACT, respecting the opinions and views of the voters whether they vote for you or not. This false dichotomy about progressive or not progressive does not do a service to the people of the ACT.”
Ms Dunne also defended the Canberra Liberals’ opposition to light rail, saying she fully supported the party’s position at the 2012 and 2016 elections.
“We are not convinced that it was the right economic decision for us to make,” she said. “It is now a reality, the question is how can you capitalise on it to make it more economically viable for the ACT.
“Is Stage 2A or 2B the right answer? We don’t know that yet, we haven’t seen the business case for it.”
Ms Dunne listed water security, fighting school closures, bringing about a review into the operation of the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre, saving the Fitters’ Workshop in Kingston and being elected as Speaker from Opposition as high points of her time in the Assembly.
She took credit for the raising of the Cotter Dam, saying it was pressure from her office and colleagues back in 2003-04 for a new dam that finally convinced then Chief Minister Jon Stanhope to make a decision on the city’s water needs.
“We don’t have the dam we wanted, we have a different dam but the ACT has a new dam because of the work we did,” she said.
“We could not be looking at a 500,000 population if we didn’t have that dam.”
She said that if the ACT’s population did reach half a million people the Government of the day would have to revisit the Liberals’ original plan for the Tennent Dam.
Ms Dunne said it was a disgrace that work on the Canberra Hospital’s SPIRE project was unlikely to start before she left the Assembly.
“We’re a rich city in a first world country and we have declining health infrastructure. It’s unacceptable,” she said.
Ms Dunne said she had plenty of work to do in the next 15 months such as chairing the Public Accounts Committee and ensuring the recommendations of the health culture review were implemented but she was looking forward to travelling with husband Lyle and spending time with her family after politics.
She said the party was talking to people about following her into the Assembly but that was up to the people of Ginninderra.
“I could not have achieved any of this without the support and love of my family, the endorsement and support of the Liberal Party and my colleagues in the Liberal Party Room, and my spectacular and loyal staff,” Ms Dunne said.
“But most importantly I need to thank the voters of Ginninderra who have put their faith in me continuously since 2001.”