5 July 2020

Election clock is TikTok-ing for Canberra Liberals

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation
Mark Parton

Canberra Liberals’ Mark Parton was kicked out of the ACT Legislative Assembly last Thursday for failing to remove a TikTok video, overshadowing the only day the Assembly sat. Image: Screenshot.

It is reflective of just where the Canberra Liberals are on the election trail that it was Mark Parton’s social media antics that grabbed most of the attention last week.

With only three months to go until Canberrans choose the next Legislative Assembly, the Opposition’s headlines are getting shriller, and while it continues to push familiar buttons we’re no closer to knowing the detail of what’s on offer in October.

Worse, the Liberals seem intent on contorting themselves on key issues and leaving voters guessing about what they will do if they make it into government.

They appeared to jump back on board the stop-the-tram bus, now being driven by former Labor chief minister Jon Stanhope, when attacking the government over delays in signing contracts with Canberra Metro for Stage 2A light rail to Commonwealth Park.

Nothing wrong with saying there had been epic mismanagement of the project but Opposition Leader Alistair Coe insisted on the release of the full business case and costings for the leg, something that is clearly not in the ACT’s interests during negotiations with the contractor.

While the Liberals say they are committed to the light rail extension in principle, they’re not about to back anything without knowing the cost and all the pros and cons.

“It’s very hard to make any commitment when the government refuses to reveal this information,” Mr Coe said.

Not only that, Mr Coe said that instead of sticking with the Canberra Metro, the Stage 1 contractor, the government should have gone to open tender, even though it makes sense to stay with a successful team to ensure a unified network.

But he would not answer questions about whether a Liberal Government would review the project, revert to an open tender process or not proceed at all.

This puts an election cloud over the whole light rail project, in spite of its popularity and the clamour from all areas of the city for the shiny red vehicles to come to their part of town at some point.

It is all too easy for the government to brand the Liberals, again, as anti-light rail and anti-progress.

Do we really need another light rail election?

The community needs to know if the Liberals will continue the project, and Mr Coe should not play a political game that he cannot win. He should get on board, and pledge to manage and run light rail better than the government, neutralising attacks and giving the Liberals something positive to say.

At least the Liberals will honour any contracts if the government does manage to ink any before the election.

The Liberals continued to hammer the theme that the government wants to corral Canberrans into high-rise apartments when young families want their own patch of dirt and freestanding house in the suburbs.

The bias towards medium and high-density development and the high cost of land is well documented, and the Liberals have been saying since Mr Coe’s Press Club appearance last October that they will release more land for houses and make them more affordable.

Alistair Coe

Canberra Liberals’ leader Alistair Coe: time to kick some real goals. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

It may have been OK then to scope out some general principles on what could be fertile electoral ground but last week he again refused to put some meat on the bones for journalists at a press conference he called to highlight some development approval and land release numbers that supported his case.

Mr Coe will let us know in good time where land will be released, how much and by what amount he would like to see prices come down. It would also be good to know if he plans to reform the Suburban Land Agency to overturn the government’s monopoly on land sales, something he is fiercely critical of.

With land being the currency in the ACT, these are significant matters for any territory government.

Mr Coe has also been relentless on rates and you can’t blame him for that but beyond the four-year freeze does he intend to abandon the government tax reform process, something most economists support?

And when it comes to sport, Mr Coe seems all too willing to take a punt on any populist cause, backing Women’s Football World Cup games in Canberra no matter what the cost, and calling on the AFL to set up a playing hub in the national capital, the timing of which was unfortunate considering the events in Melbourne.

This may have grabbed some airplay but considering the valid criticisms the Liberals have levelled at the government largesses towards big sport it only undermines their cause.

Finally, there is Mr Parton, who has spent more time this year climbing Mt Taylor with his dog and posting his expeditions on social media than putting in for the team.

He has recently discovered TikTok, although some have cruelly jibed that he’s the wrong demographic, and fell foul of Speaker Joy Burch last week in a bid to save democracy from itself.

Disingenuously, he said he was a little perplexed that it got anyone’s attention and the Assembly had wasted so much time on his flouting of the rules on filming inside the chamber

Meanwhile, the government gets on with being the adult in the room, rolling out its infrastructure program and managing the COVID-19 pandemic soberly, with the Melbourne outbreak only vindicating its cautious approach in the face of Liberal calls to reopen the economy.

If Mr Coe believes it can all wait until the campaign or that somehow his team can skate through on vague promises and Mr Parton’s social media skills, then that will be a shame.

The clock is TikTok-ing.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Another election year in the ACT and as usual, the Canberra Liberals have no policies. Going on to 20 years in opposition. The $4.5 million the Liberals are promising was funding secured by the ACT Labor government from the Feds, namely Rachel Stephen-Smith for Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service. The funding is to complete the build and fit-out of its Winnunga’s new facility in Narrabundah, freeing up space in its old centre for other services. This wonderful new state of the art health facility will improve the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the fit-out including a new dental facility and social health and research teams. Winnunga was instrumental in securing this funding and Jullie Tongs has acknowledged Rachel Stephen-Smith for her advocacy in getting this funding. The money has already been forthcoming and unfortunately the Canberra Liberals have just latched on and are claiming the credit.

HiddenDragon6:08 pm 06 Jul 20

“They appeared to jump back on board the stop-the-tram bus, now being driven by former Labor chief minister Jon Stanhope,….”

The public comments I have seen from Jon Stanhope on the tram have questioned the extension of the network on the grounds of affordability, in light of the state of the ACT Government’s finances. His most recent article referred, in detail, to the ballooning net financial liabilities of the ACT, which he quotes as having increased from 51% of revenue in 2009 to 188% in 2019.

The ACT would probably not be fiscally viable in the longer term under current federal taxation and revenue arrangements (even with truly prudent management), but voting for an expensive tram network regardless of our collective capacity to pay for it is not smart – unless you don’t care, because you think others will bear the heaviest costs, or you perhaps think that bringing on a fiscal crisis sooner rather than later will force the Commonwealth to bail us out. Good luck with the latter line of thinking when Commonwealth debt is also ballooning.

Having voted at every ACT election since self-government I have long since lost interest in what the major parties do or say. That will not change as long as ACT Labor has Andrew Barr and Canberra Libs have Zed Seselja (who really runs things for the Libs). I have met one Brindabella MLA in the last 4 years and that is only because Mark Parton did some local door-knocking. My usual approach is (a) not voting for incumbents (b) seeking out sensible-sounding independents and/or hopefuls from any of the major parties who are not currently MLAs.

Mike of Canberra4:13 pm 06 Jul 20

So the contention now seems to be that Coe’s social conservatism means that he couldn’t deliver rates relief to hard pressed Canberra households. What does one have to do with the other? After all, if conservatism means living within your means, budgeting prudently and generally maintaining pragmatic policies, it’s hard to see how he couldn’t find sufficient savings within Barr’s flabby budget to fund the rates relief that all too many of us desperately need.

michael quirk12:39 pm 06 Jul 20

The ACT needs better governance. The lazy and arrogant Barr government is failing the community as demonstrates by its under investment in health and social housing; its failure to justify the extension of light rail and its urban development strategy (what is the point of a 70 per cent renewal strategy if it results in increased car dependent development across the border?)

Unfortunately the Liberals are almost undetectable given their social conservatism. What is needed is a party that bases its decisions on evidence. Perhaps an independent party committed to better governance (Stanhope Independents?) could attract sufficient support to hold the balance of power and improve the governance of the Territory.

Capital Retro11:08 am 06 Jul 20

“For anyone wandering where they can find any news of Canberra Liberal policy announcements, you can find them at the below link.”

Yep, wandering is the operative word alright.

Barr and Canberra Labor are thoroughly on the nose in Canberra. For the last couple of elections, I was quite willing to change my vote.

But then you look at the alternative and see that the Libs are completely unelectable in a relatively progressive jurisdiction like the ACT.

If only there were was a party with principles, morality and a vision that is for the people rather than blinkered vested interests.

I think this article should come with some safety railings.

It’s leaning so far left, readers should really have something to hold on to.

It’s only so far left because you might be so far to the right.

The article makes very good points about the Libs.

Obviously there is no secret I lean left, but frankly the points made are valid. The Libs platform seems to be find an issue where there is noise and unease (rates, light rail, housing, development) and then propose the opposite and say we will fix it. But offer no detail on how they will do any of it, and putting my left leaning hat on simply because they don’t know how. All they know what to do is oppose. Me personally until they realise that being in opposition is more about presenting as an alternative government rather than an opposition, then opposition is where they should stay.

Sorry to tell you i’m bang in the middle, with a strong preference for facts and evidence based policy no matter which side it comes from.

The article is very poorly written and clearly and obviously slanted in one direction. The value judgements and emotive language are positively dripping. If you can’t see that, you really need to open your other eye.

I’m on the record as to my thoughts of how woeful the local Liberals are but this article is not even close to being a balanced and fair assessment of the issues and the politics behind them.

ACT Labor deliberately withholds land in order to maintain and increase property prices and assessed land values. Why? Because ever rising property values means ever rising rates, which Barr is revenue dependent on. The effect is higher house prices and housing unaffordability for young people and ultimately higher rents, impacting on low income households. Everyone loses from this cruel strategy, except corporate property developers, real estate agents and speculators with multiple investment properties. Yet habitual Labor voters continue to support a party that has moved so far from its original ideals as to now become merely a shop front for its big business mates.

Having one single major source of revenue – for any given polity – will always be distortive of policy.

The ACT’s is land sales.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.