12 February 2021

"Everything on the table": Liberals seek to carve a new path forward

| Dominic Giannini
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Elizabeth Lee

Opposition leader Elizabeth Lee has delivered her reply to the ACT Budget. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The Canberra Liberals have put all their policies on the table for review as the party looks to start the year with a clean slate.

Opposition leader Elizabeth Lee implored the government to work with the Canberra Liberals and avoid partisanship in the interests of Canberrans as the party continues to push for a task force to address poverty in the ACT.

“The election is over, do not dismiss it as a political stunt,” she said.

“There are absolutely some principles and values that we strongly and firmly continue to hold on to, and these are things like making sure that our most vulnerable Canberrans are not left behind.

“It is making sure that we are not at risk of creating a two-tiered society.”

Ms Lee did not use her budget reply on Thursday (11 February) to announce any new policies but instead used her speech to focus on Canberra’s affordability and called on the government to make the city a world leader in science and technology.

“Canberra can be a genuine leader in developing world-leading solutions,” she said.

“We have an enormous capacity right here in our great city. We have some of the brightest minds and the most passionate hearts to truly make a difference.

“Let’s work together to reach a sensible and sustainable solution to reducing our emissions and developing clean energy technologies. Solutions that will not penalise those Canberrans who can least afford it.”

READ ALSO ACT Budget: What the ACT Budget means for your rates

Channelling Bob Hawke’s proposition that Canberra is “the place where important decisions for our country are made”, Ms Lee said that Canberra is more than just a city and a community.

“[Canberra is] a place that is a world-class people capital. A city that not only invests in and values physical infrastructure and services but in our greatest asset, our people,” she said.

“A city where everyone, no matter what their situation or position in life, feels welcome and at home.

“A city where no one is judged on the way they look or sound but on their innate character and ability to contribute to our community.”

Elizabeth Lee budget reply speech

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee gave her budget reply speech on Thursday, 11 February. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

But still reeling from an election defeat that saw the Liberals reduced to just nine MLAs, and the recent announcement that former leader Alistair Coe will leave the Assembly in early March, the party now has the challenge of carving out a new look that appeals to the Canberra electorate.

While this includes holding the government to account in areas like housing, social equality and healthcare, it also includes working with the government and putting politics aside during the pandemic, Ms Lee said.

It is in no one’s best interest to be obstructive for the sake of obstruction, she said.

READ ALSO Meet Elizabeth Lee, the Liberals’ new hope to end a quarter-century in opposition

“Being in opposition is difficult. You need to find balance because it is our job, our duty and our commitment to hold the government to account where they need to be. But it is also about working together in the best interests of Canberrans.

“There is no doubt that with a new leadership team, the Canberra public will take a second look and say ‘hey, they look different, are they going to be different? and if so, how?’

“We know that we have what it takes to be in Opposition, trust me, we have been in there enough,” she laughed.

“But it is also about showing the Canberra public that we also have what it takes to be the alternative government.”

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why would anyone bother with the libs when the Greens are the only realistic alternative to labor in canberra if you want to address emissions, and tackle

HiddenDragon8:18 pm 12 Feb 21

“While this includes holding the government to account in areas like housing, social equality and healthcare….”

It needs to be much more than “holding the government to account” in major areas of policy and service delivery, because without robust, workable alternatives and options for improvement, an opposition party which simply attacks shortcomings and failures of the government will not get very far.

This means serious policy work which isn’t easy, with the limited resources of opposition compared to the government, but with so much relevant information available online, and with electronic communication making contact with policy experts interstate and overseas relatively easy and low-cost, there is no good reason why solid policy ideas cannot be developed by a small opposition party with time on its hands.

The ACT Liberals also need to be much more upfront about any ideas or plans they have for spending cuts, outsourcing etc. If they have such plans, that should be explained in detail and open to debate well before an election. The alternative approach, which we have seen for the last few elections, is to try to tap-dance around the issue which, if anything, probably leads to fears of much worse than what might, in truth, have been in contemplation.

Avoid partisanship? You would have rocks in their head to think the conservatives would offer the same if they were in power.

I’m going to miss Coe – he was like a little class captain apointed for goody toe shoes type behaviour, whose popularity declined with every cringeworthy talking point he regurgitated.

‘One million trees’ will go down as the worst attempt at an environmental policy. ‘Better service, lower cost’ will go down at the worst attempt at an economic policy (if you can even call it that) and challenging the ban on gay conversion therapy will go down as the most out of touch attempt at social policy.

From a tripple bottom line standpoint, he really did set the bar low for Lee. I can’t wait to see whether she tries to backtrack or double down. Either way, it’ll be a show!

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