Focus on the ACT, not the United Nations, Liberals tell government

Dominic Giannini 14 June 2021 47
Elizabeth Lee

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee has criticised the government for debating issues outside of its purview. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

The Canberra Liberals have lambasted the ACT Government for focusing on issues that don’t affect Canberrans and trying to turn the ACT Legislative Assembly into the United Nations.

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee said the government was focusing on the wrong priorities after motions in the last sitting week included endorsing the call for an International Treaty on Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation and applying for Canberra to become a National Park City.

Ms Lee pointed to the government’s record for emergency department waiting times, rising rates and the cost of living, high rents in Canberra and the lack of social and affordable housing for the 40,000 people living in poverty.

“During last week’s sitting, the government failed to fill the program despite all these significant issues plaguing Canberrans,” Ms Lee said.

“The government needs to get back to basics and ensure they are addressing significant problems affecting the community.”

Mark Parton

Shadow Housing Minister Mark Parton launched a tirade against the ACT Government for not focusing on its own backyard. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Shadow Housing Minister Mark Parton delivered an impassioned, albeit humourous, speech on the Assembly floor last week calling out the government for blaming the Commonwealth for not continuing funding for Canberra Community Law.

“This is not the Federal Parliament, this is not the United Nations. We are keen to debate things that are in control of this Assembly,” he said.

“I often wonder how on earth we would fill the time in here if indeed by some progressive miracle [Anthony] Albanese finds himself the Prime Minister.

“What are you going to fill the space in here with if you cannot have a crack at [Prime Minister Scott] Morrison every day.”


READ MORE: Vulnerable Canberrans left out in the cold when legal funding ends


Mr Parton’s comments were in response to amendments to a motion about funding for Canberra Community Law moved by Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury.

Mr Rattenbury’s amendments noted that the latest Federal Budget did not continue funding for the majority of ACT community law centres and called on the Federal Government to recommit support for the ACT’s legal assistance sector.

The government hit back at the Liberals attack saying the opposition was trying to distract from the fact they have no policies or ideas of their own and pointed to the myriad of ACT-focused debate that occurs in the Assembly.

“Last sitting week, we progressed our Territory-wide infrastructure plan, provided an update on our successful response to COVID-19, progressed new schools for growing suburbs and highlighted transport investments in the Molonglo Valley,” a government spokesperson said.

“The ACT Government remains focussed on local issues and will continue to progress motions and legislation that improve the ACT through the Legislative Assembly.

“This will continue next sitting week, with ministers providing important updates on infrastructure projects across the city.”


READ ALSO: ‘Divorced from Parliament House’: push for Canberra to become a National Park City


But Ms Lee said the government’s focus was clear after two decades in power, reiterating her attack on its record and labelling the Indigenous incarceration rate in the Territory a “disgraceful legacy”.

She also said that Labor’s loss of two seats at the last election during a time where incumbent governments were solidifying their power during the pandemic highlighted Canberra’s discontent with the party.

The Liberals’ attack may well signal a pivot in the party’s campaign strategy after a review on their election loss – where they also lost two seats – identified a failure to land “any effective political punches” on Labor.

The election postmortem also identified a need to initiate a whole-term election plan to win government, including boosting the profile of the leader and doing more in the community throughout the whole term and not just during election years.


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47 Responses to Focus on the ACT, not the United Nations, Liberals tell government
Peter Curtis Peter Curtis 12:46 am 21 Jun 21

How is that the Libs can take the incumbents on from the left? They raise real issues.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:40 pm 16 Jun 21

Much of the progressive agenda being pursued by the ACT government is fairly standard stuff – not just the ideas, but the arguments and language used to present and defend it are similarly deployed by governments elsewhere in Australia and overseas. If they’re talking about it in the US (particularly the west coast and Pacific North-West) now, we’ll be hearing about it in Canberra in a few years time. It’s the international MacWoke brand of politics and it has a strong appeal to people whose lives are relatively untroubled (all the more so if they are oblivious to, or in denial about, the full extent of their good fortune) – so it works a treat with many Canberrans, who also love being told “we’re leading the nation” (even if we’re really not) and/or shaking a righteously defiant little fist at Morrison and Murdoch etc.

The back-to-basics attack on some aspects of this agenda by the ACT Liberals might (and it’s a very big “might”) work if it is pursued assiduously – perhaps as part of a longer term Forgotten People strategy – and backed-up by hard policy work to present robust, workable alternatives to the ACT electorate. Sloganeering criticism alone will not be nearly enough.

Ol L Ol L 9:34 am 16 Jun 21

Must have little to do if their discussing world affairs at a glorified local council lol

Anthony Briscoe Anthony Briscoe 9:29 pm 15 Jun 21

Barr BARR from opening his mouth and send the RAT to kingdom come for a start

Jack Hearps Jack Hearps 7:56 pm 15 Jun 21

Yep ... ignore international perspectives and focus on our navel ... especially enriching our local religious zealots ... liberals are lazy bludgers always looking for a freebie ...

Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 7:17 pm 15 Jun 21

The Canberra Liberals will never change. Climate change affects us all and the UN set important benchmarks to meet. Pretty sure Human rights are also an issue that can be addressed by the assembly.

Mark Chapman Mark Chapman 6:26 pm 15 Jun 21

If you want advice on how to become blinkered and parochial, then the Libs are the ones to ask.

astro2 astro2 6:24 pm 15 Jun 21

There’s nothing wrong with raising concerns or expressing criticism about public health, schools, roads etc (as most people do in their own home states – it’s pretty much a perennial complaint. However….puhleeze don’t refer to “3rd world hospital conditions” and other such rubbish. This is an insult to people who really do live in 3rd world conditions – Haiti, Burma, some south-east asian areas, Yemen etc. It is ridiculous to compare our system with theirs and gives us a bad reputation with the rest of the country. A lot of people already consider Canberrans to be spoilt little darlings, please don’t make it worse.

Michael Ahern Michael Ahern 5:57 pm 15 Jun 21

Fix the hospitals, roads and do some town planning, then go after world peace

Alby Mack Alby Mack 5:29 pm 15 Jun 21

The ACT government is to run the ACT and its issues. The Federal government runs the country and its issues and global issues. Barr needs to stick to his job and not the PM's job.

    Loris Manns Loris Manns 5:32 pm 15 Jun 21

    Alby Mack unfortunately he can’t even do his own job. Look at the state of the health, education and housing in the ACT. It is a disgrace.

Steven Cox Steven Cox 5:21 pm 15 Jun 21

It is always easier to throw mud than to get in and fix the road. However, since the Government of the day sets the agenda, how about they fix the ACT issues and once we have the state that is the envy of all the others then they can spend the time (and our rate-payers monies – yes we DO pay their wages) debating items they have no control over.

Peter Bee Peter Bee 5:18 pm 15 Jun 21

Bit like a Republic and the classic conservative whinge. Damn sure a gov can do more than a few things at once.

    Sharee Schultz Sharee Schultz 7:11 am 16 Jun 21

    Peter Bee a government SHOULD do multiple things but this current government is NOT! That is what is being highlighted here by the opposition. The opposition is doing their job highlighting it!!

Futureproof Futureproof 4:57 pm 15 Jun 21

You mean the United Nations that looked the other way in Rwanda

Henry Kivimaki Henry Kivimaki 4:51 pm 15 Jun 21

U.nited N.onsense

Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 4:26 pm 15 Jun 21

No- this government is useless!

chewy14 chewy14 3:34 pm 15 Jun 21

Whatever you think of the ACT Liberals, they are spot on the money here.

The ACT government is failing in key areas directly in their areas of control, yet want to focus on issues well outside of their purview. If they were performing well in core business, it could be excused. But they aren’t. Not even close.

Rob Rob 2:03 pm 15 Jun 21

Maybe if the government concentrated on ACT issues, we’d have a decent integrated public transport system, we’d have a hospital system whose wait times were not among the worst in the country and we’d have an education system with better educational indices. Given the affluence of our city-state, these are appalling outcomes and are part and parcel of a tired and unfocused government hostage to the Greens’ pet issues.

Simon Copland Simon Copland 2:01 pm 15 Jun 21

It is possible for Governments to do multiple things at the same time. If the Liberals are unable to walk and chew gum at the same time that is really their problem, not the Government's.

    Ray Polglaze Ray Polglaze 2:20 pm 15 Jun 21

    Simon, the implication of your comment is that the government is walking and chewing gum at the same time and that it is therefore successfully dealing with the problems identified by Lee. But the problems identified by Lee are real. There are real problems in public health, public schools and public housing that are not being effectively dealt with by the current government. That is, in the reality, the current government is not effectively walking and chewing gum.

    If you do not recognise this, you need to take a look at what is happening with public health, public schools and public housing. Have a look at the surgery wait times, the relative failure of ACT public schools to support disadvantaged students, and the inadequate level of public housing maintenance.

    Ashley Hillstead Ashley Hillstead 2:25 pm 15 Jun 21

    Yes and the government bloviating about the UN and fossil fuel treaties is entirely genuine and not just cynical signalling while they preside over a collapsing health system and never ending housing crisis.

    Martyn Tweedie Martyn Tweedie 2:56 pm 15 Jun 21

    Ray Polglaze Ray, you think those issues would be "solved" by a liberal government? Lol.

    Matthew Beale Matthew Beale 3:16 pm 15 Jun 21

    Martyn Tweedie whether a different government or not would review it, I feel it should be spoken about within the legislative assembly.

    And I am sure it is spoken about outside the assembly, as it falls with whichever minister holds those portfolios.

    Let us hope those issues see a positive impact over the medium term.

    Meg Joy Meg Joy 3:57 pm 15 Jun 21

    Simon Copland Actually the Libs are doing their job as an opposition - calling the sitting government into account. Your comment is a wedge. Even blind Freddy can see the ACT is in a disgraceful state - at both local and Territory levels - and for Assembly to think they should involve themselves with Cth and International matters is spurious and entitled at best, and at worst, time wasting and negligent

    Simon Copland Simon Copland 4:26 pm 15 Jun 21

    Meg Joy Honestly, if you genuinely believe that the ACT is in a disgraceful state you must be so privileged you cannot see it. We are so lucky to live in the ACT. We have an incredible city with incredible services. Are there things that can be done better? Absolutely! There is more we can do for our health and school system, and housing affordable is a clear and present issue that needs to be addressed. But my gosh the level of complaining about this city sometimes is way over the top.

    Meg Joy Meg Joy 5:00 pm 15 Jun 21

    Simon Copland You must be living under a rock. Have you ever lived in Housing ACT property? I have. Have you ever had (or had family who have experienced) a horrendous third world hospital experience in the ACT? I have. And I was significantly unimpressed with the ACT public school system 20 years ago, compared to the NSW regional school my children moved from. And I am not hearing people saying it’s better now. Yet they ‘thought’ they were the best in Australia (thankfully NAPLAN, for all its faults, has put paid to that). These are ACT residents’ lived experiences. Many have, of course, lived elsewhere and have the ability to compare and contrast! The ACT Govt needs a reality check

    Gail Vest Gail Vest 5:02 pm 15 Jun 21

    Martyn Tweedie my thoughts exactly.

    Ashley Latimer Ashley Latimer 5:07 pm 15 Jun 21

    Meg Joy have you ever actually lived in another state lol?

    Meg Joy Meg Joy 5:13 pm 15 Jun 21

    Ashley Latimer yes - NSW for over 15 years

    Ray Polglaze Ray Polglaze 5:33 pm 15 Jun 21

    Simon Copland, What are these "incredible services" in Canberra? Can you name these incredible services and give examples of how they are incredible?

    From what I can see, there is clear evidence that Canberra does not have incredible bus, public school, public housing, or hospital services. There is clear evidence that there are real failures in all of these services.

    What then, are these incredible services in Canberra?

    The services I have listed are all important to people on low and medium incomes. Maybe the large section of the population in Canberra on high incomes have access to incredible services.

    Sharee Schultz Sharee Schultz 7:03 am 16 Jun 21

    Simon Copland the issue is the ACT Government is NOT doing multiple things at the same time! 🙄

    Sharee Schultz Sharee Schultz 7:05 am 16 Jun 21

    Martyn Tweedie can you answer your own question with actual evidence? 🤔

    Or are you assuming?

    Sharee Schultz Sharee Schultz 7:09 am 16 Jun 21

    Ashley Latimer I too am from NSW & the ACT Government should really look at how other states operate. The ACT is supposed to be progressive, however they are really lacking.

    Martyn Tweedie Martyn Tweedie 7:09 am 16 Jun 21

    I'm not trying to say the Libs would solve the issues so not sure I can provide you with "evidence". You could just look at their wack-a-do manifestos if you wanna see yourself why they would not solve any issues better another party.

    But I guess the best evidence so far is that they haven't been elected to be a government.

    Ashley Latimer Ashley Latimer 8:59 am 16 Jun 21

    Sharee Schultz that's funny considering Canberra has been named Australia's most liveable city. If you have issues whoch actually impact you directly, speak to your local members.

    The only other option is to vote in ACT Liberals and thankfully a majority of Canberrans are educated enough to understand that is a terrible idea.

    https://the-riotact.com/canberra-named-australias-most-liveable-city-thanks-to-safety-work-and-education/292485

    Sharee Schultz Sharee Schultz 9:03 am 16 Jun 21

    Ashley Latimer and who actually voted that is was the most ‘liveable city’? I never had the opportunity to vote. Did you vote? Many of these polls are rigged!!

    I have spoken to all my local members, unfortunately we are often not listened to 😠

    Ashley Latimer Ashley Latimer 9:07 am 16 Jun 21

    Sharee Schultz it was conducted by the property council of Australia who're Australia-wide. Not sure what bias they would hold considering they operate in all states.

    Sharee Schultz Sharee Schultz 9:16 am 16 Jun 21

    Ashley Latimer well if they don’t advertise the survey well enough so people like myself have the opportunity to vote, then that proves their survey is not actual facts.

    Ashley Latimer Ashley Latimer 9:57 am 16 Jun 21

    Sharee Schultz yes sure, because your opinion is more important than others, so everyone elses opinion is invalidated 🙄

    Let's talk facts; Canberrans literally voted in a labor/greens coalition because they wanted to.

    Sharee Schultz Sharee Schultz 10:01 am 16 Jun 21

    Ashley Latimer are you suggesting that my opinion doesn’t count? Only people that vote for Canberra being a ‘liveable city’ should have the right to vote? Possibly how their outcome was achieved 🙄

    Ashley Latimer Ashley Latimer 10:05 am 16 Jun 21

    Sharee Schultz I'm not suggesting your opinion shouldn't count lmfao. You've clearly stated that everyone else is wrong because your individual experience is different. Please! Hahah

    Ray Polglaze Ray Polglaze 10:29 am 16 Jun 21

    Martyn Tweedie, Do you know that the Liberals have been in government in the ACT?

    Martyn Tweedie Martyn Tweedie 10:52 am 16 Jun 21

    Ray Polglaze many many many many moons ago yes, and whilst I wasn't here at that time, I'm pretty sure people were complaining a lot when they were in Gov too.

    Ray Polglaze Ray Polglaze 11:01 am 16 Jun 21

    Martyn Tweedie So you do know that your statement that "that they haven't been elected to be a government" is false. I wonder if Simon Copland also knows that your "best evidence" is a false statement.

    Martyn Tweedie Martyn Tweedie 11:03 am 16 Jun 21

    Ray Polglaze my sincerest apologies. "Re-elected" then.

    Ray Polglaze Ray Polglaze 11:56 am 16 Jun 21

    Martyn Tweedie, And so what would your view be of the Federal Labor Party in December 1968? What would the evidence show? By that year, they had not been elected or re-elected for 19 years. But you may be aware that four years later in December 1972, the Whitlam Labor Government was elected.

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