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.”
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.”
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.”
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.