14 June 2021

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

| Dominic Giannini
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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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HiddenDragon7:40 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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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