18 February 2020

“Have higher expectations,” Coe asks voters ahead of ACT election

| Dominic Giannini
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Alistair Coe

Alistair Coe has told ACT residents to expect more from their Government. Photo: File.

Opposition leader Alistair Coe has asked Canberrans to have higher expectations ahead of this year’s election following the Government’s budget blowout last week.

The mid-year update revealed that the 2019-20 ACT budget deficit is projected to triple to $255 million, prompting Mr Coe to appeal to voters to not be content with Labor’s financial mismanagement.

“It is staggering that the ACT is in debt to the tune of $3 billion, and that is growing to $4 billion,” Mr Coe told Region Media.

“Canberrans would be right to expect the same from the ACT Labor Government, which is higher rates, taxes, fees and charges.”

“We want people to have high expectations for their city.

“We do not want people content with having the worst emergency department waiting times in the country, deteriorating numeracy and literacy results in the ACT, and 8,000 kids living in poverty in the Territory.”

The Government has defended the deficit, saying that lower revenue from land sales and decreasing GST revenue from the Commonwealth have hit the bottom line.

The budget could potentially worsen as the full impact of the bushfires, coronavirus and the hail storm are not yet known.

Revenue this year has taken a $103 million hit, with $422 million less forecast over the four years to 2022-23.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has consistently attacked his Liberal counterpart for not revealing economic policy details.

“These things are cyclical,” Mr Barr told Region Media.

“If it is the opposition’s position that they do not support any of the bushfire recovery spendings, if they believe that other taxes should be lifted to fill the gap that the GST revenue decline has created, that is their position.

“If they believe that at the moment the most important thing is that the Territory raises more revenue or spent less or some combination of the two, then let them put that forward as a proposition.”

Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the Budget has been heavily impacted by factors outside of the Government’s control like the coronavirus and the bushfires. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

But Mr Coe has rejected the Chief Minister’s assertion.

“I think we have to put this in perspective. Yes, we would rather not have the coronavirus and bushfires; however, the impact should be quite manageable,” he said.

“For instance, the loss of GST revenue is expected to be $17 million based on what they projected in June, but the amount of money they are getting from the Commonwealth this year is still going to be $50 million more than what we got last year.

“This is an extraordinary hit. Some of it is related to revenue, but the majority of it is related to expenditure.”

The Liberals have proposed that the Government freeze rates to make the city more affordable, but Mr Barr has questioned the validity of their economic propositions to the bottom line.

“What will they cut? What other taxes will they increase? Otherwise, their proposal is exactly the same as the government’s,” he said.

“The onus is on them, eight months out from the election, to outline what their alternative budget management policy will be, what their alternative economic development policy will be.”

But Mr Coe has said it is the ACT Government’s land revenue obsession that is hurting the economy.

“The rate freeze, which I think is a very important policy to the cost of living, will cost about half a per cent of revenue over the four-year period. It is not a hugely expensive policy but it is an important one for Canberra households,” he said.

“We have already committed to more land, and when you release more land for homes you give more Canberrans an opportunity to live in the city they grew up in. We want to see more construction here in the ACT, not less.

“By having more people in the ACT rather than the other side of the border, you generate a lot more revenue, of course, from the construction process but also from the Commonwealth, because the Commonwealth funding follows the population.

“The Government is already constructing new projects the problem is they are deliberately doing it very slowly to restrict the number of blocks that come onto the market and therefore drive up the price.

“They are worse than one of the big banks when it comes to super-profits.”

Residents will be able to choose who they want managing the ACT’s economy in eight months’ time, with the election to be held on 17 October.

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This website is so full of rusted on Labor cronies that it wouldn’t matter what the bloke did. Comparing a state government to federal, buying every load of garbage Barr shoves down their throat.

These are the same people that whinge that the cost of living keeps rising and that there is a “housing crisis” because rent is unaffordable, but will blindly keep voting for the party causing both of those things.

I’m more than happy to look at a viable alternative. Please detail the policies (and how they will work) in Coe’s bag that will drastically improve things for Canberra.

ACT Labor has become considerably worse over the last few years, but I just don’t think Coe is a viable alternative. I would have hoped he cut rates and improved buses by proposing some well researched solutions, but simply applying blanket solutions isn’t the real answer. Coe also doesn’t appeal to the majority of average Canberrans, I reckon only about a quarter of people in this city think he’s OK. That’s not enough to get elected.

Mike of Canberra5:43 pm 20 Feb 20

Aren’t you just looking for excuses to avoid voting for much-needed change in Canberra?

michael quirk9:40 am 20 Feb 20

We are not spoilt for choices.The arrogant Barr government is well past its use by date. It’s laziness is reflected in the state of the health system, the decline in the share of social housing and the failure to evaluate aternatives to light rail to Woden. A transparent, honest and competent government that bases its decisions on evidence is badly needed. A minority Liberal government with the balance of power held by independants to moderate any excesses could be what is needed.The problem is attracting high quality independants to stand for election.

Bye bye Barr
Ya gotta go
Anyone else, even Alistair Coe.

HiddenDragon8:34 pm 19 Feb 20

“The rate freeze, which I think is a very important policy to the cost of living, will cost about half a per cent of revenue over the four-year period.”

So, in spite of what we will doubtless be told over coming months, and in lots of scary adverts close to the election date, a four year rate freeze won’t necessitate slashing and burning of important and valued services.

If there’s a bit less money sloshing around to be spent on petty frolics, gimmicks, and “seemed like a good idea at the time” experiments, that will be a great relief for the many Canberrans who want a Territory government to do what actually needs to be done, and otherwise just leave them alone and stop prodding and nagging them.

This is all we need, another Liberal Party staffer telling us how important the Canberra Liberal’s “one and only policy” for a rate freeze is. Please tell us (or maybe your boss Alistair can) what public service cut-backs we can expect and what tax increases will be slugged on taxpayers to pay for the rate freeze? We already know that the Canberra Liberals plan to cut bus services and privatise the bus network.

Mike of Canberra5:36 pm 20 Feb 20

Bit sensitive aren’t we k? With all the revenue Barr’s had coming in over many years of staggering rates increases (and more to come) as well as other steep taxes and charges, he still hasn’t managed to balance the books, a real achievement. This is because he relies on belting us over the head revenue wise while not attempting commensurate expenditure restraint. Restraining expenditure doesn’t have to involve cutting health, education or other essential services. Rather it requires a prudent process of continually reviewing and re-evaluating all current expenditure programs (and there’s lots of fat in there), getting rid of those that are past their use-by date or otherwise superfluous and ensuring that what remains meets all essential service requirements while still being below current expenditure levels. Such a process should identify substantial savings that would more than pay for Coe’s proposed rates freeze. And don’t forget that taking steps to ease Barr’s excessive rates burdens would actually stem at least some if not most of the current leakage of Canberra residents across the border to cheaper and more efficiently run NSW. The currently hideously expensive city of Canberra needs change and it needs it this year. I can’t imagine where four more years of the current tired old hubristic government would leave us.

At last, Alistair Coe has come out of hiding. But alas, no social or economic policy vision for the future should the Canberra Liberals win government in October. I am feeling much heartened that the ACT Labor government has announced that they will be putting aside plans for a budget surplus, boosting efforts to invest in the ACT and its health system, bushfire recovery, education, tourism and the Coronavirus response (to name a few) to support the economy. The Canberra Conservatives (pretend to be Liberals) have announced that they will freeze residential rates for a year. To fund this stupidity we will see cuts in health and education sectors as well as slashing infrastructure spending and increases in other taxes. People can make up their own minds come October but all the Canberra Liberals seem to do is snipe from the sidelines without offering any policy or policy alternatives.

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