The first week of the election campaign proper has come and gone, and one thing is clear – no one is really worrying about the cost of anything anymore.
COVID-19 has destroyed whatever budget discipline there was, so anything goes. A $100 million rego cut here, 100 km of cycleways there or multi-million dollar sports centres at both ends of the ACT – and that’s just the Liberals, who continue to rail against debt and deficit at the same time as they promise rate freezes and that homeowners will be $1500 better off.
Labor, coming from the advantage of incumbency, says its promises are fully funded but with debt approaching $8 billion in four years you would hope so.
At least we know the money is borrowed.
With the Liberals, it’s going to magically appear out of thin air when they shut the border to keep the refugees fleeing Barr’s tax tyranny to set up house in the bargain villages of NSW.
Like the way the country has fed off the migrant intake, the ACT can recoup any revenue forgone by boosting its population, forgetting that the other part of the equation is a need for more services.
Forget that COVID-19 has rewritten population growth forecasts or that there is no evidence of significant leakage across the border or that somehow our regional neighbours don’t have a right to exist.
Whatever metaphor Alistair Coe uses, growing the pie or whatever, it is just fanciful.
But he continues to robotically recite it as the questions continue in vain to extract from him how the Liberals will pay for their lower taxes and better services – an internal contradiction that in normal times would see their campaign come apart at the seams.
The Liberals just aren’t going to talk about it, and don’t expect to see their costings until it’s too late.
Does it matter when the deficit is nearly a billion dollars? The Libs are betting it doesn’t.
They’d rather hit on every grievance going round and please all manner of interest groups while reassuring voters that they won’t mess with too much, although Candice Burch’s Belco light rail bombshell had to be cleaned up quickly.
Don’t worry Woden, it’s still coming.
Mr Coe has been adopting more positions than the karma sutra to woo cyclists, tree lovers, community activists upset at planning decisions, businesses angry about COVID-19 restrictions and anybody who wants a house. We’re waiting on where those land releases will be and if they will be significantly cheaper than the present prices.
No one doubts Mr Coe’s energy but there is a long way to go so how many twists and turns can he maintain?
So there it is – be all things to all people, have a present for everybody, ignore the pesky media’s silly questions about costs and don’t frighten the horses.
And hope that after 19 years, Labor is indeed tired, old and arrogant and voters are hungry for change.
The trouble is less might be more – think last year’s Federal election – and most Canberrans still have a worthwhile attention span and can add up.
But with early voting starting next Monday (28 September), perhaps all the wooing will be done by then.
In these uncertain times, it’s a tough case for change, and Labor, no matter what its shortcomings are, is still a firm favourite and the election theirs to lose.