It’s an early Christmas as giveaways and magical thinking mark Libs’ campaign

Ian Bushnell 20 September 2020 33
Candice Burch and Alistair Coe

Candice Burch and Alistair Coe: light rail shenanigans could have put the campaign off track. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

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.


READ MORE: Liberals to cut rego by $100 in suite of car-friendly policies


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.


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33 Responses to It’s an early Christmas as giveaways and magical thinking mark Libs’ campaign
J D J D 7:17 pm 22 Sep 20

Oh, What Fun ! This is a remarkably blunt global bucket poured upon the ACT Liberals. As a partisan Opinion-piece, even to me as a chardonnay-sipping Socialist, it seems to be rather overdone – almost “flicking the switch to Vaudeville”.
Anyways, out of curiosity I looked up the honourable Comrade’s own RiotACT c.v., which states –
“A lover of fine reds, he [Bushnell] believes Canberra is blessed .. (with What ?) .. to have so many great wineries on our doorstep.”
I reckon those “fine Reds” do enjoy a gold-medal advocate here.
Ain’t “free speech” an enjoyable Right ?!

John Moulis John Moulis 10:56 am 22 Sep 20

A good description of Lib policies but Ian didn’t mention what always happens after the Liberals gain power.

They say the Budget position is far worse than Labor was letting on, that there is a “Budget emergency” and that they will have to ditch all their promises and instead bring in swingeing cuts, sack thousands of public servants and take away concessions and benefits.

We’ve seen it so many times before from incoming Liberal governments – state and federal – that it has become Holy writ. We all know that they haven’t experienced an epiphany and it will be the same old suffering under the Libs again.

Why should we believe Coe and his promises of helping the little guy and people who are traditional enemies when we all know it isn’t in the Liberal DNA to make the standard of living better for anybody apart from their donors from the big end of town.

    ssek ssek 1:13 pm 22 Sep 20

    Are you seriously implying that ACT labor have provided a better standard of living to anybody but property developers? Or that they care about this “little guy”? Do they do that by raising the cost of living so the little guy can’t afford to live here?

    You either lack insight into your own claims, or are being deliberately deceptive.

Charny Barney Charny Barney 9:59 am 22 Sep 20

Magical thinking! Brilliant and perfect description of lib policies 🤡

Geoff Roberts Geoff Roberts 7:12 am 22 Sep 20

They can afford to offer the world because they know they have no chance of forming government.

George Watling George Watling 6:13 pm 21 Sep 20

Yes lets have more $1.9 billion spends on Trams and bad urban infill stuffing up the city.

    Charny Barney Charny Barney 10:01 am 22 Sep 20

    Yes - lets build more trams - first to Woden, then everywhere else in Canberra. It's brilliant.

    We have roads everywhere, so lets build light rail everywhere. You know it makes sense.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 5:59 pm 21 Sep 20

“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.”

When a government is already deep in deficit, has substantial accumulated debt, and is not proposing assets sales or offsetting cuts, the only way it could plausibly claim that promises to spend extra are “fully funded” is if that term simply means “we reckon we’ve already borrowed enough money to cover these promises”. The only other possibility is that other funding which has been budgeted for (albeit still borrowed) – presumably for “essential services on which the community relies” – is being significantly under-spent and that slack will be used to fund new promises.

As to the Liberals shutting “the border to keep the refugees fleeing Barr’s tax tyranny” (tres droll), there may well be a dose of wishful thinking about the economic spinoff from that, but I’m not sure that the petulant dismissals of that strategy have accounted for the full positive impact, including increased shares of GST and other Commonwealth revenue which are linked to population levels in each State and Territory – and if it is so unwise, then what’s the logic behind the blatant “Big Canberra” policy which has been run for years by the Labor/Green government?

All of that said, I was slightly horrified to hear Alistair on the radio the other day airily saying something to the effect that the Woden and other legs of light rail can’t come soon enough. Unless he has an absolutely watertight promise of full Commonwealth funding, that is irresponsible – but no more so than when Andrew and Shane say so, too.

    chewy14 chewy14 7:12 am 22 Sep 20

    The problem with the claims about losing residents to NSW is that it isn’t backed up by the data.

    Interstate migration to the ACT has averaged 400+ net to the ACT for the last 10 years. Whilst our overall population growth rate has also been strong during that period.

    Perhaps you could argue that the growth rates would be even higher with a different policy but the claims that we are losing hordes of residents to NSW just doesn’t stack up to the published figures.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:54 pm 23 Sep 20

    I think you will find that most new residents at Queanbeyan, Jerraboberra, Googong and Royalla were immediately living in Canberra before.

    I certainly know many of them and I will probably follow.

    Conversely, the people who who have moved to Canberra have not come from the near interstate locations I have mentioned.

    chewy14 chewy14 11:13 am 24 Sep 20

    Capital Retro,
    I think you will find there is absolutely zero data to support such an assertion.

    And as I’ve shown, actual data to show that we have averaged significantly positive net internal migration over the last decade when apparently our cost of living has blown out compared to other states.

    I personally know heaps of people who’ve moved from surrounding areas of Canberra to live in the ACT but I wouldn’t claim that as evidence of anything either.

    It’s pure anecdote, exactly like yours.

Ol L Ol L 4:45 pm 21 Sep 20

$100 off rego, got my vote

Mark Chapman Mark Chapman 1:44 pm 21 Sep 20

Who believes a word that these Tony Abbott wannabes say?

Stephen Page-Murray Stephen Page-Murray 1:23 pm 21 Sep 20

Just noticed a Liberal corflute. Lower taxes, better services. Now most intelligent people know it can be one or the other, not both...

ssek ssek 12:27 pm 21 Sep 20

Did the Libs beat you up in school or something Ian? Just about every article you write is seething attacks against them. It seems like an obsession. You gewt more bias out of a single one of your articles than you’d find in a year worth of every Murdoch media outlet stories combined.

Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 11:19 am 21 Sep 20

Well well, here we go again. Ian Bushnell feigning impartiality and being joined by the usual crowd of Barr boosters. But nothing changes the facts. These are that we have an ACT government that spends like it’s going out of fashion and is gouging rate and taxpayers to the eyeballs to feed their insatiable need to spend. What do Barr and company do to promote themselves? Why they bombard us with campaign calls warning us of the evils of those horrible right-wing Liberals and, in particular, that we’ll cease to be “progressive” if Coe and company win office. At no time do they mention the cost of living, the substandard nature of our urban infrastructure and a range of other issues that really do matter for the ordinary Canberran. At no time do they concede that they are driving residents and businesses across the border to the relative sanity of NSW with their high cost administration of the ACT. No, it’s all about being progressive – as signified by such Barr monuments as the Rainbow Roundabout I suppose. And here’s my main point: Barr continues to make his management of ACT affairs all about him (the roundabout, the messages warning of threats to same sex marriage and other similar bits of rot). He may not quite have mastered the North Korean style cult of the leader, but the trend is there. This is a hard-left government, make no mistake about that. In his quest for government, Coe is presenting a pretty moderate, possibly even soft left set of policies. Which do we want? The ideological, big spending Barr model of government or a decidedly more moderate model as presented by Coe? If Canberrans return Barr, they really will deserve everything they have coming.

    JS9 JS9 1:01 pm 21 Sep 20

    A hard left government, hahaha you ain’t seen nothing if you think the ACT Government is a ‘hard left’ government…..

    The issue with your claim of a ‘more moderate model’ as presented by Coe is that there is not yet any supporting evidence to suggest that to be the case. Because while he is promising to give away lots of revenue here there and everywhere, and spend plenty of dough too, there is no evidence to support how he intends to offset those steps- so all one can conclude at this point is there is no plan bar the magic pudding solution… which hint hint, ain’t going to work.

    I find it amusing how some get so easily offended by a rainbow roundabout – its really bizarre. I’m not LGBTIQ or whatever it is now, but I couldn’t care less about it. It is absolutely inconsequential. It doesn’t hurt me, it doesn’t impact on my life, and frankly it cost 2/5ths of bugger all. It brings some other parts of our community great joy and happiness which is fantastic.

    As for commentary around same sex marriage, like everyone else, Barr is allowed to express his opinions. As far as I’m aware, he hasn’t attempted to force anyone else to share such views through coercion.

    Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 2:54 pm 21 Sep 20

    Oh JS, so much to respond to and so little time! You think I “ain’t seen nothing ” if I “.. think the ACT Government is a ‘hard left’ government”. Where do you suggest I look for a genuinely “hard left” government – North Korea? the People’s Republic of China? You also complain that Coe has promised to give away lots of revenue and spend plenty too, but with no evidence as to how he’ll fund his promises. You suggest this is the “magic pudding” solution. Sorry JS but last time I looked, election day was still a bit under 4 weeks away, with pre-poll voting starting near the end of this month. I’d say there’s time to bring out these details. You claim I’m offended by the rainbow roundabout and in so doing misrepresent what I said. I’m not offended by it, but I do see it as a classic example of Barr making it all about himself. Re your last paragraph, the words from Barr to which I referred came from a bit of push polling by him in the form of a pre-recorded message urging me to vote for him if I wished to see a continuation of “progressive” government in Canberra. This wasn’t just him expressing an opinion but rather him touting for my vote, all by a series of comments that ignored the real bread and butter issues confronting Canberrans. JS, if I were to grade your response to my comments, it would read something like “must try harder”.

    JS9 JS9 9:11 pm 21 Sep 20

    “You also complain that Coe has promised to give away lots of revenue and spend plenty too, but with no evidence as to how he’ll fund his promises. You suggest this is the “magic pudding” solution. Sorry JS but last time I looked, election day was still a bit under 4 weeks away, with pre-poll voting starting near the end of this month. I’d say there’s time to bring out these details.”

    Coe is the one suggesting the magic pudding – he has said multiple times that he is going to ‘grow the pie’ to pay for it all… i.e. population growth in the Territory.

    Might be achievable if we were talking about $5 million a year or something similar. But we aren’t – 5 million per annum on rego , 50 odd million per annum for rates, potential half a billion a year if they follow through on abolishing payroll like they’e promised previously – that’s just the headliners, before any of the expense side. Even if the last one doesn’t eventuate, you aren’t going to find probably 100+ million per annum from population growth when you have to take into account the fact you also have to fund services.

    They’ve had almost 4 years to work out a plan, and given voting opens next Monday, if they are serious about winning Government, you think we’d have heard something about it by now. There is zero evidence at this point they have any plan at all.

    “You claim I’m offended by the rainbow roundabout and in so doing misrepresent what I said. I’m not offended by it, but I do see it as a classic example of Barr making it all about himself.”

    Your the one bleating on about something that cost all of $7,000 3 years ago: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6025767/a-canberra-roundabout-has-been-given-the-rainbow-treatment-after-yes-vote/

    chewy14 chewy14 3:06 pm 21 Sep 20

    Hard left government? This government is not remotely hard left and indeed many of their policies would be seen to have a strong right wing flavour.

    And both parties are proposing big spending increases with no identified funding mechanisms for these new promises.

    It’s populist vs populist but for some reason you think one is better than the other.

    Mike of Canberra Mike of Canberra 4:08 pm 21 Sep 20

    Chewy, I appreciate your rational approach. The reality is I think one is older, more tired and more hubristic compared to the other. I’ll leave you to work out which is which.

    chewy14 chewy14 5:40 pm 21 Sep 20

    Mike,
    And I think they’re both hopeless which is why I will be voting for neither party (nor the Greens for that matter).

    I think we need more independent voices and a better quality of candidate from the majors to place pressure on all the incumbents.

    So I agree with you we need change, but differ on where it can be found.

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 10:07 am 21 Sep 20

As King Julian would say..... "they are all just a bunch of parnsies"

Natalie Gresham Natalie Gresham 9:35 am 21 Sep 20

It's like giving your 12 year old your credit card 🤣🤣🤣

Acton Acton 8:45 am 21 Sep 20

Promise what you like because you won’t get in. Why even have this farce of an election?

Anthony Gillies Anthony Gillies 8:09 am 21 Sep 20

The trickle-down effect of quantitative easing???

Greg Miller Greg Miller 7:34 am 21 Sep 20

There aren't any giveaways given the very likely outcome of Libs back in opposition.

    Richard Willcoxson Richard Willcoxson 8:09 am 21 Sep 20

    Been so long since the Libs have been in I can’t remember 😀

    Robyne Mitchell Robyne Mitchell 8:18 am 21 Sep 20

    And that is why we need an independent in each seat to stop the rorts and rots

    Leigh Brady Leigh Brady 8:18 am 21 Sep 20

    Sounds dangerous Marc - how about instead we just throw a few independents or minor parties at them to negotiate with.

    Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 9:17 am 21 Sep 20

    Greg Miller but So is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. Canberra is fast becoming extremely unaffordable under Labour. And to think they will change how they raise the cost of living here to be more affordable is laughable at best.

    Greg Miller Greg Miller 11:45 am 21 Sep 20

    Pretending that Canberra is the only place in Australia that is becoming more expensive? Let's face it, Sydney is becoming unaffordable under a Liberal government and Melbourne is becoming unaffordable;e under a Labor government. Ask all over the country, I'm sure they'll tell you everything is less affordable now than it was in previous years.

    In the meantime, in Canberra we have Coe and co promising everything left right and centre (by which I mean stealing ideas from any political persuasion in the hope of getting a few extra votes), promising to reduce the amount of revenue the government can raise and having no answer to the question of how he'll afford what he's promising. What is he going to cut to be able to afford what he's promising? There's no truth in Coe, just as there was no truth in Abbott before he won the 2013 election. Don't vote for someone so desperate to win that truth has no meaning to them any more.

Lorraine Marsh Lorraine Marsh 7:20 am 21 Sep 20

Wonderful more taxes to pay.🤔

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