3 November 2022

It's time for renewal in the Labor ranks after two decades in power

| Ian Bushnell
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Mick Gentleman

Will the planning review be Mick Gentleman’s swansong? Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The Canberra Liberals aren’t the only ones in need of new blood for the 2024 election.

The attention may have been on the Liberals’ internal ructions at the halfway point of this term, but ACT Labor will need to find some fresh candidates and think about replacing some who have reached their use-by date in the Legislative Assembly.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr, reinvigorated by the election of the Albanese Government, will stay on to lead Labor into the election.

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Asked this week about the need for renewal in his team, now less than two years out to the election, he said he expected most of his team to run again, indicating that a couple might be considering their future.

Mr Barr also said Labor would need 25 candidates, so that opened the way for at least 15 fresh faces on the party list, and he hoped Labor would improve on the current “baseline” position of 10 MLAs.

“An outstanding result would be to win 15 seats,” he said, but realistically between 10 and 15 would be needed to form government.”

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Labor will need to shake off accusations of being a tired, complacent government that has been in office too long, and that will be 23 years come October 2024.

It came through the 2020 poll but ceded seats to the Greens, as did the Liberals.

Joy Burch

Speaker Joy Burch has been in the Assembly for 14 years. Photo: Facebook.

Labor might be betting on the Greens not being able to maintain their record 2020 vote, but that would be risky, given the independent mood of the ACT electorate.

It needs some high-profile candidates and some turnover in the Assembly if it is to fend off the Liberals under Elizabeth Lee, which have a host of longstanding issues in health, transport, education and housing to prosecute against the government.

There are three Labor MLAs that might not make it back after 2024.

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The Tuggeranong twins – Speaker Joy Burch and Minister Mick Gentleman – have done a staunch job in the southern seat of Brindabella, but their longevity in the Assembly and what can only be described as mediocre performance point to them as possibilities for not recontesting.

Ms Burch has been around as an MLA, unsuccessful Minister and now Speaker for 14 years since being elected in 2008.

Mr Gentleman goes even further back, to the 2004 election, but lost his seat in 2008, only to return in 2012 and stick around.

He has been a minister since 2014 and is currently leading what is probably the government’s most important reform program – establishing a new planning system.

Mr Gentleman is a faithful servant of the party but is not regarded as a strong media performer or administrator, and when it comes to the key planning portfolio does not have the respect or trust of key community groups.

Suzanne Orr

Yerrabi MLA Suzanne Orr has failed to make an impact. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

He is on surer ground as Police and Emergency Services Minister where he has been able to secure jobs in the unionised fire and ambulance services.

Both are at a stage in life where retirement beckons for most but these days that should not necessarily rule one out.

But 2024 would offer a graceful exit for the pair, especially for Mr Gentleman who should leave a legacy in a new and hopefully much-improved planning system.

It would also allow a fresh team to be presented to the voters in Brindabella and the probable entry of two new Labor faces into the Assembly.

The other MLA that might not make it back could be Yerrabi’s Suzanne Orr, who failed to retain her spot in the Ministry after 2020, and has failed to make much impact.

She could be vulnerable to a pre-selection challenge or left behind if Labor manages to find candidates who can galvanise the vote in Gungahlin where it has struggled since the departure of Meegan Fitzharris.

Labor will need to lift its performance in Yerrabi, where it suffered a 10 per cent swing, and in Brindabella (-7%).

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However it plays out over the next two years, Labor will need to offer some regeneration and succession path after Mr Barr, who may not last the term if he returns as Chief Minister.

Managing that necessary regeneration and staying engaged with an electorate frustrated with intractable problems and weary of more than two decades of Labor rule will be a challenge.

But manage it Labor must.

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*Replying to Stan Dukic who seems to be a regular commentator on this site and Facebook. His obsequious comments regarding the Liberals and Elizabeth Lee are embarrassing. As a Liberal supporter maybe Mr Dukic needs to take a harder look at the party. Not to mention the despair experienced by members due to the party’s lack of direction and electability.

Zed is gone so everything seems rosy in the Canberra Liberals! Elizabeth lee the leader and the party have constantly preselected Zed and supported his right-wing conservatism. Loyal party members despair and many have relinquished their membership. The party membership is at an all time low. And the more things change the more they stay the same!! The conservative leadership of the party has just been re-elected! Then there are those entitled Young Liberals and their offensive, intolerant behaviour. They have no idea of what “Liberal” means. They should be pulled into line years ago but we won’t see that. The Canberra Liberals have never had any policy positions on anything. All this constant whining from the sidelines from Elizabeth Lee and her party on Labor policy without any policies of their own. No matter what people think of Labor, at least they have policy positions. Let’s see a few policy announcements from Elizabeth Lee and her party. The party has only been in opposition for 21 years. Only two more years until the next election Elizabeth!

I agree that Labor needs to pick up its game to combat the risk of the Libs Getting in. The Libs, despite their more updated array of people, still have some of the old folk hanging around, and while Zed, thank god, lost his seat, he’s still very much got his hands on the levers. I feel sorry for Elizabeth Lee.

There is no way to protest vote in Canberra. Vote green, you get Labor/Green coalition for your pains, there’s no independents to vote for who probably wouldn’t preference the Libs and when all is said and done, the coalition we have now may just be the safer option than the Libs at the helm with the crazy gang still controlling from behind the scenes.

Capital Retro10:36 am 05 Nov 22

The Greens need to change their name.

They used to be identified as bottom of the garden tree-huggers and a lot of us respected them for their ideals and the political environmental balance outcome it produced.

Now they seem to be cosh carrying end of the dark alley zealots and it is time they dropped the pretense they are still hiding behind.

HiddenDragon8:15 pm 04 Nov 22

Individuals with the work and life experience to become competent ministers would be a nice change, but far more likely it will be upwardly thrusting apparatchiks who think that an ability to talk under wet cement and never to give a direct answer to a direct question is a perfect substitute for policy and administrative competence.

Mr Barr said it. He only need to win 10-12 seats to form Government (because he knows he can always do a deal with the Greens).
Regardless of who you support, it’s a very poor outcome for the territory and democracy in general, when leader of a party who has been in power for 20 years states that he only needs 40% support to be reelected.

The result for Labor in Gungahlin at the last election was shameful. Not to mention the loss of Gordon Ramsey in Ginninderra. Like honestly, look at the Liberal candidates who got elected in Ginninderra for goodness sake. Brindabella certainly needs renewal and it should have happened last election. There is talent in Labor’s ranks and the party needs to seize it. Not to mention some of the controversies over the last two years (public schools, ChooseCBR and its rorting by business, CIT). Jon Stanhope if leader would not have tolerated it!

Gentleman has done a staunch job for developers. Pity about the environment and community well being- very much sub par.

Canberrans have been used and abused by the Labor/Greens government for at least the last 12 years – we’ve seen most vital public services go backwards with no signs of improvement.

It’s time that we put our big boy/girl/other pants on and kick their incompetent butts to the curb rather than go back for more because they tell us they didn’t mean to hurt us and it won’t happen again.

That’s only going to happen if the Libs show even the slightest hint of offering a viable, competent alternative.

“Speaker Joy Burch and Minister Mick Gentleman – have done a staunch job in the southern seat of Brindabella”.

Considering their lack of engagement with their constituents, that they consistently haven’t delivered on their pre election promises and how little they’ve delivered for Tuggeranong bus services, education, community services and sports facilities, you must have different definition of staunch job than me.

It’s time to elect some MLAs, from whichever party, who know how to manage a budget and keep their commitments.

Analysis by Jon Stanhope and Khalid Ahmed reveals the government budget was last in surplus in 2012 and is projected to have at least 14 straight years of net deficit by 2025-26, to reach a net debt of $10 billion in 2025-26. The interest cost to service this debt will be $517 million for the year 2025-26 (City News, 5 Oct).

The 2008 and 2012 parliamentary agreements between Labor and Greens included Point 3, Commitment to fiscal responsibility, “The parties confirm their commitment to fiscal responsibility and the maintenance of a balanced budget though the economic cycle.” They made the exact same commitment at Appendix 1 Point 1 in their 2016 agreement, and quietly dropped it from their 2020 agreement.

The establishment have broken a core commitment they made to the people at several elections.

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