The Canberra Liberals will take a $100 million policy aimed at upgrading what they call Canberra’s neglected suburbs to the 2024 election in a bid to tap into ratepayer discontent about whether they are getting value for money from an “out-of-touch” Government.
The Putting Your Suburb First policy will be announced today in a major speech at the National Press Club from ACT Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee outlining her vision for Canberra less than a year out from the polls.
The speech will also list her priority policy areas, including housing and transport, two clear points of difference from the Barr Government.
Under Ms Lee’s new policy, every suburb in Canberra would be eligible for additional funding for local community projects that would directly benefit residents, neighbourhood areas and the environment.
Ms Lee said this was not business as usual but about investing Canberrans’ hard-earned rates directly back into their suburbs.
“This funding will be aimed at much-needed community facilities that have for too long been neglected under this Labor-Greens Government,” Ms Lee said.
“Our suburbs and neighbourhoods are the bedrock of our city. They are the places where we live, where we bring up our children, where we socialise with friends and family, go to school and where we come together as a community.
“It is in our suburbs, the heart of our community, where I start building my vision for a better Canberra.”
Ms Lees said the policy would allocate funding based on the number of households in each suburb, with a larger amount focused on the bigger, older suburbs.
Residents would be able to make a case for funding for their local neighbourhoods based on what they needed.
“This policy recognises that each Canberra suburb is unique and it’s the people who live there that know what their community needs,” Ms Lee said.
“This policy will put the choice firmly in the hands of the community on what they want to see in their own suburb.
“The ACT Labor-Greens Government has neglected our suburbs for far too long and their own Better Suburbs program has been more smoke and mirrors, as highlighted by the current sorry state of many of our suburbs.”
The Liberals have revealed few details but Mr Lee’s speech will talk about providing “genuine opportunities” for home ownership, hinting at more support for first-home buyers and the release of more and cheaper land on which to build unattached family homes.
She will also highlight a “practical” transport system and may put flesh on the party’s previously announced position of abandoning light rail after the completion of the leg to Commonwealth Park, in favour of a bus-only system.
She will talk about investing in frontline workers and getting the basics right, which could suggest a shift towards a leaner ACT government that focuses on basic services.
Ms Lee’s speech will outline her vision for improving the health system and Canberra’s schools.
The Liberals have consistently attacked the Government over the continuing poor performance of the ACT’s hospitals and the perceived declining performance of ACT public schools.
Ms Lee will promise to make the city safer, suggesting a law-and-order campaign that may focus on tightening the bail system, tougher sentencing, and boosting the powers and numbers of police.
She will also pledge to support small business, innovation and investment, and bring the world’s best events to Canberra. This could mean cutting red tape, and providing tax and rate relief, as well as investment incentives.
Those who have been pushing for a new city stadium will also be listening closely, given the overlooking of Canberra for major events is a key plank in their arguments.
Ms Lee will also say how a Liberal government would look after the environment and wildlife.
“In one year, Canberrans will have a choice between a fresh, energetic Liberal team that I lead, and an arrogant, out-of-touch Labor-Greens Government,” she said.
“Canberra deserves a government that does not take the community for granted and a government that will genuinely listen and govern in the best interests of the people that it serves.
“Today is just the beginning and I look forward to making further announcements as we head towards the election in October next year.”