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Left-leaning, pro-infrastructure city has its say

By Leon Gettler - 17 October 2016 29

light rail artist impression

The ACT election result has national significance. It’s a warning for all political parties.

True, the result was not that big a surprise.

Admittedly, the Government had been in power for some time and was looking long in the tooth. Add to that the damaging audit report on its land dealings just a fortnight from the polls. Not to mention the Libs getting into bed with the clubs sector.

The reality however is that Canberra is a left-leaning sort of town.

The vote for Andrew Barr’s Labor Party last night came in at the same level it had in 2012: 39 per cent. The Liberals went backwards, their vote falling 3.3 per cent to 35.6 per cent. The Greens also slipped 0.1 per cent to 10.6 per cent.

Now the Liberal Party would be making a big mistake by saying Canberra is just that kind of electorate.

The reality is the Libs could have won the election but decided to contest it without a strategy.

Labor won because its platform was built around the territory’s biggest ever infrastructure project, a tramline.

Over the next few decades, the light rail will roll out a trunk route from Gungahlin to Woden.

And the numbers from the polling booths tell us something.

The Gungahlin electorate of Yerrabi handed Labor its biggest vote of any of the five electorates, at 44 per cent.

Canberra needs light rail because the only way people can get around the nation’s capital is by car. Without public transport infrastructure, Canberra is likely to turn into another Los Angeles.

There is a deep irony that the Libs did not support the $930 million light rail project. Light rail is the sort of public transport infrastructure that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would be keen on.

That might say something about issues inside the Liberal Party. But that’s another story.

The results show the political parties in Canberra, nationally and in other states, that voters want infrastructure.

They now expect governments to do the hard work and provide infrastructure instead of relying on commodities exports and the RBA to keep cutting interest rates.

Building infrastructure creates jobs and long term benefits for the economy.

Australia’s unemployment rate is at 5.6 per cent but full time jobs are vanishing and strength in accommodation, food and recreation (thanks to the lower $A) means that part-time jobs are keeping a lid on unemployment while full-time employment is shrinking wiith job losses among miners and in the utilities.

A public transport infrastructure project will create full time employment and that will have national consequences.

We cannot as a nation keep relying on commodities which fluctuate and which have sent the mining industry into retreat.

Nor can we keep relying on the Reserve Bank to keep cutting interest rates for economic growth. The RBA is reluctant to cut much further with household debt so overstretched. And while low interest rates have boosted housing and retail, those sectors are close to their peaks. Growth in housing will fall and that will fall heavily on retailers and the banks.

But the sort of public transport infrastructure to be rolled out in the ACT could change that and provide the economy with a second wind.

The challenge is developing strategies that make it pay for itself.

 

 

 

What’s Your opinion?


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29 Responses to
Left-leaning, pro-infrastructure city has its say
rommeldog56 11:29 pm 17 Oct 16

dungfungus said :

The roadside election signs said the light would create 3,500 permanent jobs.

That’s a lot of tram drivers.

Why didn’t the media step up and challenge this fanciful claim?

As I recall, it said “3,500 jobs”, not “3,500 permanent jobs”. And it not clear if thats just for stage 1 or the whole network – presumably just tram stage 1.
Regardless, it is a misleading claim – often repeated by mindless pro tramers. It would even include an electrician called in to do an hours work on the tram construction. For the most part, these would not be permanent jobs. However, as with the permanent jobs, they will be union dominated and that labor will be expensive. But what the hell, ACT Ratepayers can afford it and want it I suppose, so who cares.

Garfield 10:34 pm 17 Oct 16

pink little birdie said :

Garfield said :

2604 said :

“A public transport infrastructure project will create full time employment”

So when ratepayers spend ratepayers’ money, it doesn’t create jobs. But when the ACT Government spends ratepayers’ money, it does create jobs?

That’s one hell of a magic trick.

I’ve talked to developers who say that most of the light rail construction workers will come from Sydney. Given that the construction materials and light rail cars will not be Canberra made and the consortium profits will not stay here, there’s not going to be a whole lot of economic benefit from the direct spending on construction. If direct taxation of residents was lower, a good portion of those funds would still make their way interstate and overseas, but its highly likely that a greater percentage would stay in the ACT, thus probably leading to more jobs in the ACT than light rail will generate.

Because apparently the workers will arrive in Canberra each day work and go back to Sydney when the shift ends?
It’s a 20 year building plan for the whole network. There is a good chance with steady work, shorter commute, good schools, more family friendly why wouldn’t the workers move here?
Also after the initial workers surely the training up of workers would be recruited from here.

The workers will come up for a week or two at a time and then go home for a few days. Its quite common in large scale construction. Site wages will also be a relatively small component of the construction cost. Sure there will be spending on accommodation and food while they’re here, but most of the workers’ discretionary spending will be in their home towns. Sure some may move here, but as well as being family friendly, Canberra can be an expensive place to live and buy property. The construction of stage 1 is only slated to take about 2 years and there’s no guarantee the same consortium will win, or even bid for, the contract for stage 2 and later stages. There also won’t be 3,500 construction jobs at any one time. The economists who came up with that figure criticised the unions for using it in the way they did.

2604 10:22 pm 17 Oct 16

dungfungus said :

The roadside election signs said the light would create 3,500 permanent jobs.

That’s a lot of tram drivers.

Why didn’t the media step up and challenge this fanciful claim?

Because the media in this city are relentlessly left-wing, pro-union and pro-Labor, that’s why. They think and act like university undergraduates and are completely incapable of thinking critically.

BTW, don’t forget that those 3,500 jobs are union jobs, with the chosen few being given above-market wages and conditions. It would be more like 7,000 jobs if the same amount of money were being spent by private citizens in the private economy.

justin heywood 10:05 pm 17 Oct 16

I disagree with almost every claim in this OP.

– It’s incorrect to say the Libs lost because they ‘didn’t have a strategy’. They did. It just didn’t involve a tram. On almost every other policy they were just about level-pegging with Labor.

– The Greens were the earliest and strongest supporters of the tram project, yet they made no progress at all in this election. In fact they went backwards.

– While building infrastructure does indeed create jobs, the OP does not seem to consider that infrastructure must also be paid for. No city (or nation) can sustain itself by simply ‘building things’.

Masquara 9:13 pm 17 Oct 16

Now we have to find that $80,000 each – plus $80,000 each from every child in Canberra! I think it will hurt.

dungfungus 6:27 pm 17 Oct 16

Garfield said :

2604 said :

“A public transport infrastructure project will create full time employment”

So when ratepayers spend ratepayers’ money, it doesn’t create jobs. But when the ACT Government spends ratepayers’ money, it does create jobs?

That’s one hell of a magic trick.

I’ve talked to developers who say that most of the light rail construction workers will come from Sydney. Given that the construction materials and light rail cars will not be Canberra made and the consortium profits will not stay here, there’s not going to be a whole lot of economic benefit from the direct spending on construction. If direct taxation of residents was lower, a good portion of those funds would still make their way interstate and overseas, but its highly likely that a greater percentage would stay in the ACT, thus probably leading to more jobs in the ACT than light rail will generate.

The roadside election signs said the light would create 3,500 permanent jobs.

That’s a lot of tram drivers.

Why didn’t the media step up and challenge this fanciful claim?

pink little birdie 4:47 pm 17 Oct 16

Garfield said :

2604 said :

“A public transport infrastructure project will create full time employment”

So when ratepayers spend ratepayers’ money, it doesn’t create jobs. But when the ACT Government spends ratepayers’ money, it does create jobs?

That’s one hell of a magic trick.

I’ve talked to developers who say that most of the light rail construction workers will come from Sydney. Given that the construction materials and light rail cars will not be Canberra made and the consortium profits will not stay here, there’s not going to be a whole lot of economic benefit from the direct spending on construction. If direct taxation of residents was lower, a good portion of those funds would still make their way interstate and overseas, but its highly likely that a greater percentage would stay in the ACT, thus probably leading to more jobs in the ACT than light rail will generate.

Because apparently the workers will arrive in Canberra each day work and go back to Sydney when the shift ends?
It’s a 20 year building plan for the whole network. There is a good chance with steady work, shorter commute, good schools, more family friendly why wouldn’t the workers move here?
Also after the initial workers surely the training up of workers would be recruited from here.

HiddenDragon 4:39 pm 17 Oct 16

“We cannot as a nation keep relying on commodities which fluctuate and which have sent the mining industry into retreat.”

And yet the unpalatable truth is that we still rely heavily on those commodities to pay our way in the world, even though mining is a boom and bust source of domestic employment. It would take an awful lot of “high-skilled, high-waged” jobs, of the sort which produce substantial export dollars, and for which their is ferocious international competition, to replace commodities exports – still waiting for the boom of such jobs in Canberra.

Garfield 3:19 pm 17 Oct 16

2604 said :

“A public transport infrastructure project will create full time employment”

So when ratepayers spend ratepayers’ money, it doesn’t create jobs. But when the ACT Government spends ratepayers’ money, it does create jobs?

That’s one hell of a magic trick.

I’ve talked to developers who say that most of the light rail construction workers will come from Sydney. Given that the construction materials and light rail cars will not be Canberra made and the consortium profits will not stay here, there’s not going to be a whole lot of economic benefit from the direct spending on construction. If direct taxation of residents was lower, a good portion of those funds would still make their way interstate and overseas, but its highly likely that a greater percentage would stay in the ACT, thus probably leading to more jobs in the ACT than light rail will generate.

chewy14 2:55 pm 17 Oct 16

Wow, you mean Canberra naturally leans to the left side of politics and people who will personally benefit from public spending will vote in their self interest?

I’m truly shocked.

2604 1:39 pm 17 Oct 16

“A public transport infrastructure project will create full time employment”

So when ratepayers spend ratepayers’ money, it doesn’t create jobs. But when the ACT Government spends ratepayers’ money, it does create jobs?

That’s one hell of a magic trick.

dungfungus 12:24 pm 17 Oct 16

wildturkeycanoe said :

“Pro infrastructure city has its say” – Actually, the 49% or so that supported the light rail project had their say, whilst at least 36% went against it. It isn’t exactly an overwhelming result to just scrape through with the alliance of a minor party to get across the line. We will never know what was in the mind of the Labor voters, whether or not the tram was their main reason for voting that way.

From the OP – “A public transport infrastructure project will create full time employment and that will have national consequences.”
Really? The unemployment numbers for the Gold Coast area do not support this idea. Their employment figures didn’t have any significant changes after construction of the rail network commenced, nor after it finished either, unemployment still wandered somewhere about the national average.
Construction of the network will be done by contract labour brought from outside the city by companies that do this for a living. It isn’t like you can find any rail experts in Canberra to do the job. Maybe the electrical infrastructure will be taken care of Actew electricity, but even then it will be existing staff doing the work as you won’t be able to train up qualified personnel overnight. You may get some traffic controllers [if they don’t bring their own crews] and hole diggers/shovel leaners hired locally, but to claim it’ll create tons of jobs or that it’ll be of national significance is ludicrous. Tell me how it will affect Australia nationally?
If you think the associated land releases for development will bring a boom to the economy, I also have my doubts. To build all this new housing you need to have people willing to buy it. With the rates on units now skyrocketing and prices falling, finding investors and home buyers will be tough. I know that existing property owners are finding selling tough, probably because of all the new housing available which has flooded the market and crashed prices. My neighbor can’t sell his investment house as he can’t get enough to break even. This is hardly enticing for new buyers in the area.
Now apart from the tram drivers and whatever administration work will be created to run it, where are the jobs growth areas to bring more people to Canberra? The government is cutting back and relocating, even shutting down complete departments. There are less than fifty full time jobs on their web site, which is pretty poor for the largest employer group in the capital. How are people going to afford to buy these properties along the rail route?

The government will create “incentives” to sell them.
They will be visionary, of course.
Half of them will be allocated to refugees fully paid for by the government.

Next year’s rate/land tax assessments will have a “vision levy”.

bigred 11:55 am 17 Oct 16

I was quite prepared to send at least a few of my higher preferences to the Liberals because the Barr Government has quite a few shortcomings. I then looked at the Liberals and they started to look quite scary. I noticed Jeremy Hanson is very much into a command/control way of dealing with people, Alistair Coe hardly ever answered a question that had been asked and Giulia Jones’ driving and parking is still inconsistent with the laws of the Territory. Steve Dozpot seemed quite OK, but he won’t be around much longer and the rest are just the rest. In summary, the Liberals lost an unlosable election.

wildturkeycanoe 11:00 am 17 Oct 16

“Pro infrastructure city has its say” – Actually, the 49% or so that supported the light rail project had their say, whilst at least 36% went against it. It isn’t exactly an overwhelming result to just scrape through with the alliance of a minor party to get across the line. We will never know what was in the mind of the Labor voters, whether or not the tram was their main reason for voting that way.

From the OP – “A public transport infrastructure project will create full time employment and that will have national consequences.”
Really? The unemployment numbers for the Gold Coast area do not support this idea. Their employment figures didn’t have any significant changes after construction of the rail network commenced, nor after it finished either, unemployment still wandered somewhere about the national average.
Construction of the network will be done by contract labour brought from outside the city by companies that do this for a living. It isn’t like you can find any rail experts in Canberra to do the job. Maybe the electrical infrastructure will be taken care of Actew electricity, but even then it will be existing staff doing the work as you won’t be able to train up qualified personnel overnight. You may get some traffic controllers [if they don’t bring their own crews] and hole diggers/shovel leaners hired locally, but to claim it’ll create tons of jobs or that it’ll be of national significance is ludicrous. Tell me how it will affect Australia nationally?
If you think the associated land releases for development will bring a boom to the economy, I also have my doubts. To build all this new housing you need to have people willing to buy it. With the rates on units now skyrocketing and prices falling, finding investors and home buyers will be tough. I know that existing property owners are finding selling tough, probably because of all the new housing available which has flooded the market and crashed prices. My neighbor can’t sell his investment house as he can’t get enough to break even. This is hardly enticing for new buyers in the area.
Now apart from the tram drivers and whatever administration work will be created to run it, where are the jobs growth areas to bring more people to Canberra? The government is cutting back and relocating, even shutting down complete departments. There are less than fifty full time jobs on their web site, which is pretty poor for the largest employer group in the capital. How are people going to afford to buy these properties along the rail route?

Grail 10:02 am 17 Oct 16

This election was as much about the failings of the Liberals to present a competent set of candidates and policies.

When you try wheeling out the “OMG RATES” election campaign a second time, people are going to wonder why you bother. In addition with most people in town either in public service or running their own business, the plan of “tear up the contracts and get the rail-building company to build roads instead” was never going to gain traction.

It was great to see the Liberals attempt an alternative transport plan. That was a huge positive from my perspective, exactly what I want to see from an opposition: not just saying “no” to everything but challenging the project assumptions and looking for lower cost, more equitable or more easily implemented alternatives.

One public transport mistake the Liberals made was thinking that a service subsidised to the tune of $5 per trip could somehow become profitable by privatisation. Nobody wants to pay $30/day to get to work by bus!

I am looking forward to Canberra Liberals putting their best foot forward for this term. Court the Greens and independents. The best way to do this is by learning how to formulate policy and talk to the other parties about how your plan is better than the Government’s plan.

Here’s to a better game plan from the stable Hanson & Coe team for the next elections!

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