Liberals’ deputy says Barr is creating a “perversion of democracy” in ACT

Nicole Lawder MLA 14 October 2019 56
Nicole Lawder and Alistair Coe

Member for Brindabella Nicole Lawder with Liberal leader Alistair Coe. Photo: File.

There might have been a time when Andrew Barr’s warning against “a perversion of Australian democracy” was taken seriously. In truth, the ACT’s Chief Minister increasingly demonstrates open disdain for democratic governance.

Canberrans are increasingly raising concerns about the Barr Government’s refusal to engage in genuine debate, its intolerance of dissenting views and its avoidance of scrutiny. Barr’s discomfort of longstanding democratic principles has not escaped the attention of the local media and prominent Canberrans.

If there’s any perversion of democracy, it’s happening in our own backyard.

An important feature of the Westminster system is having a Government and an Opposition. The key role of an opposition is to make the government accountable to the people. If a government cannot adequately justify decisions involving the use of taxpayers’ hard-earned money, that is a failure of government and, to use the Chief Minister’s words, a perversion of democracy.

Every year, Barr speaks at a Canberra Business Chamber Budget breakfast. This used to be a Budget debate between the Treasurer and the Shadow Treasurer.

One year, Treasurer Barr decided he would not participate if the Shadow Treasurer was also invited. It has been that way ever since. There is no debate, no defence, no explanation, just the Barr Government putting their own spin on the Budget, presenting only the news they want people to hear.

Since the 2016 election, Clubs ACT has been relentlessly targeted by the Barr Government for refusing to back the Labor movement. Barr and his Ministers have repeatedly refused to meet with Clubs ACT and have actively worked to weaken their business operations through government policy.

Labor stalwart and former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has criticised Barr for his “Trump-like” vendetta against Clubs ACT. “Residents and community organisations are entitled to disagree with and to oppose the actions of government. It’s called democracy,” Stanhope said.

Like his refusal to debate the Budget at the Business Chamber event, Barr’s famously uttered contempt for journalists exposes his dislike of public scrutiny of his policies and spending. How very undemocratic. The free press is another essential check on democracy.

The Chief Minister’s preference to bypass traditional media and his implicit push towards controlled messaging and social media comes at precisely the time such avenues have been found wanting as instruments for democracy.

A government that suppresses debate, so that only its own spin is heard – through channels funded by the taxpayer – is one step closer to Donald Trump’s world of “fake news”. Attempts to shut down scrutiny and independent reporting undermines Australian democracy.

Maybe when he was first elected, Andrew Barr took democracy seriously. Now, it seems “democracy” is only a word you say when you want to get your way. Canberrans increasingly distrust the Barr Government’s commitment to transparency, oversight and accountability.

If Barr really cared about the preservation of Australian democracy he would commit to greater public debate, be more open and accountable on spending, promote the rights of others to engage in the democratic process and embrace scrutiny from traditional journalism. Otherwise, it’s all fake news.

Nicole Lawder is the Deputy Leader of the Canberra Liberals

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56 Responses to Liberals’ deputy says Barr is creating a “perversion of democracy” in ACT
Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:23 am 21 Oct 19

Hey John Hargreaves, speaking of “the past” was that you I saw at the recent Herman’s Hermits concert? It was a ripper I think you will agree.

Acton Acton 8:57 am 21 Oct 19

Any government or local council which continues to raise rates far, far in excess of wage and price growth deserves to be thrown out. Excessive and ever rising rates reduces our standard of living because it means we have less to spend on everything else.

Snez Vujic Snez Vujic 9:21 am 18 Oct 19

Wouldn’t it be lovely for Canberra to be known for its high standard of education, healthcare, affordable living, efficient transport, progressive aged care and childcare and low rates of homelessness and unemployment? Wouldn’t it just?

Wes Dempsey Wes Dempsey 5:19 am 18 Oct 19

Because he is a socialist.

Margaret Reith Margaret Reith 7:24 pm 17 Oct 19

"Democratic Government' 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣😂😂😂😂😂

Ash Balaretnaraja Ash Balaretnaraja 5:21 pm 17 Oct 19

Don’t you debate the budget in the chamber.... 🤷🏾‍♂️

Col Spence Col Spence 4:00 pm 17 Oct 19

Ha ha ha rofl and this coming from the Coalition ha ha ha

maxblues maxblues 2:09 am 17 Oct 19

Debate is one of the founding principles of democracy, but many dictators find it to be inconvenient.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:17 pm 16 Oct 19

The ACT Liberals came reasonably close in 2012, when federal Labor was seriously on the nose.

By comparison, the 2020 ACT election will be against the background of a federal government which is hated, or at the least seriously resented, by many Canberrans including because it isn’t spending nearly as much money here as they think it should, and so they’re not feeling as prosperous as they’d like to.

As a result, and with characteristic shoot-yourself-in-the-foot irony, Canberrans will probably once again vote for an ACT government which will make most of them yet worse off through its relentless revenue-gouging – but they will feel better at the thought that they have “sent Morrison a message” (or words to that effect) and dodged the bullet of a Handmaid’s Tale (with added magpies) vision of Canberra which they will be sternly warned would happen under an ACT Liberal Government.

Ren Webb Ren Webb 5:10 pm 16 Oct 19

Yep try presenting an alternative vision for Canberra that appeals to our largely progressive community. The Canberra libs are so out of touch they are not a viable alternative and democracy suffers.

Stuart Mcpherson Stuart Mcpherson 4:45 pm 16 Oct 19

Doing a great job Canberra is booming

    Chris Isle Chris Isle 7:59 am 19 Oct 19

    Which Canberra do you live in? It certainly is not the same one I live in.

    Rick Reeks Rick Reeks 7:05 pm 20 Oct 19

    Stuart Mcpherson for whom? Themselves and developers when it suits the govt.

petunia petal petunia petal 4:40 pm 16 Oct 19

Of the various issues i have with Barr or his gov’s policies – I can’t think of one where the Liberals would actually be better. Your party is full of right wing climate deniers and religious extremists. Some principled progressive independents who aren’t keen to hand over our city to dodgy builders and developers would do well with the electorate, but unfortunately we don’t seem to get many of those running.

Paul Kindermann Paul Kindermann 11:42 pm 15 Oct 19

Doesn’t the Budget get debated at length in the Chamber and doesn’t/shouldn’t The Opposition go through it with a fine tooth comb at Estimates before voting on it? And don’t the Canberra Liberals simply vote against it every year (which is effectively a vote to not pay the nurses currently treating me at TCH, or the teachers in our schools, the firies, amboes, coppers etc?)

Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:34 pm 15 Oct 19

“doesn’t Barr go on ABC radio once a week to front the electorate”

It’s about time he was interviewed by Alan Jones on a commercial radio station instead.

    John Moulis John Moulis 4:14 am 16 Oct 19

    The reason Barr goes onto the Devil’s Radio is because he knows he will get an easy ride and not be asked the hard questions. When was the last time you saw an interview on the ABC get coverage in the mainstream media? The ABC is too busy promoting “climate change” and jihadi brides and terrorism to be taken seriously and it should be sold to Foxtel.

    JS9 JS9 3:09 pm 18 Oct 19

    Care for some proof John about the ABC promoting ‘Jihadi brides’ and ‘terrorism’………. you have said many a time before you don’t listen to 666 or watch the ABC, so how would you know what they are actually covering?

    You do listen to the dribble that comes out of the mouth of some of the RWNJ of the world however. Just a word of wisdom – its not all true…

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:43 am 19 Oct 19

    “RWNJ of the world……”

    What is that?

    astro2 astro2 7:32 pm 20 Oct 19

    “RWNJ of the world”….Right Wing Nut Jobs – assuming you haven’t heard the acronym before.

Jay Annabel Jay Annabel 9:19 pm 15 Oct 19

doesn't Barr go on ABC radio once a week to front the electorate? i don't tune in, but the gesture is important, I think

    Robert Bendle Robert Bendle 11:14 pm 16 Oct 19

    Jay Annabel like everyone else no one listens to the ABC

    Jay Annabel Jay Annabel 11:15 pm 16 Oct 19

    Robert Bendle BUT THE GESTURE IS IMPORTANT, I THINK. do you need me to hire a light aircraft and write it in the sky?

Mal Briggs Mal Briggs 9:08 pm 15 Oct 19

If the Liberals offered even a sniff of a viable alternative the chief Minister would probably feel a bit threatened and be more open and cautious

But they don't, so he won't.

    Jason Ezra Jason Ezra 5:56 pm 16 Oct 19

    Mal Briggs we also have Federal reps - I’m keen to see how the 1 Lib Senator we have has gone to bat for ACT residents...

    Jason Ezra Jason Ezra 6:28 pm 17 Oct 19

    Ian McLeod Zed Seselja.

noid noid 8:45 pm 15 Oct 19

Part of the problem is that the Greens and Labor form government, so it has been a minority government for the last few elections. When these two team up they are hard to get rid of. The voting system may need to looked at if the true one party majority vote is to ever succeed, hmmmmmm can’t see that happening. Haven’t voted for this lot for the last 2 elections because any government in for this length of time loses touch with reality, as we have been witnessing.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:23 pm 15 Oct 19

    Funny how the media never concede in reporting that it is a “minority Labor government”.

John Hargreaves John Hargreaves 6:51 pm 15 Oct 19

You gotta have a reason to change. What is it that the Libs have to offer?

    Rob Long Rob Long 6:58 pm 15 Oct 19

    John Hargreaves Coe has the personality of a slug.

    Mia Cliff Mia Cliff 6:23 pm 16 Oct 19

    Ian McLeod o dear Reds under the bed again.😨

    Tuula Irene Tuula Irene 3:05 pm 17 Oct 19

    John Hargreaves you know, Libs mantra, "promise everything, do nothing" thing. Just ask ScumMo, it works.🤮

    Chris Isle Chris Isle 8:00 am 19 Oct 19

    You have to be joking.

    Nathan Lofthouse Nathan Lofthouse 1:33 pm 20 Oct 19

    Handing out flyers for someone else I hope

    John Hargreaves John Hargreaves 5:14 pm 20 Oct 19

    Peter Sheldrick to all contributors, I ask what viable altrnatives are on offer? I can see no reason to change. First, the "it's time" but doesn't work cos only a few Labor members have been there for more than one term and secondly, the current batch of Libs haven't told the punters how they'll benefit. Saying how awful Labor is really isn't good enough. They have to say what they'd do differently and how we'll be better off. So far nothing.

    John Hargreaves John Hargreaves 7:30 am 21 Oct 19

    Max Mercer he and I have differed in the past.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 5:10 pm 15 Oct 19

If I was the ACT Liberal’s I would promise to focus on Council level issues such as Education, Health, Public Transport, Businesses, Properties etc.

If they can convince me they will use the budget to deliver improved services right across the city (not just in Barr’s and Rattenbury’s electorate) then they will have a better chance of winning my vote.

I still think the average Canberran is concerned the ACT Liberal candidates don’t ideologically align with your average Canberrans attitudes and beliefs. But Barr has certainly stuffed things up for many parts of Canberra and has to be replaced (hopefully by someone better in Labor or elsewhere).

    JS9 JS9 3:08 pm 18 Oct 19

    I find it amazing how many ‘low hanging’ fruit are out there that could be chosen, as you say bj, but the opposition choose to ignore then to go running down rabbit holes or onto minority interest issues (What I mean by that is issues that only a few people care about)……

    I’m sure there are clever people somewhere in the Canberra Liberals. If they want to win government, create a credible plan to fix up the local issues, reset the narrative around ‘rates’ with some reasonable moderation, and don’t run off making silly unaffordable promises (Such as removing payroll tax) that will blow an even bigger hole (And leave the voter on the fence wondering ‘what services are going to be sent to the knackery as a result). It doesn’t look hard to me.

Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 5:03 pm 15 Oct 19

But you're opposed to lowering the voting age

    Chris Isle Chris Isle 8:11 am 19 Oct 19

    Children should not vote. A 16 year old has no idea of life.

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 8:40 am 19 Oct 19

    They can easily google the biggest issues. Maybe over 60 year olds should stop voting as they will be dead after the ramifications are felt of their actions.

    Chris Isle Chris Isle 10:52 am 20 Oct 19

    Oh Doctor Google rises again.

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