The Canberra Liberals have released costings for their election commitments, nine days out from the 17 October poll.
According to the Liberals, their promises will cost $1.1 billion over the next four years.
The Liberals have been under pressure to release their costings and explain how they would pay for their policies after leader Alistair Coe has repeatedly said the party would not borrow any more money than Labor, while also lowering taxes and providing better services.
Mr Coe has continually fallen back on his “grow the pie” theory, saying that making Canberra more affordable will entice people from satellite towns like Googong and Jerrabomberra to live in Canberra, therefore raising tax and rates revenue.
Mr Coe has not estimated the level of migration to the ACT needed to raise enough revenue to cover the costs.
However, Labor has estimated that more than 100,000 new ratepayers would need to move to the ACT this financial year to cover Liberal election promises without borrowing.
The “growing the pie” mantra is not a convincing argument, ANU Emeritus Professor of Political Science John Warhurst told Region Media.
“It is true that if there is a feeling in the community that they definitely want a change [of government] then it won’t matter if people still have doubts over where the money is coming from, but I still think it is an issue,” Professor Warhurst said.
“I do not think the argument about growing the ACT as a way of raising revenue cuts through – at least not people I am talking to. They feel that, at the very best, it is very long term, it is not something that will balance the books in four years.”
Mr Coe told ABC Radio that economists both inside and outside the Liberal Party have backed his claims, but refused to reveal any more detail on the modelling.
When asked if he was expecting Canberrans to just believe the Liberals’ anecdotal evidence in lieu of any modelling, Mr Coe pointed to comments from Dr Khalid Ahmed from the University of Canberra and former Labor Chief Minister Jon Stanhope.
He also pointed to what he had heard doorknocking, saying Canberrans were telling him they were feeling the pinch.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr criticised the Liberals’ economic theory, saying the contradictory pledges to cut the ACT’s revenue stream by freezing rates and not cutting money from services without borrowing another cent did not stack up.
“The Leader of the Opposition must release the advice that he is basing his ‘magic pudding’ theory of economics on, after confirming this morning that he has a team of economists supporting his theory,” Mr Barr said.
“As an alternative Chief Minister, he has to show the ACT community how he plans on supporting the growth of the ACT’s economy during this global economic crisis.
“Where are these people going to live? What schools are these families going to use? Where are the Canberra Liberals plans for the additional public healthcare, the public transport and the jobs that would be needed to support this huge increase in population.”