Is Andrew Barr sending the ACT broke? Not really.
Is there an election this year? Absolutely.
Does Elizabeth Lee want to be Chief Minister? You bet.
And she wasn’t about to miss out on the free kick handed out with the mid-year Budget Review that posted a blown-out deficit of $783 million and increasingly eye-watering debt for our little city-state over the next four years.
The situation resulted from woeful economic management. Mr Barr had squandered hundreds of millions of dollars on dodgy procurements and vanity projects, and the interest bill was now $2 million a day.
This should ring alarm bells, she said.
Watch out for higher taxes and more pain for those already, yes, “doing it tough”.
The government’s signature big-picture infrastructure program was a mirage. But apart from light rail 2B, what would get the chop?
The only legacy Mr Barr would be leaving is the Territory in the worst financial position in its history, Ms Lee said.
Just don’t expect to hear how the Libs would knock the budget into shape, yet.
You will hear plenty of that from Mr Barr, who has already said they will gut services as all Liberal governments do.
That’s where we are eight months out from election day: the government in can-do, business-as-usual mode rolling out infrastructure announcements and Ms Lee attacking Mr Barr’s economic credibility and playing cat and mouse with journalists until she is ready, at a time of her choosing, to release actual policies and proposals, apart from a couple of early tasters.
But don’t worry, she’ll be upfront with us, unlike the other lot.
Mr Barr had to serve up a turd sandwich, saying the deficit blowout is only temporary due to falls in GST and payroll tax, and the budget will recover as consumer spending increases, people get a tax cut (thank you Albo), and interest rates fall.
What could go wrong?
The debt may look scary, but look at what we’re getting – new hospitals (and one’s almost built), a theatre, a stadium, a convention centre, an entertainment pavilion and more light rail, of course. Eventually.
Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And we can sell some land, and the Feds are going to pitch in.
Speaking of coliseums, that stadium – we’ve been talking about it so long it’s virtually already built in our imaginations – does look like it will rise in Bruce now the AIS’s future is settled.
But the Libs say they’re still looking at the city. Where, I wonder? Doesn’t matter; there are plenty hanging on to the dream.
Then there’s the other gift to the Opposition last week – the latest light rail update for Stage 2B to Woden.
The government would have hoped that it signalled a re-commitment and progress in this marathon project, but all this milestone did was leave us uncertain about what was happening and wondering if it had the wobbles.
Just staying flexible, the government said, about putting the Barton dog leg back on the table. The public servants of Sydney Avenue and surrounds – now and the thousands more in the future – are probably very excited, and don’t the renders look great.
But Transport Minister Chris Steel sounded pretty uncomfortable dodging questions about travel times and trying to introduce a little nuance into the debate.
It’s election time. He’s going to have to show a little more trainspotters’ passion than that to keep the public on board and hold their challenged attention.
It just doesn’t stack up, said a suitably feisty Ms Lee, who’s not holding anything back. A refrain that we will hear up to election day.
The alternative? Something to do with buses.
It’s going to be a wild ride to October.