15 July 2015

Local politics: Here's what you missed this fortnight

| Richard Fox
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Anyone for tennis?

A few humble tennis courts are proving to be more of a problem for Chief Minister Andrew Barr than he thought.

Earlier this year, Barr said the ACT Government would take the tennis courts from the public Telopea Park School so it could build a childcare centre. The current Manuka Occasional Childcare Centre nearby will be given to the Canberra Services Club in a big land-swapping scheme.

Cue uproar from parents and students not wanting to lose their tennis courts. They argued Telopea was the most cramped public school in Canberra. The Education Directorate said that’s wrong; it’s the fourth most cramped behind Amaroo, Harrison and Lyneham.

Keen to follow up concerns is Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury, who wrote to Barr asking him to find a better solution to a deal he said was “bringing a level upheaval that seems out of proportion to the initial problem”.

It’s one of the first public rumbles of discontent between the lone Greens Minister and Barr since he became Chief Minister. He’d been very smart to hose it down, but that would mean backtracking significantly on his original plan. It’s a tough call.

There is though an element of first world problems to this quandary. If only my school had a tennis court.

The Mr Fluffy toll is revealed

For the first time since the whole sorry Mr Fluffy saga started, we now know which homes have been affected.

The 1022 homes are spread right across Canberra, with Ainslie, Duffy and Farrer among the hardest hit. But from Hall in the north to Tennant in the south, the pain goes on.

But the public release of the actual homes could spark more concern, as renters and former owners will now know of the property’s status, and potentially being exposed to pure asbestos fibres.

The ACT Government’s buyback scheme for affected property owners ended on Tuesday.

More shipping containers for Canberra

Everyone loves Westside Acton Park development. Right? The shipping container village seems to divide public opinion as much as Scotty and Nige. So what does Canberra need more of? Yep, shipping containers.

While a new building is constructed for the ACT Supreme Court, trials may continue in a “pop-up court” made out of shipping containers. Attorney-General Simon Corbell admitted in Estimates that $4.2 million had been set aside for such a building if needed during the redevelopment so court proceedings aren’t impacted. Similar courts operated after the Christchurch earthquake.

It all seems reasonable. It provides a cheap, yet functional way of continuing business as usual. Shipping containers create university accommodation at ANU and have been used around the world in many different ways.

Burch’s tough times continue

It’s fair to say 2015 has been Joy Burch’s annus horribilis. The year started with the Menslink affair that involved her son (an inquiry cleared her of any wrongdoing, not that you would have heard that from the Canberra Liberals); then came the boy-in-a-cage incident and then a no-confidence vote from the teacher’s union.

Burch still hasn’t released the results of an inquiry into the case of a student with autism who was placed in a cage. And this has angered the Opposition and parents.

She was grilled intensely by the Opposition during Estimates last week by Steve Doszpot, who has been an under-the-radar performer for the Opposition. She came out battling but a tough year is starting to show.

The Canberra Liberals see Burch as an easy target. A quick search on their website shows 26 media releases about Burch since May 2014. Brendan Smyth, the Shadow Treasurer, has put out 28 media releases during that time. Yep, Burch is almost as important to the Opposition as the guy who wants to control the Territory’s finances.

Everything is the light rail’s fault

Unsurprisingly, the Opposition is deciding to blame unrelated problems and issues on the Capital Metro light rail plan. And because of the ACT’s small politician base, it could work.

Last week, Opposition leader Jeremy Hanson said the increased waiting times at The Canberra Hospital were due to the light rail project. Specifically, Minister for Health Simon Corbell spending too much time being Minister for Capital Metro, instead of on the health portfolio.

Due to only having 6 Ministers, each has a huge workload covering many portfolios. Despite accusing Corbell of showing “little interest”, which is not substantiated, Hanson could use this tactic on any Minister at any given time. With more MLAs to be elected in 2016, there could be up to 9 Ministers in the next government, meaning reduced portfolios for each. A Hanson Government may not experience the same portfolio juggling pressures.

For daily ACT politics news, visit thepoliticalact.wordpress.com

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Thank you for the wrap-up.

great post about local issues, but webmaster can we at least have a photo reflective of the local political system rather than the commonwealth?

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