Long live ACT self-government

Kim Fischer 19 August 2016 21

ACT Legislative Assembly chamber

The history of Canberra can largely be described in three eras: pre-NCDC (up to 1958), NCDC (1958-1989), and self-government (1989-present).

In the early days of Canberra, the vision of Walter Burley Griffin went largely unimplemented. During these years Australia went through two World Wars, an abundance of departmental arm-wrestling, and there was a lack of enthusiasm for senior people to move to Canberra.

It wasn’t until 1958, when the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) was established that the Griffin plan substantially came to fruition. With the construction of Lake Burley Griffin and most of our national institutions, Canberra began to resemble the city we see today. The NCDC also created the “Y-plan” which established the principle of decentralised development in Canberra with Woden-Weston Creek, Belconnen, Tuggeranong and Gungahlin.

During this time, the population of Canberra exploded from 50,000 to almost 300,000. For many people living in Canberra, the work of the NCDC defines their formative experiences.

The NCDC was essentially a dictatorship, making decisions without any democratic representation of Canberra citizens beyond “token advisory bodies”. An academic analysis of the effects of the NCDC on Canberra concluded that:

Canberra as a place came to express the expectations and agenda of Australia’s administrative elite in the nation-building era – ordered, rational, expansive and expensive.

ACT citizens got a great deal in these years, largely because no one was keeping tabs on who was spending money. Driver’s licenses cost a quarter of what they did in other states, car registration one-third the cost.

After the full cost of paying for the Territory was worked out in the late 1970s, it turned out that ACT residents received double the per-person spend of someone in Victoria, while paying less for the privilege.

In that sense it is no surprise that ACT residents voted against self-government. We had access to the perfect ‘magic pudding’ of Federal funds and were never being asked to pay up.

However, I have to admit I find it baffling and frustrating that nearly 30 years on, people are still hoping for a return to the days of the NCDC when we had no democratic representation on decision-making. The rivers of gold from the Federal Government were going away anyway. At least under self-government we have the ability to vote for people who can represent our hopes and desires for Canberra.

It’s not like the NCDC was perfect in its planning work either. In the Belconnen town centre alone, they were responsible for a three storey car park with amazing lakefront views and the infamous “bus ditch” that separated Belconnen into two halves except for a narrow red pedestrian bridge.

The increase in the size of the ACT Legislative Assembly to 25 members will improve the quality of our governance. The strangely-shaped electorate of Molonglo always undermined the concept of local representation, and the Assembly has always had significant problems with properly resourcing the parliamentary committees that are so vital to investigating issues of public importance. Having more members that are chosen (mostly) from areas corresponding to each town centre will go a long way to fixing these problems.

The NCDC is gone and isn’t coming back. As voters, the onus now falls on all of us to take responsibility for the system of government we have and make it the best we possibly can.

Kim Fischer is an ACT Labor candidate for the seat of Ginninderra in the 2016 ACT Legislative Assembly election.

Pictured is the ACT Legislative Assembly Chamber before work commences to house additional members after the 2016 election.


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21 Responses to Long live ACT self-government
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Skyring Skyring 8:47 pm 25 Aug 16

Remembering the old days, the city had more class, more open space, more amenity.

The bus system worked well, the traffic flows were modest, services were excellent and costs were low.

Efficiency and elegance was how Canberra operated in the early Eighties.

I need only look around now to see the differences.

ozmaniac ozmaniac 5:55 pm 25 Aug 16

Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013 – Overturned by the Federal Govt. remember?
So why bother having self-government in the ACT?
25 politicians to run the ACT when all we need is for someone to run a bus service and collect the garbage.
In the immortal words of McEnroe “you cannot be serious”.

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 5:41 pm 25 Aug 16

Is Kim actually living in the ACT? Her mob have unlimited money for Light Rail but no money to sweep the steeets, repair street-lights, replace dead street-trees or provide sufficient buses for those who want to use them.

JC JC 11:54 am 23 Aug 16

gazket said :

of course Kim Fischer who was parachuted into a fat paying taxpayer funded job with many benefits the average person doesn’t get, would say “Long live ACT self-government” .

When did she get parachuted in? She is still a candidate who needs to be elected.

And if being a pollie is such a great job, are you running?

watto23 watto23 8:35 am 23 Aug 16

Garfield said :

Ian said :

It remains to be seen if the increase in size of the assembly improves governance. I suspect the extra members aren’t going to be coming from the top of the pile.

In my opinion, most voters know very little about the majority of candidates standing, and so vote for the names that they know. There’s little correlation between a candidate’s ability to get their name in front of voters and their ability to perform well as a minister. So with the increased number of MLA’s, there’s a chance that some of the extra 8 people elected may be better ministers than some of the incumbents, even though they may not be as good at campaigning or have as much name recognition.

The other thing of course is lifelong voters of either major party will never ever admit a politician did a good jobs except at their funeral. So while there is outrage at the top of these comments about the article, what they complain of, they are guilty of also. The irony is if the city is so bad, why live here? Sure politics and governments are frustrating at times, but there are not many cities I’d rather live in than this one and that is the result of 100 years of various forms of government. so they must have done something right.

Garfield Garfield 7:51 am 22 Aug 16

Ian said :

It remains to be seen if the increase in size of the assembly improves governance. I suspect the extra members aren’t going to be coming from the top of the pile.

In my opinion, most voters know very little about the majority of candidates standing, and so vote for the names that they know. There’s little correlation between a candidate’s ability to get their name in front of voters and their ability to perform well as a minister. So with the increased number of MLA’s, there’s a chance that some of the extra 8 people elected may be better ministers than some of the incumbents, even though they may not be as good at campaigning or have as much name recognition.

gazket gazket 3:42 pm 21 Aug 16

of course Kim Fischer who was parachuted into a fat paying taxpayer funded job with many benefits the average person doesn’t get, would say “Long live ACT self-government” .

dungfungus dungfungus 2:18 pm 21 Aug 16

Masquara said :

dungfungus said :

Masquara said :

OT but – so good to hear the remarkable Rosemary Follett on 666 the other day. It is outrageous that she is never mentioned as Australia’s first female premier/head of a state/territory.

Not so.
It’s actually the first thing referred to here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary_Follett

Oh OK if you think of Wikipedia as the locus of Australia’s historical/political discourse, sure.

Well I don’t but so many on this blog do so that’s why I chose that link. Seems I can never get it right. I won’t comment on what is heard on ABC 666 though.

Masquara Masquara 11:23 am 21 Aug 16

dungfungus said :

Masquara said :

OT but – so good to hear the remarkable Rosemary Follett on 666 the other day. It is outrageous that she is never mentioned as Australia’s first female premier/head of a state/territory.

Not so.
It’s actually the first thing referred to here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary_Follett

Oh OK if you think of Wikipedia as the locus of Australia’s historical/political discourse, sure.

Ian Ian 1:46 pm 20 Aug 16

It remains to be seen if the increase in size of the assembly improves governance. I suspect the extra members aren’t going to be coming from the top of the pile.

dungfungus dungfungus 1:41 pm 20 Aug 16

Masquara said :

OT but – so good to hear the remarkable Rosemary Follett on 666 the other day. It is outrageous that she is never mentioned as Australia’s first female premier/head of a state/territory.

Not so.
It’s actually the first thing referred to here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary_Follett

Masquara Masquara 11:19 am 20 Aug 16

OT but – so good to hear the remarkable Rosemary Follett on 666 the other day. It is outrageous that she is never mentioned as Australia’s first female premier/head of a state/territory.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 5:17 pm 19 Aug 16

Of course the “essentially a dictatorship” NCDC is not coming back, but things are going so well with the fixed term dictatorship which has replaced it, that we are now going to have demographic quotas for the already blatantly tokenistic public consultation processes undertaken in this town. The North Korean Electoral Commission may be able to assist with the latter.

Mordd - IndyMedia Mordd - IndyMedia 4:15 pm 19 Aug 16

That was a good read, and it will come as no surprise to the regular readers that I agree pretty much completely with Kim on this, especially the need for the expanded assembly.

Roundhead89 Roundhead89 3:50 pm 19 Aug 16

Madders said :

Well said,Rommeldog56. Bob Hawke it was who foisted self government upon us – even after being rejected twice by referendum. So much for Labor democracy.

There is a bit of confusion about this. There was a referendum and a plebiscite. The referendum was held on 25th November 1978 and recorded a No vote. The plebiscite was conducted by Radio 2CC in late 1976 and also recorded a No vote.

Blen_Carmichael Blen_Carmichael 2:50 pm 19 Aug 16

“The NCDC was essentially a dictatorship…”

Not quite Godwin’s, but nearly as risible. That’s worth ten minutes in the sin bin.

“The increase in the size of the ACT Legislative Assembly to 25 members will improve the quality of our governance.”

That’s a straight-out send off.

Madders Madders 1:50 pm 19 Aug 16

Well said,Rommeldog56. Bob Hawke it was who foisted self government upon us – even after being rejected twice by referendum. So much for Labor democracy.

rommeldog56 rommeldog56 10:13 am 19 Aug 16

pajs said :

What is wrong in the piece? Or is your issue that it came from Ms Fischer and therefore must be partisan and incorrect, regardless of the actual content?

I couldnt care less that its from Ms Fischer or not – any wannabee ACT LA member for Labor/Greens/Liberals is in the same vein.

Whats wrong with it – well what about this for starters – just one :

“The increase in the size of the ACT Legislative Assembly to 25 members will improve the quality of our governance.”

Its laughable. Thats just a ACT Labor wannabee supporting ascension to their next job. Anyone who thinks that the quality of governance here will increase because of the additional MLAs, is mistaken, if not gullible. All I see in this piece (and previous articles from the same author) is more of the same corporate party spin and clap trap that besets ACT LA members – of both persuasions. We need and deserve more – from all 3 major parties.

And which party foisted self Governance on the ACT without proper financial consideration ? The ALPs Bob Hawke, as I recall.

dungfungus dungfungus 9:51 am 19 Aug 16

rommeldog56 said :

There is just so much wrong with this article that you would have to be rusted on ACT Labor – or a Labor candidate for the ACT election – to agree with it.

Why can not the disclamer ” Kim Fischer is an ACT Labor candidate for the seat of Ginninderra in the 2016 ACT Legislative Assembly election” be at the top of such partasian political self promotions, so that readers are aware of whats coming in the article and not start to read it if they don’t want to read more spin from an ACT Labor/Greens Govt wannabee ?

I agree with your comment but being life-long conservative I find entertainment in reading what the left has to say.
Sometimes, when I want a real buzz, I watch The Drum or Insiders. I have to be stoned to cope with Q&A.

pajs pajs 9:50 am 19 Aug 16

rommeldog56 said :

There is just so much wrong with this article that you would have to be rusted on ACT Labor – or a Labor candidate for the ACT election – to agree with it.

Why can not the disclamer ” Kim Fischer is an ACT Labor candidate for the seat of Ginninderra in the 2016 ACT Legislative Assembly election” be at the top of such partasian political self promotions, so that readers are aware of whats coming in the article and not start to read it if they don’t want to read more spin from an ACT Labor/Greens Govt wannabee ?

What is wrong in the piece? Or is your issue that it came from Ms Fischer and therefore must be partisan and incorrect, regardless of the actual content?

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