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On Canberra being “cushioned from reality”: an open letter to Tim Wilson MP

Nicole Lawder MLA 24 June 2019 24

Local MLA Nicole Lawder on why Tim Wilson’s comments on Canberra are ‘just not on’.

Dear Mr Wilson,

Canberra-bashing is pretty much a national sport for anyone who doesn’t live in Canberra. In fact, usually, I don’t mind – Canberra is such a lovely place that having a bit of a negative view of it elsewhere stops a lot of people moving here, so we have the place more to ourselves! But when you started attacking Canberra generally and public servants specifically in a recent debate with Andrew Leigh, I was very surprised.

It seems a curious argument that you have made – attacking not just a place but the people who live there.

My biggest objection to your comments was your characterisation of public servants who are apparently too “cushioned from reality” to be able to make economic decisions. Our public servants have the huge responsibility of implementing, operationalising and delivering government policies. Much of this involves crunching the numbers and managing million-dollar government contracts and grants. They work exceptionally hard to budget and deliver essential and trusted services to the Australian people.

Their job also involves making Ministers appear as well-prepared, well-briefed and as competent as possible. When a Minister looks bad, the public service looks bad. When a Minister looks good, the public service looks good. I know, I have worked in the public service, in several different departments. The public service is full of talented and selfless people, many them having left their homes and families interstate to serve the Australian people in Canberra.

Like many public servants, I moved to Canberra when my husband got a Defence posting here. I have lived here ever since, adopting Canberra as my home town. We did not come here by choice; we were sent here through government policy. Looking at my own family, who live and work here, we are a fair representation of the ACT workforce. Of 13 adults in my extended family (our five children, their partners, and one grandchild over the age of 18) two are in the ACT Public Service, three in the Australian Public Service, one in utilities, one is a tradie in the building industry, one is a GP, one a firefighter, one a courier driver, one in the community sector, one a financial adviser, and one a Uni student. A total of five out of 13 workers in the public service is a fair reflection of the Canberra community, considering less than 40 per cent of all Canberra workers are employed in the Federal and ACT Governments.

Rather than being “cushioned from reality”, we Canberrans are living in a two-tiered society. While it is true many Canberrans are well-off, there are thousands of Canberrans that are falling behind. The Canberra Liberals are inundated with stories of Canberrans who are struggling to keep up with the immense cost of living pressures caused by 18 years of high-taxing Labor governments. So many Canberra households are in mortgage and rental stress due to the Labor-Greens government’s artificial inflation of land prices and extortionate increases to rates and land tax. Canberra is now the most expensive place to rent in Australia. Many people have become homeless or rely on the goodwill of family or friends to put a roof over their head. Most Australians probably wouldn’t know that almost 26,000 Canberrans are living below the poverty line while 37,000 Canberrans, including 8,000 children, are living on less than $500 per week.

This is in the Australian capital.

What you really ought to realise is that you sold yourself short in your mischaracterisation of a whole city, and its workers. We are real people who make real contributions and who face real challenges. The argument you made would be equivalent to your debating partner arguing you were a goose, and therefore everyone in Goldstein is a goose. I am sure you and the good citizens of Goldstein would be insulted.

Our public servants are here doing the best they can, often under trying circumstances. Bringing them into a political debate does not help your argument one whit.

You and I share many progressive Liberal values as evidenced in our advocacy for marriage equality. Apparently, we also share a love of gin. But these type of sweeping comments about my home town, the city I love, and its diverse residents, are just not on.

 

Nicole Lawder is the Deputy Leader of the Canberra Liberals.


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28 Responses to On Canberra being “cushioned from reality”: an open letter to Tim Wilson MP
Tara Maree McInnes Tara Maree McInnes 10:07 pm 25 Jun 19

Thank you Nicole for your voice to the Public sector who are often treated with su ch contempt for choosing secure work to ensure I can care for other family members. I am a labor person but you have given many public servants some dignity from your words so thank you.

Marcel Bond Marcel Bond 9:56 pm 25 Jun 19

25 years living in Canberra and this is the first time I have heard anything from the position of 'Deputy Leader of the Canberra Liberals'. Here's an idea...if you want to be an effective opposition (and alternative government) how about you actually get out, be heard and have some actual policies.

Beth Mansfield Beth Mansfield 9:29 pm 25 Jun 19

It's a bit much when one of the cushioned and cossetted federal pillows calls US divorced from reality.

    Beth Mansfield Beth Mansfield 10:53 pm 25 Jun 19

    Ha! Now that's what I call auto correct!

HiddenDragon 6:02 pm 25 Jun 19

According to the previous RiotACT post on Wilson's comments, he said that Canberra is “cushioned from the reality of where people actually make money and make investments off their private capital”.

The same could be said about most Australians, including in Wilson's part of Melbourne, bearing in mind that so much of the wealth that pays our way in the world is still generated from mining and primary production.

The denial of that reality, and the associated entitlement mentality does, though, seem to be more pronounced in Canberra - the latter was one of the main reasons for self government (i.e. let Canberrans pay for the high standards of public services which they demand).

Jay Annabel Jay Annabel 5:56 pm 25 Jun 19

the irony of a dude like tim wilson lecturing us on reality.

Tony Whelan 5:49 pm 25 Jun 19

Pretty gutless of an MP from another state to slag off people in Canberra whom he knows nothing about.

Ian McLeod 5:30 pm 25 Jun 19

100% agree. I have worked in the private sector all my life, much of it serving the public sector and as Nicole said, many moved here to make a difference. I have had the pleasure of working with many high level, extremely motivated and competent public servants. It is routine to see emails from around the clock as they work tirelessly and often thanklessly to advance their organisation, support the government and implement policy with frequently insanely short time frames driven by a chaotic poltical environment.

A poltical environment driven, to be clear, by a poltical cohort that rarely leaves its own bubble around parliament house.

If there is any isolation and bubble, it's the politicians who all come from elsewhere. Not the tireless public service responding to their every random short sighted whim.

I am proud to consult for the federal public service and would happily do so for a long while yet.

Jill Howell Jill Howell 5:27 pm 25 Jun 19

Good on you, Nicola Lawder

Bob Holbert Bob Holbert 4:55 pm 25 Jun 19

I don't think most Canberra public servants are "cushioned from reality". Like a lot of Australians, many struggle to afford housing, pay their electricity bills and haven't had a real pay rise in ages. Those Canberra public servants who are less in touch include, in my experience, some of our well-paid Senior Executives Service officers, but I don't think they are any more "cushioned" than Australia's well paid professional politicians, and they are probably more in touch than the nation's business executives, who seem to get an increasing share of the wealth regardless of business results, and always manage a little golden parachute when the going gets tough. The major beneficiaries of both pay rises and tax cuts.

James Forge James Forge 4:37 pm 25 Jun 19

So many gullible people believed that stupid and untrue story about "Fat Cats in Canberra" by that idiot Richard Carleton.

Phyl Holmes Phyl Holmes 3:57 pm 25 Jun 19

Onya Nicole - would liked to have added my name!

bikhet 3:54 pm 25 Jun 19

I said what I needed to in a response to a previous post:

https://the-riotact.com/liberal-mp-says-act-cushioned-from-reality-of-where-people-actually-make-money/306204

Ms Lawder has said nothing that would change my mind.

Linda Matija Linda Matija 2:59 pm 25 Jun 19

Well said! How would a politician know what reality is???

Anne Gallagher Anne Gallagher 2:43 pm 25 Jun 19

Well said Nicole. Federal politicians are the ones cushioned from reality

Capital Retro 2:30 pm 25 Jun 19

This article authored by a virtue-signalling public servant being paid about $200K a year who is a self-proclaimed advocate for the tens of thousand Canberrans existing below the poverty line.

I would love Canberra too if I earned that sort of money.

Andrea Lloyd Andrea Lloyd 2:16 pm 25 Jun 19

Why don’t you tell Seselja then Ms Lawder? Isn’t he a fellow Liberal? Can’t recall him speaking up and criticising his fellow Liberal creep, Wilson? 🤮🤮🤮🤬

Steve Smith Steve Smith 2:07 pm 25 Jun 19

As she sniggers quietly to herself, vowing to decimate PS numbers if her mates ever get into power.

Kerry Dent Kerry Dent 2:01 pm 25 Jun 19

Well said Nicole Lawder and I am a Labor voter. I appreciate you speaking out in support of people working as public servants in Canberra.

michael quirk 2:00 pm 25 Jun 19

Canberra is more representative of Australia than the bayside suburbs of Melbourne where this right wing t@#$$#r comes from

Harper Pirsig Harper Pirsig 12:45 pm 25 Jun 19

Criticising the people of Canberra is intellectually lazy. It is also ignorant and rarely, if ever, based on facts. I am yet to see anything that elevates such criticism beyond lazy, and into the realm of well informed rigorous analysis.

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