22 December 2021

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee reflects on 'putting politics' aside in 2021

| Lottie Twyford
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Elizabeth Lee MLA Leader ACT Liberals. Photo: Michelle Kroll

For Canberra Liberals Leader Elizabeth Lee, lockdown meant advocating for Canberrans doing it tough but also working collaboratively with the government. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Canberra Liberals Leader Elizabeth Lee describes 2021 as a difficult year to be Leader of the Opposition.

During lockdown, she not only had to advocate for Canberrans who “felt they were being left behind by the government”, but also work collaboratively with her colleagues in Labor and the Greens to ensure the health and safety of the community was paramount.

It was also a year of triumph, despite the circumstances. Ms Lee travelled to Glasgow to participate in COP26, and successfully introduced – and then passed – legislation to outlaw the practice of stealthing.

Region Media asked Ms Lee for her personal reflections on 2021.

The moment that defined the year: When the first case of COVID-19 in the ACT was announced and the ACT was plunged into lockdown on 12 August. It was a challenging moment as Leader of the Opposition because of the need to strike a delicate balance between supporting the health advice and working with the government, while also advocating for and supporting Canberrans who were feeling unheard and left behind as decisions were being made.

One lesson I learnt: To stress less about the things I cannot change or have no control over.

READ ALSO ACT becomes first jurisdiction to specifically outlaw ‘stealthing’

The highlight of the year: There are a few! Seeing the community come together to really support each other at the beginning of lockdown. So many Canberrans devoted their time, resources, and funds to support some of our most vulnerable with food hampers and other much-needed support.

Introducing stealthing legislation from Opposition was also a very important moment for me. I hope it shows former victims, and anyone who is victimised in the future, that the law is on their side.

A personal highlight was seeing my partner, Nathan, step up in his role with the Rural Fire Service to help out with pandemic management – he helped control huge lines at testing sites and also delivered food and medical supplies to vulnerable Canberrans required to isolate or quarantine.

READ ALSO Extra sitting day for grassroots issues worth considering

The hardest moment: Managing the “politics” of the pandemic was difficult at times, especially when we had to respond to decisions that were made without any notice given to us in the Opposition.

Leadership lesson: Patience and keeping your cool will always pay off. It’s something I’ve always known but it was really brought home during the lockdown and pandemic this year.

Elizabeth Lee and Garry Malhitra

Canberra Liberals Leader Elizabeth Lee with Garry Malhotra, who delivered thousands of free meals to vulnerable Canberrans during lockdown. Photo: Elizabeth Lee MLA.

Something I’m proud of: The way my team and I worked with the ACT Government to support the health advice to keep Canberrans safe during the pandemic.

At the same time, we were fierce advocates for those who did feel left behind or were impacted by decisions made during lockdown.

Throughout this year my team and I have spoken to thousands of Canberrans, we have listened and brought their issues to the Legislative Assembly, raising concerns about the rising cost of living, poverty, the plight of our businesses during the pandemic, and real concerns about some of our most vulnerable Canberrans.

READ ALSO Canberra Liberals ‘won’t play politics with climate change’, will write to PM calling for action

What I wish I did differently: Been a little more present with my family during lockdown.

I know I was mentally and emotionally not there as much as I would have liked because I was so focused on the pandemic response. Although it’s hard to say if I really would have done things differently if I could.

I think that to a certain extent, I will never shake off the “mum guilt” which comes with the role that I am in.

My New Year’s Eve resolution: To remember that I cannot be all things to all people, and I must get better at looking after my own mental health so I can be the best elected representative, mum, partner that I can be.

What to expect from 2022: A better and brighter year for all Canberrans.

I hope all of our community – and indeed, the country – will be safe from the virus and that we, as a community, emerge stronger and more cohesive and resilient than ever before.

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Mike of Canberra3:43 pm 29 Dec 21

I can always tell a politician has her opponents worried when that person attracts the sort of vacuous comments already printed in response to this article. The fact is that Lee appears, in both deed and action, to be a centrist, in other words exactly what the ACT needs after so many years of hard left government under Barr and, especially, Rattenbury. By the way, if anyone’s a lightweight, what about the “dynamic duo” to whom I’ve referred above, ie Barr and Rattenbury? Did we hear anything from them over the Christmas break, whether it be to wish Canberrans all the best for the festive season or even to urge them to stay safe? No, they’d both abandoned ship hadn’t they without a word or a whisper to Canberrans, if only to express greetings for the festive season. Instead, that was all left to the hardworking Rachel Stephen-Smith. There’s a word for Barr and Rattenbury’s attitude and it’s called hubris, something this government displays in spades. May it serve them well.

She’s a lightweight. That revolving door has started spinning, ready to spit out the next leader

Zed’s puppet, nothing’s changed.

Coe was considered the most Conservative leader the Canberra Libs have had, perhaps with the exception of Zed.
After Coe, Elizabeth Lee was seen as someone who left-leaning Canberrians might relate to. She was seen as a Centrist. Some would say she is too close to Barr & Rattenbury to be effective, afterall, from Opposition, she travelled to Glasgow Climate conference to support the ACT Government’s Climate position.

Zed’s puppet? I’m not sure how you draw that conclusion?

I think Futureproof might be closer to the mark, by saying she is a lightweight. It’s early days, but I’m yet to see her seriously challenge the Government on health, light rail, Government debt, rates, rents etc.

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