“Politics is about winning, not about second place,” says Kate Carnell

Genevieve Jacobs 20 October 2020 23
Kate Carnell

Kate Carnell says the Canberra Liberals need to take stock of their policies if they are to have any chance of winning. Photo: Region Media.

Former Liberal Chief Minister Kate Carnell, who formed government in 1995 and again in 1998, says that it’s time for the current party to have a hard look at themselves, what they represent and how well they meet the needs of the Canberra community.

Ms Carnell says the party must urgently take stock of its policies, people and relevance if they want any chance of winning a future ACT election.

“The reality is that if you continue to lose like this, after a string of losses over many years, then you need a total retrospective look at what’s gone wrong. Politics is about winning, not about second place,” she told Region Media.

“What Liberals offer this community is that we can run the place properly, at a price we can all afford. People want a commitment to good services, to health and education and to making sure the grass gets cut from the Legislative Assembly.

“That’s the message the Liberals need to send, about providing services appropriately and efficiently. It’s what we can do well for the people of Canberra.”

In the wake of a major defeat, Ms Carnell says the Liberals will need to honestly examine whether their policies and campaigns are a good fit for the ACT.

“The challenge is to have a serious look at the relevance of the party and their people,” she said.

“ACT voters are progressive, generally left-leaning and well educated. They care about issues like education and climate change. That means you have to offer them solid policy directions in those areas.

“You must be relevant to the people who are your voters. It’s not about what you want politics to be, it’s about how to deliver what the voters want and to make the ACT a better place.

“I do believe that at heart, both sides are in politics for the good of this community, so work out how to do that.”

Ms Carnell was the ACT’s third Chief Minister (Rosemary Follett served two non-consecutive terms). She became Leader of the Opposition in 1993, formed a minority government in 1995 and was re-elected in 1998. Her minority government included independent Michael Moore as health minister.

Now the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Ms Carnell has long been an advocate for pragmatic centrist politics with a focus on small business as an engine for the Territory’s economy.

Last weekend’s election outcome was, she said, “worse than I expected. It would always have been a challenge but I didn’t expect a defeat like that”.

Ms Carnell was careful not to criticise anyone personally, nor does she believe that sheeting blame home to individuals is a way forward for the Party. But, she said, the Canberra Liberal Party now has significant ground to recover before they look like a good prospect for the voters.

“The people of Canberra clearly haven’t believed for a long time that the Liberal Party can deliver what they actually want,” she said.


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23 Responses to “Politics is about winning, not about second place,” says Kate Carnell
Matt Calder Matt Calder 10:23 pm 23 Oct 20

No, politics is about compromise and serving your community regardless of whether you are in Government. That's why you were a terrible Chief Minister.

paulmuster paulmuster 2:55 pm 23 Oct 20

Bring on 4 more years of action on climate change, social justice and all the other progressive causes that Canberrans voted for!

Acton Acton 12:42 pm 23 Oct 20

Imagine a new party, jointly headed by the former Liberal CM Gary Humphries and former Labor CM Jon Stanhope, fielding known candidates from community organisations with proven credentials. Like Fiona Carrick and Marea Fatseas. Then we would have a real alternative choice to Labor/Greens/Liberal.

Gay McGuire Gay McGuire 10:01 am 23 Oct 20

Liberals need a new leader that the people of Canberra can believe in! The current is embarrassing & a joke.

Frank Koch Frank Koch 8:40 pm 22 Oct 20

Well said Kate

Kylee Taylor Kylee Taylor 3:14 pm 22 Oct 20

Isn’t politics meant to be about serving your community?

Barbara Newbery Barbara Newbery 2:51 pm 22 Oct 20

Canberrans tend to be educated middle-class, that is why the Libs keep losing

Elizabeth Ann Thurbon Elizabeth Ann Thurbon 1:57 pm 22 Oct 20

They need to know their flock in order to look after their flock

Jen Jen Jen Jen 1:37 pm 22 Oct 20

Ffs it’s about serving the community - “winning” mentality is what’s killing politics

dolphin dolphin 10:29 am 22 Oct 20

silly me – I thought that politics wasn’t a game where the goal was to win at all costs. The liberals have a vision that is at odds with most Canberrans. You don’t just change that vision to win power – people would see right through it.

Cheryl Collins Cheryl Collins 11:45 pm 21 Oct 20

wrong... its about serving your constituents and community. Or rather thats what you are SUPPOSED to do. Its not about you winning, its about us.

Chris Miller Chris Miller 10:16 pm 21 Oct 20

Priority 1 - win

Priority 2 - maybe do some good things after winning but that’s not really the point (sea priority 1)

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:39 pm 21 Oct 20

“What Liberals offer this community is that we can run the place properly, at a price we can all afford.”

That argument worked, up to a point, for Kate – perhaps because she was governing at a time when many Canberrans had lost, or were in fear of losing, their jobs under the Howard cuts to the APS, and so weren’t feeling inclined to pay any more than they had to towards the funding of an ACT Government which the majority of them still did not want.

Things have changed since then, which is hardly surprising in a world where politicians across the spectrum insist on referring to every dollar of government spending as “investment” – even if it’s blatant, wasteful, vote-buying.

Regardless of their scope and intention, efficiency/value-for-money arguments from politicians are now invariably seen as code for cuts to government jobs and services. That was clearly a dog whistle from Labor in last Saturday’s vote, and is front and centre in the Queensland state election campaign.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 7:12 pm 21 Oct 20

About her alleged drink-driving, she was never charged unlike a Labor MP and a Labor MLA.

Paul Dowden Paul Dowden 4:26 pm 21 Oct 20

All these ex-Lib leaders (Kate, Gary) seems to be saying is, “what Libs stand for won’t get votes. You need to (pretend) to stand for something else”. How’s that a strategy? Do you think people won’t notice?

    Hans Dimpel Hans Dimpel 6:31 pm 21 Oct 20

    I think what this all suggests is that the Liberal party has been hijacked by a pack of god botherers who have bullied their policies into centre stage. There are lots of moderate Liberals, and they need to smack these Seseljas and angry old men that want to protest at abortion clinics down hard to take back control of their party.

    Paul Dowden Paul Dowden 9:17 pm 21 Oct 20

    Hans Dimpel yeah, but they’ve been trying to crack that nut for the last few election cycles. Maybe the voting public have had enough?

    Jill Brown Jill Brown 6:54 am 22 Oct 20

    Paul Dowden exactly, the ACT voter is too discerning for liberal nonsence

Tim Liersch Tim Liersch 2:02 pm 21 Oct 20

Funny how the Greens are sitting in Third Place and making the most of it.

Zakzook Chico Zakzook Chico 10:55 am 21 Oct 20

When will Kate Carnell ask herself something hard questions?

Jeannou Zoides Jeannou Zoides 9:10 am 21 Oct 20

Not so it’s about good politics

    Daniel J. Fitzpatrick Daniel J. Fitzpatrick 10:21 am 21 Oct 20

    Jeannou Zoides don’t be silly politicians aren’t about politics, the libs see politics as a chance to better your own or close friends positions, at the expense of others of course.

Ben Aus Ben Aus 9:05 am 21 Oct 20

Get back to work Katie. We need you.

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