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.