25 September 2020

Shane Rattenbury says minority government makes Canberra a better place

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Greens leader Shane Rattenbury

Greens leader Shane Rattenbury believes power-sharing has delivered value for Canberra. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Greens leader Shane Rattenbury knows he’s in a unique political position: his party will never win government in their own right, but the Hare Clark system has nevertheless delivered them a remarkable measure of power in Canberra for more than a decade.

Unless the Liberals can win 13 seats, that’s likely to continue. Mr Rattenbury’s own seat is safe, and based on the strong Greens result at the last Federal election, voters will at least replace Caroline Le Couteur in the Assembly.

They believe they may even pick up a third seat, approaching the 2008 results that put four Greens in the Assembly.

But the price of their disproportionate influence on the course of affairs in the ACT is delivering power to a development-friendly Labor government.

Mr Rattenbury says that after 12 years he’s comfortable with that situation, believing that the power-sharing arrangement between Labor and the Greens has largely been value-driven and to the benefit of the community.

“We have never had to do anything with which we are deeply uncomfortable,” he says. “There are certainly issues where if it had been a Green government, the outcome would have been different.

“We don’t always get what we want, but that is part of being in a power-sharing arrangement. We bring ideas to the table. Sometimes we get them through, sometimes we don’t and sometimes we stymie things that other parties want because we don’t think they’re right for the community.”

Mr Rattenbury himself is largely seen as a pragmatic figure: witness, for example, the recent decision by the Greens to back managed, low-level development on West Basin.

READ MORE Liberals step back from pledge to stop West Basin infill project

Over the term of the power-sharing agreement, his party has pushed through policies like a nation-leading pill testing trial, the drug and alcohol court and the ACT’s net-zero emissions goal.

But they’ve also overseen mushrooming urban growth that risks pushing Canberra’s most vulnerable people to the outer suburbs, and significantly diminished trust in the planning process.

Trust is a serious issue. While we wait for the outcome of the current Planning Review, the Greens’ best shot at combating the problem is a proposal to introduce deliberative democracy processes across the ACT.

“The proposition is to engage neighbourhoods in decision making, help them come to decisions about their own communities and put some real money behind it,” Mr Rattenbury says.

“The community at the end of it could allocate where their money would actually go. That makes the deliberative democracy process much more real and concrete for them.

“It will build community connection and help people to see that there are choices to make, whether they want a park upgrade, a party at the shops or better lighting.”

The other critical issue for the Greens and their proportional influence is how far that radiates outside the ‘lentil belt’ of the inner North. Are their priorities for the Inner North also a good match for voters in Tuggeranong or Gungahlin?

Mr Rattenbury concedes there’s no doubt that the Inner North is their stronghold.

“The job for us is to take our policies and ideas and explain to people why they are relevant, like this neighbourhood democracy policy or electric vehicles, where we want people in outer areas to know that they will save 80 per cent of their running costs if they have an electric vehicle. That’s a real way to tackle some of their cost of living issues.”

So for all this talk of compromise and pragmatism, is Mr Rattenbury, with multiple ministerial portfolios under his belt, the acceptable face of the Greens? He won’t be drawn on whether there are more extremist views inside the party, saying that’s for others to judge.

“We have had a role where we’ve had the balance of power and that does bring a responsibility to us that we have to own. We have to take that on board. People want to see us to get on and be part of the process of government, not to sit at the edges sniping. We need to be constructive and we’ve embraced that role,” he says.

“I think that creative tension on government has been pretty healthy. I think it’s been better on the whole than having a single party with a majority.”

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HiddenDragon6:29 pm 27 Sep 20

It’s not minority government – it’s a coalition, with Labor too often following the Greens down the rabbit hole, and the Greens too often turning a blind eye on matters of integrity and accountability.

COVID has clearly demonstrated that some of the Greens policies such as public transport and high density living (especially high rise apartments) are a really bad idea.

Will Rattenbury and his mates abandon their support for these initiatives?

In the Canberra Times today Rattenbury says he sees Covid as an opportunity to implement more Greens policies. He does not want life to go back to normal. Elect Labor and you get the Greens and who knows what.

Mike Stelzig - Canberra Progressives for Yerrabi11:44 am 26 Sep 20

Shane Rattenbury is correct when he says that minority government makes Canberra a better place. Remember that minor parties and independents will dilute the power of the major parties and put more democracy, scrutiny and a broader view into government. The more minor parties and independents are elected, the better the policies and overall outcome for the ACT will be. Absolute power has never been a good thing. Remember, if you vote the same, you get the same!

Rattenbury has ratted on voters who elected him and buried his head in the sand as Labor does whatever it likes.

George Watling11:09 pm 25 Sep 20

‘Labor can work with the Greens, the sky doesn’t fall in’ but the trees do, the quality of our suburbs has, access to green spaces has, building standards have, peoples access to cost affective public transport has. All these things and more have fallen in the ACT under Barr and Rattenbury. The Labor/Greens alliance ha been a disaster for Canberra.

“access to green spaces has”

Is there any genuine evidence to support this supposition? I hear it bandied about time and time and time and time again, but outside of a few high profile cases we hear about (some with genuine validity, some with not), I don’t sense that there has been a substantial reduction in green space across the city. Noting of course new suburbs are potentially a different story

Do you remember Pitch n Putt at Woden? A popular community recreational area.
Now derelict and set aside for apartments.

Was that anything to do with the ACT government? I was under the impression pitch and putt was closed down by the southern cross club because it was bleeding money…also where can I find information regarding future apartments in this site? The site is zoned cz6 underwhich residential development is prohibited.

Stephen Saunders1:57 pm 25 Sep 20

As Julius Sumner Miller used to say, why is it so?

At federal level, Labor hates the Greens, and has effortlessly made itself unelectable. At federal-territory level, Labor can work with the Greens, the sky doesn’t fall in, and both parties are made more electable.

“Rattenbury’s own seat is safe, and based on the strong Greens result at the last Federal election, voters will at least replace Caroline Le Couteur in the Assembly.”

That’s a big call. The Greens result at the last Federal election was not much different to previously. They obviously benefited in the electorate of Canberra through the concentration of their voter base in Central and North Canberra but it wasn’t a really good performance.

And Caroline Le Couteur is a well known local identity and she only scraped in. The fifth seat in Murrumbidgee is in no way a sure thing for the Greens.

They’re just as likely to lose seats as they are to gain them.

Capital Retro11:03 am 25 Sep 20

A pox on the Hare Clark system.

One of the fairest systems we have. Long may it reign.

While not a perfect system, its far better then many of the alternatives.

Capital Retro8:59 pm 27 Sep 20

That means it will be a Labor/Green government forever and there are signs on this thread that that is no longer palatable.

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