3 September 2020

Stanhope: why would I not accept the Libs' poverty job?

| Ian Bushnell
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Former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope

Former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has a long-held interest in social justice. Photo: File.

Former Labor chief Minister Jon Stanhope has defended his acceptance of a Liberal job offer to head up its proposed Poverty Task Group, and he blamed the Labor-Greens Government for what he sees as a deterioration of the ACT’s health and housing services.

Mr Stanhope also told ABC radio that Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s claim that raising Newstart and other welfare payments will do more than anything to lift people out of poverty was nonsense.

He said he wasn’t naive about the offer and knew there was an election coming, but he saw it as an opportunity in an area he believed in.

”Why would I not accept it?” he asked.

”It’s an initiative I have long supported … on what basis would I write back to Mr Coe and say stick it, have your poverty inquiry but I’m not having a bar of it because I don’t share your politics?”

Mr Barr has already labelled the job offer a stunt and called Mr Stanhope’s standing in the Labor Party into question.

But Mr Stanhope said Mr Barr himself had already set a precedent for offering roles to political enemies by making former Liberal leader Brendan Smyth Commissioner for International Engagement for the ACT in 2016.

READ ALSO Barr labels Stanhope chairing the Libs’ Poverty Task Group “a stunt”

Mr Stanhope, who works three days a week at the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services, said he saw poverty every week.

”I rub shoulders with people who live in poverty; I talk to people who live in poverty,” he said.

”It’s a major issue for us, for Canberra to be the city and community and society we all think it is or aspire for it to be. We simply have to deal with some of those issues around poverty and disadvantage.”

Despite what he saw as an unlikely Liberal win, he believed the Task Group was a great idea.

Ironically, the last poverty inquiry in the ACT was launched by the Carnell Liberal Government, the findings of which Mr Stanhope inherited when he took office in 2001.

Mr Stanhope defended his time in government saying his record on social issues was stunning but that Mr Barr had dismantled his housing affordability plan and abandoned Katy Gallagher’s 10-year health plan.

Initiatives on Indigenous disadvantage had also not been followed through, such as a specific drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility which had been funded.

Mr Stanhope took apart Mr Barr’s claim the raising welfare payments such as Newstart was enough, although he agreed they needed to be increased.

”Raising Newstart is not going to address the underlying issues that lead to poverty. It’s just simply a nonsense to believe for one minute that it will,” he said.

”It might ameliorate some of the impacts but they’re not going to actually stop people coming into poverty, not going to help people out of poverty in a permanent or meaningful way.”

Mr Stanhope said payment for the role had not been discussed nor any terms of reference.

”It’s a clean sheet of paper,” he said. ”The question of remuneration has not entered my head or been considered.”

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Alix Merope O'Hara5:08 pm 14 Oct 20

The whole concept looks like a farce coming from the Liberals. They wouldn’t have a clue, so they arrange a commission to “look into it”.

I wouldn’t blame Stanhope for crossing the floor, it sounds like he’s on the right track to examine underlying causes, and I absolutely agree that raising welfare is bare minimum. People make terrible long term decisions when they can’t see past how they’ll feed themselves next month.

But for all his charity, has he spent time with anyone who’s actually made it through the gates our social safety nets place on emancipation and self-determination?

Recognising the causes is one thing. Healing them is another. Deciding to take that step is somewhere in the middle, and then the steps on the other side don’t even exist yet.

I would do this poverty commission far better.

Mike of Canberra12:15 pm 06 Sep 20

To “Finally Relented”, I judge Barr by his policies and results, not by who or what he is. I suggest you do the same with Coe.

Mike of Canberra10:44 am 06 Sep 20

I refer to the various comments about how desirable it is for poorer people to live in the inner suburbs because of the greater access this gives them to retail and services. I was thinking this very thing this morning as I watched my neighbour, a welfare-dependent public housing tenant, bringing out their gleaming cabin cruiser presumably for a lovely day out on the water. I couldn’t help thinking how heart-warming it was to see the savings achieved by subsidised inner suburban living for lower income people being so well spent.

Mike of Canberra12:12 pm 06 Sep 20

Oh and I should add that the boat was being towed by an expensive late-model 4WD!

russianafroman3:17 pm 04 Sep 20

I felt like voting Liberal but I honestly think if we did vote them in it would be the biggest farce this territory has ever seen.

don’t do it! the liberals would be a social disaster for Canberra

Mike of Canberra10:14 am 06 Sep 20

You mean a bigger disaster than Barr, you know the guy who’s fast making Canberra unaffordable for the average person?

Why would you say that?

When I think of the Stanhope era, the only thing that comes to mind is thousands of dollars being squandered on reviled public art including the penis owl and the revolting Skywhale which made us an international laughing stock. Nothing was done about poverty, in fact I distinctly remember that the numbers of homeless I saw around town increased exponentially as his reign continued.

Mike Stelzig - Canberra Progressives for Yerrabi8:25 am 04 Sep 20

Unfortunately, politics is smearing the opposition, grandstanding and cheap political point scoring. It’s infantile. If Coe is serious about Stanhope tackling poverty, then we should all support them. However, I refer to my entry statement that politics is infantile. It’s time to show the major parties the door and elect people who actually care about people. If I were in government, and Stanhope was the best person for the job, I’d also employ him, regardless of what political persuasion he may have.

It amuses me no end seeing the Liberal learners on the site praising and fawning over Stanhope when when he was in power the same people would have been referring to him as Stanhopless and deriding every word he said.

It must give pleasure to have someone like him to hold as your savour and hopefully path to power.

When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do?

Stanhope was a woeful chief minister who focused too much on his pet projects to the detriment of good holistic government.

A large amount of the problems Stanhope now whinges about regularly in the City News were created or exacerbated when he was in charge. It’s ridiculous and the personal axe he has to grind with Andrew Barr is obvious.

And to see the current fawning over him now that some people think he’s helping “their team” is truly unbelievable.

You are spot on Chewy. I always giggle when I see him and his old Treasury buddy rant and rave about problems which primarily have their genesis in their time in the hot seats…. much of the ACT Government’s Budget woes at the moment have their seeds back to quiet cooking the of books in the time of Stanhope.

A perfect example is the well documented issue around CHC loans….. guess who it was that was chief minister when the Government made their support repayable loans instead of doing what a government truly committed to community housing probably would have done and made them one off grants – you guessed it. And who was the biggest critic of the Government doing nothing more then just enforcing contract terms and asking for repayment in line with the contract… you guessed it.

So you’re saying you base your opinion of someone’s competence on whether they agree with you or not?


chewy14 – to ascribe a view to someone that was neithe held or expressed and then to criticise that view is a common adolescent debating tactic employed by those attempting to defend their own weak and illogical position.

Hmm, I suggest you re-read your first comment to JC then if you think that is the case.

The hypocrisy of your last reply to me is quite amusing.

It’s almost like you were deliberately trying to highlight the cognitive dissonance of those who previously hated Stanhope yet now treat him like an Oracle of truth.


what facts have changed?

Acton, how do facts change? A fact is something that is known or proven to be true. So really they don’t change.

What changes are opinions and I too change my opinion on things and people all the time. But in this case that is actually my point, I am getting amusement in the change in opinion the Lib types have of Stanhope because he is making noise supporting them. And as Chewy has sad it is as clear as day Stanhope “change” in attitude and the noise he is making is simply because has an axe to grind with Barr. Whilst getting back to facts many of the issues people here complain about can be traced back to Stanhope himself.

The facts that have changed are that ACT Labor under Barr is now imposing extortionate rate rises, housing has become unaffordable, green spaces are disappearing and unsustainable expenditure is putting this city on a course to bankruptcy, as warned by a former Chief Minister. Cognitive dissonance is the refusal to change one’s behaviour or beliefs when confronted with new facts or conflicting evidence.

None of those are “facts” that have changed.

The rate rises are part of a desperately needed tax reform to remove stamp duty, green spaces aren’t “disappearing”, and the territory is not even remotely close to “bankruptcy” which can’t actually happen.

So yeah, cognitive dissonance, you keep backing those struggling millionaires. Their life must be so tough having to actually pay some tax for once.

HiddenDragon8:23 pm 03 Sep 20

This Task Group has the scope to do some truly innovative work – not just for Canberra, but potentially for the nation.

Combining, as it does, state and local government functions, the ACT has a head start compared to other jurisdictions where sub-national welfare responsibilities are split, and we have the advantage of proximity to the national policy-makers in the field. A national government looking for ideas to deal with a post-virus world might even be inclined to co-operate in trials involving combined federal/state/local responsibilities – an approach which has been suggested since at least as far back as the 1976 Report of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration (the “Coombs Commission”).

So basically Coe has said he has done nothing for four years and needs Stanhope to do his job for him. Pretty embarassing.

No, it is Barr who has done nothing for housing affordability over many years and now Stanhope has to be called in to fix Barr’s mess.

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