5 October 2016

Community, government must work together

| Greg Cornwell
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Liberal and Canberra Community Voters candidates

There are 141 Canberrans standing for the 2016 ACT Assembly election. Apart from candidates for the major political groups, most have little chance of success, so why are the independents and minor party hopefuls standing?

Subject to certain conditions, it is anyone’s democratic right to do so. Thus we have those who believe they have a contribution to make free of the limitations and disciplines of major party policies, those who stand for a principle, and those who want to be heard on a particular issue … Some perhaps are stalking-horses (both good and bad) or simply want to be on the ballot paper. Perhaps too there are spoilers looking to deny a big party outright victory.

Most such candidates are well-meaning people with a genuine commitment to the community, however the problem is whether or not the contribution will be of positive benefit to Canberra.

Granted the increase in Assembly membership has provided opportunity for more civic-minded representatives, but it has not helped the independent aspirants because the increase has reduced the number of MLAs to five in each electorate, thus lifting the quota of votes to be elected to a challenging 17 percent.

This reduces the chances of outsiders so only one or two with broad-based support might make it – an outcome which could cause difficulties for ACT governance.

There a those who rightly claim an outsider or two holding the balance of power would keep a government honest, but it is equally true this representation could end up as the tail wagging the dog with disastrous consequences if pet projects were demanded as the price of support.

And even if it’s initially possible to grant, no government over a four-year term can guarantee its policies will be implemented unchanged, therefore any commitment to an outsider’s loyalty in exchange for long-term projects cannot be assured. This makes for an awkward situation for the balance-of-power holder who wants to be re-elected.

The problem would be solved if these independent free spirits went into the political parties’ tents but that is unlikely, so the electorate faces a Hobson’s choice: majority party government or an independent or two with undue influence.

For those concerned by this lack of alternative, the solution is with the community and there are signs it is responding.

Bad or poor planning proposals have led to the formation of an increasing number of suburban and regional groups to let government know consultation is required before decisions affecting their patch are made. There is no reason these local bodies should not continue after the Assembly election and be welcomed by the new government, whatever shape it takes and however it is formed.

Irrespective of the composition of the next ACT administration, feedback from the electorate will be invaluable in avoiding collective rubberstamping by government MLAs of proposals. It could herald a new co-operative approach between elected representatives and those who put them there.

Because our homes, our suburbs, our city are so important to us all, MLAs and electors, can we not work together?

Pictured above are candidates for Kurrajong Brooke Curtin, Candice Burch, Steve Doszpot (all from the Canberra Liberals), Lucinda Spier and Mike Hettinger (representing the Canberra Community Voters Party) at the Inner South Canberra Community Council election forum last month.


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ACT resident7:07 pm 05 Oct 16

Check out Chief Minister Barr’s duplicitous Media Release of 5 August announcing a panel of community representatives to be called for to advise government on a detailed masterplan for Manuka Oval. It appears that Barr capitulated to community pressure in this election year. On the same day he rejects the developers GWS/Grocon’s LDA “solicited” unsolicited bid. This proposal involved commercial and apartment development to cut into the oval and impose on all the heritage sites of the public recreational land both inside and outside the oval. Sounds great – Barr has listened to community. Until you realise that the out of town elite GWS are welcome to be part of any future development tender process and that the Territory Plan Variation will be in train by the end of 2017. Business as usual. Barr appears relentless in his drive to see development pay for the upgrades to Manuka Oval despite the fact he has earlier this year announced a further $3 to $10m to fund player change-rooms/facilities and media. Simultaneously LDA chief executive, David Dawes, of Glebe Park notoriety, states that government will now take the lead and that the questionable GWS community consultation will be used. This is despite the fact that the final downsized Manuka Green development as submitted to government was never open for community consultation but was an orchestrated GWS/Grocon presentation at the Bradman Room at the oval. And GWS occupy a preferred position as the Giants have been shepherded by LDA through the desired development process. Stakeholder Consultation Meetings were held back in 2014 on 5 August in Canberra hosted by the LDA and on 18 August called by the AFL Commission in Melbourne. The economic modelers, MacroPlan Dimasi , LDA, GWS and AFL Commission were “stakeholders” at both and the government Events team attended the Canberra integrated development discussions. Conspicuous by their omission were cricket, local AFL, community, local traders and heritage or National Trust representatives. Focus was only on the elite out of town AFL team which in 2014 was in financial distress requiring AFL $2.35m funding in addition to their annual $20m. Curiouser and curiouser the AFL Commission at the Melbourne “stakeholders” meeting said they’d be prepared to invest in new player change rooms/facilities at Manuka. At the same meeting they state under AFL Priorities that “there are no plans to expand AFL activities at Manuka, by the AFL”. This of course contradicts the GWS officials spruiking the commercial and residential Manuka Green development. AFL maintain that they always contribute to player amenities at ovals where their teams play and in Sydney they have previously invested millions of dollars in the SCG, ANZ Stadium, Blacktown Olympic Park and the Showgrounds, home of the GWS team. Mr Barr to this day has not taken up this AFL offer despite his public whining that AFL with their multi billion dollar media deal should be contributing. The LDA and Grocon are valued clients of the MPD economic modelers and all worked together with GWS to “release the prized land package”. Cox architects who were paid $3.14m by the LDA for the current MO Master Plan went to work for Grocon. And so it goes. Despite government assurances consultation on the second and third Cox phases introducing a hotel and possible apartment development outside the oval has not occurred. Barr’s Labor government has lost all credibility in regard to proper community consultation.

Why is it that Liberal MLAs often can not be found attending community meetings until close to the election or when individuals decide they are standing for preselection as candidates?

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