25 August 2022

When will the timing be right for Andrew Barr to make a move?

| Ross Solly
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Andrew Barr

Is Chief Minister Andrew Barr on the move anytime soon? Photo: ACT ESA.

A couple of months ago, the executive board of the company I’ve been working for decided to replace our chief executive officer. Admittedly he had been in the position for 15 years, but everything was still functioning pretty well. His removal came as a surprise to most of us.

The argument put forward by the board was that it was time for a change, that it is healthy for any business to bring new eyes and a new approach to their operations every so often.

They argued that having someone in the same position for more than seven or eight years can stifle creativity. Plenty of research papers suggest that after a certain period of time in one position, leaders can become lazy, tired and uninspired.

And there is the argument that a person must lack ambition if they are happy just to sit in the same job for so long.

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Andrew Barr is currently the second-longest-serving leader in Australia, clocking in at an impressive seven years and 250 days (or so).

Only Victoria’s Daniel Andrews has been running his shop longer, by just seven days. Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszcuk has had seven years and 190-or-so days at the helm of her state, and Mark McGowan has been in WA’s top job for just over five years – they’re the only other leaders to have led for more than one year.

Just recently, Mr Barr confirmed he would be leading his party into the 2024 election, which will give him 10 years pushing all the buttons and pulling all the levers that make government work.

Committing to run in 2024 will also make him the longest serving Chief Minister in the history of the ACT, overtaking Jon Stanhope, who led for nine years and 188 days. Given the bad blood than now exists between these two former colleagues, one can’t help but think the prospect of overtaking Mr Stanhope as the longest-serving ACT leader might have acted as an extra incentive for Mr Barr to carry on.

(On the bad blood – people often forget Andrew Barr once worked for Jon Stanhope when in opposition.)

Mr Barr said he feels “invigorated” after this year’s Federal election and the prospect of working with the Albanese Government is one he can’t let slip.

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I, for one, thought Mr Barr would have left ACT politics ages ago. I imagined he would follow the likes of Katy Gallagher, Gary Humphries and Zed Seselja and head up the hill.

Next year Andrew Barr turns 50. It’s a significant milestone in someone’s life and a time when many of us take stock of where we are and where we want to go.

In the lead-up to the 2020 election, rumours were rife that he would call it quits. In fact, Mr Barr admitted he was strongly inclined to do so but changed his mind when senior minister Meegan Fitzharris suddenly resigned.

“When it became clear to me that she was going to make her decision, that was a factor I had to consider about my own future. Both of us going wouldn’t be particularly useful for the government,” Mr Barr said at the time.

Andrew Barr says he feels reinvigorated. He certainly has an ambitious agenda in front of him and more than a few issues lurking which will require his full attention. The challenge for him will be to prove to the electorate he is still the best person for the job and is not becoming lazy and uninspired.

There’s also the ‘COVID effect’. Those two lost years where everything ‘normal’ about running a government ground to a halt.

Andrew Barr may well feel that after steering the community through a once-in-a-lifetime crisis, he needs that extra time to complete his agenda.

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Mike of Canberra1:10 pm 29 Aug 22

Having lived in Canberra for the entirety of Barr’s Chief Ministership, I’m finding it ever harder to imagine why anyone would consider this guy suitable to be in the job, let alone for nigh on 10 years. Look at the record. Our public transport system is now held hostage to the tram with which he had to buy Rattenbury’s support some years ago. Our major public hospital would embarrass a third world despot. Our police are marginalised to the point of no longer being willing to respond to burglary reports. Our roads are in such bad condition that you need accident insurance if you are to take to them. Our urban infrastructure more broadly is also showing signs of major neglect. Oh and of course, Barr continues to make government all about him by making Canberra the rainbow capital. And yet for all too many of those commenting on this article, Elizabeth Lee seems to be the main target, despite never having been in a position to actually make any decisions, let alone make mistakes. Perhaps it’s time for these Barr acolytes to open both eyes.

Under the sheltering sky of Barr the days go by slowly, yet watching the road he is taking us on is hypnotic rather than monotonous. We are journeying into regions unknown. Each successive day we travel deeper into debt. We are but the agitated passengers, on a highway to bankruptcy, leaving behind all that is familiar and pleasurable about the Canberra we once knew.

Is there anyone else in the ALP who could manage the role if Treasurer or Chief? I cant think if anybody.

HiddenDragon8:45 pm 26 Aug 22

“Andrew Barr is currently the second-longest-serving leader in Australia, clocking in at an impressive seven years and 250 days (or so)”

Only seven years and eight and a bit months – amazing, it feels like several lifetimes, with life under this government increasingly imitating comic art, but without the (intended) comedy –


Capital Retro6:03 pm 26 Aug 22

Has Simon already lined him up with some cushy job in Victoria? There is always a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, for some.

Tom McLuckie2:10 pm 26 Aug 22

I believe new eyes on the systemic problems here in Canberra would be good. More of the same old same old approach and complacency of the current government is not going to address the current problems. Less public housing availability, a struggling health system, a broken justice system including corrections and rehabilitation, a desire to decriminalisation of hard drugs without public support, recidivist behaviour and crime increasing (see ABS Crime statistics), an underfunded police service with the lowest per Capita police rates in the country, and shortages in teaching. But we have a tram – even though studies advised due to our population mass that mass transport movement green bus services could be provided at half the cost and are more efficient. Go now and let someone else fix your legacy.

Barr will hand over to Berry.

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