19 March 2018

Who will win the 2020 ACT Election?

| Paul Costigan
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2016 election signs. Photo: Paul Costigan.

Observing the current government and its attitude towards the electorate, it does make you wonder about the 2016 election results and whether this will be repeated in 2020.

Looking back at that last election, Labor should have lost it for many reasons. High on the list were questions emerging around land deals being done within the Chief Minister’s portfolio – along with the rotten way that so many residents were being treated over questionable developments under the guise of Urban Redevelopment.

Despite these issues that so many people were angry about, the reality was that the Liberals did not present a plausible case that they were the alternate government.

How could we forget all that screaming and ranting about the tram? I was sure the sky was going to fall as well.

Too many swinging voters were scared off by all that noise. It was not what you should expect from a mature incoming government. Let alone that so much of it sounded like another version of rants and spin that we had suffered from the Abbott-led Federal government.

In short, the Liberal lost that election and left the incumbents in place. As for the list of independents – there were some good people standing but it was no surprise that the voting system worked against them and so none made it through. A shame.

With 18 months having passed since the 2016 election, have things changed on the hot topic of planning and development? Political watchers were amused that much was made of the fact that a few new jobs were established and some of the deck chairs were shuffled. Nothing but a good chuckle was the polite response to all the spin.

Sadly the reality is the culture of how the government deals with residents is much the same. Maybe it has even worsened given the populist rhetoric from the Chief Minister.

How a government embraces transparency is an important sign. Again not much has changed. The most recent example of this was the Planning Minister’s response to the Auditor-General’s look into the mysterious deal with the Tradies over land swaps in Dickson. The Minister responded that all this was now behind us – nothing to see here.

Somehow this does not match up with the millions lost to the taxpayers. And so on transparency – the race to the bottom continues. They seem not to understand how the electorate is viewing them. Not good!

Recently I was in at the Legislative Assembly and could hear the Transport Minister responding to the question we all would like to hear about – why is there no tram stop in Mitchel? The response was nothing short of an insult to the electorate.

The Minister spun out a five-minute answer about how she Googled something and attempted really dumb jokes about the responses she got. It was very apparent that her understanding of how Google works was naïve at best – or better put – downright silly.

Is this a mature government? I do not think so.

Things have possibly worsened, despite the rhetoric and media releases to the contrary.

On the other side, we recently saw the intervention from the ACT Liberal senator that he was going to ask a question in the Senate Estimates about the plans for the tram to go to Woden. I shuddered when I heard that bit of stupidity.

So here we go again – the Liberals are about to bang on again about the tram. Have they not learnt anything from how they conducted the 2016 election? Apparently very little based on this announcement.

At this point in time, the ACT Labor neo-liberal Government is carrying on with the same arrogance that they had going into the 2016 election. So I expect that they will carry on like this for the next two and half years.

One dramatic change could be the departure of the current Chief Minister. Will he or won’t he depart for that great vineyard in a southern state? If that did happen, then that could change the game going into the next election, as it would remove a face that has been identified with most of the issues residents see not being taken seriously. But who would replace him?

On the other side of the assembly, has the opposition started to act like an incoming government? I have seen a sign that two or three Liberals members are doing some in-depth work on several issues, but as yet I don’t think that they have been able to create a profile that would be convincing and bring across enough of those swinging voters.

It will take an enormous amount of intelligent, people-friendly policy profiles and statements to deal a blow to this current government’s hold on power – despite all their shady goings-on.

So back to my question: Who is to win the October 2020 ACT Elections?

The present Labor Government remains on the nose. The Greens seem to be a part civilizing influence that works some of the time. Meanwhile, the alternative still does not look ready especially given the occasional ultra conservative statements from a couple of them.

If the election was held today, I suggest that the Labor/Greens would scrape through but not because they are liked – more because of the lack of a positive sounding and a well-led alternative.

I guess we will be watching this space over the next year or so to see which individuals and which groups can sound more likeable, trustworthy, relevant and more ‘government-like’.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Share them with us by commenting below.

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Dispense with all these idiots. Why have politicians in the age of technology. Community can vote on issues and delegate funds online. Get security right and goodbye egos.

Capital Retro1:05 pm 23 Mar 18

The liability is already almost twice the $3.7 billion so how can you really say “it is covered”?

2 reasons
1.Interest and investment returns.
2. The fact that they’re already putting hundreds of millions a year away to cover the liability.

If there was going to be a major issue, then it already would have occurred. The current plan is to have it fully funded by 2030, even if they slip a couple of years it won’t matter.

Capital Retro10:10 am 26 Mar 18

That’s visionary, but if you accept that it is now an actual liability as apart from a contingent one then the ACT is insolvent as we write.

It’s not a current liability though, it’s a future one.

Saying we are currently insolvent under your definition would then apply for any future committed spending such as on health, education, roads etc.

It ignores the ability to raise funds to service the liability in the future, which is exactly what the government has planned on doing here (is actually doing) and would similarly plan for any future expenditure. It would only be an issue if they didn’t see it coming and weren’t planning for it. As it is, it’s taking a significant portion of the total budget spending yearly but that will only continue for another 12 years on current plans.

The problems with funding the liability would already be occurring if they were going to.

I am no fan of Andrew Barr (as evidenced by many of my posts). But I have absolutely no faith in the Liberal opposition to be able to fix the long term structural problems that have piling up over the last decade.

One example. Increasing annual land rates on the outer suburbs (especially in the poorer areas of Tuggeranong and west Belconnen) but not putting the extra rates money back into infrastructure and facilities into these two outer areas will have a double negative effect.

Poor areas will get poorer and less serviced, whilst the rich inner areas will get better facilities and increasing asset values paid for by the poorer areas.

The ACT Liberals seem unable to focus on the core long term issues of Canberra and therefore won’t be fixing long term issues like this.

I will stop voting Labor when there is actually a credible alternative to vote for.

Capital Retro9:37 am 23 Mar 18

Andrew Wall is the only person who should lead the Liberals.

Pretty good summary. Labor stink of hubris masking incompetence and I’m totally over them; the Greens are no better and the Libs are nothing more than collection of Seselja disciples who parrot their leaders “oppose everything offer nothing” meme – go take a look at the ACT Liberals website, it’s devoid of any policies or anything that defines what they stand for in the ACT. So that’s the best we can get for all the time, effort and money we sink into this useless pack of nothings. Time to vote in a bunch of independents and shake the place up.

HiddenDragon6:33 pm 22 Mar 18

As things stand, the planets are no more likely to align for the ACT Liberals – or perhaps a coalition of Liberals and right(ish)-of-centre independents – in 2020 than they have on all the previous occasions.

However, in the miraculous event that the electorate was presented with a choice which held the plausible promise of moving on from a style of government more suited to a student representative council in a provincial tertiary institution, and which would focus on efficient delivery of services and infrastructure without stunts and follies, and without unnecessarily offending or disturbing the delicate social sensibilities of Canberrans, then there might just be a chance of change.

An earlier than anticipated federal election, with a change to Labor, and thus sufficient time for the hopes and expectations of many Canberrans for a federal spend-up to be disappointed, could also help the Liberals locally.

Chewy its not like they can pull out another Tram level idea to goto the next election. Those who wanted the tram last time won’t like an extension to Woden as it’ll hurt their property prices in the long run due to increased rates. Those who voted for the tram were mostly those that got use or increased value.

Unfunded super libability has been increasing due to higher rates of salary and grows to a peak in 2033 of about 8-9 billion.
“The annual superannuation benefit payments (in nominal terms) made to the Commonwealth to extinguish the liability are projected to increase over time from approximately $251 million in 201718 to a peak of $638 million in 2042-43.”

So as those on CSS and PSS reach retirement we’ll be shelling out up to an extra $400 million a year that has to come from somewhere. Per Year. Where does that money come from?
This assumes a high discount rate of 6%. In todays terms we’ll be paying about $1000 a year each to those on CSS / PSS.

Capital Retro8:20 am 23 Mar 18

Perhaps the ACT government could offer the CSS and PSS retirees free tram travel for life in lieu of their pensions because there is no way the Territory can afford to fund this.

No we won’t and I even provided you the links behind why. It’s in the budget.

They have been planning for the liability and putting away funds to pay for it. You’re worrying about a future cost that will be funded by the money being put away today.

They already have $3.7 billion in assets to cover the liability and each year hundreds of millions of dollars are added. That money that you are so worried about paying is already included in the budget and is being paid out. It’s happening right now and the sky hasn’t fallen down yet.

It’s quite amusing that the author seems to have not even considered the idea that the general electorate doesn’t agree with his personal position on a number of issues and that they solely voted the way they do despite those issue rather than because of them (except for the tram of course because he supports it too).

But clearly it’s the chief minister who is out of touch…….

Capital Retro7:29 am 22 Mar 18

At the end of the day it will be money (or lack of it) that will determine who will be governing the ACT in 2020.

Other posts on this thread allude to the growing billions of unfunded public service superannuation liabilities and the expected blowout in the cost of the tram experiment. There are other problems that will require huge injections of money like our dysfunctional health system, the need to provide new sewerage and storm-water infrastructure etc. yet we see the current government has already spent $25 million on scoping stage 2 of the not needed tram network. Money and resources is still be poured into the failing arboretum.
The fact that we never hear the Liberals talk about these things eliminates them from being a contender so that leaves Labor and whoever the Federal Government appoints as the administrator to clean up the financial mess that will soon crystallise.

I’m backing the administrator.

Is it true they ripped down the 2018 signs from the tram?
No progress on the unfunded super liability of billions, which is going to start to draw out.

Assuming tram construction and delays will travel into 2019 I don’t believe they’ll have the numbers.

Sadly I think libs are too broke to run any kind of campaign.
The assembly definitely needs new blood.

Perhaps you should actually read the ACT budget before talking about the unfunded super liability? And the way it’s clearly being addressed and funded each year?
Here you go: https://apps.treasury.act.gov.au/budget/budget-2017-2018/budget-papers

Sure it will be a big drain on the budget for the next 15 years or so but it’s not like it hasn’t been modelled and planned for. They’ve currently got $3.7 billion in assets put away for the liability.

The elephant in the room of course is the total unelectability of Liberal leader Alistair Coe. Paul Costigan was too polite to mention Coe by name but his reference to the lack of ‘a well-led’ alternative government speaks volumes.

Coe is totally out of his depth. He is dot-point driven and unable to speak confidently and passionately about any issues of concern to most Canberrans. Virtually his whole working career has been spent in the Assembly and boy does it show. After more than years in the Assembly he has nothing to show in terms of policy direction. As Shadow Treasurer he was invisible.

Few in the Canberra Liberals, MLAs included, believe they can win under Coe, and speculation is rife about potential replacement ‘dream teams’. Some MLAs don’t wish to spend another 7 years in Opposition and are already considering jumping ship at or before the next election.

One MLA describes Coe as a ‘campaigning machine’ but the awful performance of the Canberra Liberals in the last election reflects badly on Coe and the party hacks he has selected to run the party machine. There has not been an experienced party professional running the Liberals’ campaign effort for years. Unless the Party makes radical changes it is will still be in Opposition in 2030.

If Coe is pushed or jumps before the election it will be interesting to see what he does next. I can’t see Zed standing aside in a hurry!

Capital Retro8:52 am 22 Mar 18

As a past Liberal Party member I totally agree with all that.

Belconandonandon10:49 am 22 Mar 18

I was honestly baffled when they made Coe their leader unchallenged – did they WANT to lose the next election?

Who else could they have chosen right after the election? It must be a huge ask for a newly elected MLA who’s never served as a politician before to assume the leadership. Despite losing, and seeing the vote go backwards a little, I think they should have stuck with Hanson in the short term. That would have given the party room the chance to see if he could learn from his mistakes while letting the new MLA’s demonstrate their talent or lack thereof. I’d have to say that since the last election, I’ve seen more of Parton than any other Liberal, with Wall & Coe tied for second. As leader Coe should be seen much more than anyone else and the fact he hasn’t been is really indicative he’s not up to the job. He might do ok as a minister, at least compared to the ministers on the other side of the chamber, but he’s not a chief minister.

Mike of Canberra4:49 pm 21 Mar 18

Paul, I believe your somewhat benevolent assessment of Light Rail as an issue casts you as somewhat Labor-leaning. What about an alternative take? You could perhaps excuse Stage 1 as it is triggering a real estate boom along its Northbourne Ave route, with the resulting explosion in apartment numbers feeding into what is shaping as Barr’s “rivers of gold” budget repair strategy. But Light Rail was still the lowest returning of the options assessed in the initial study conducted by and for the government. As for Stage 2, if ever I’ve seen a project desperately in search of a business plan, this is it. Because of Stage 2, I see Light Rail as a long-term drain on ACT finances, thus presenting an opportunity for the Libs to say how they’d do it better.

Planning and development is set on one path only, that is of turning large parts of Canberra into concrete jungles, leaving little room for affordable family homes with backyards. What is the Liberals’ vision?

We’re all groaning under stupendous rates increases as well as being run dry by the excessive increases in other fees and charges in recent years. At the same time, at least in my area, our municipal presentation is both shabby and shameful. What is the Liberals’ alternative budget vision and, within this, do they have a strategy for helping us feel proud of our city once more and also to feel we can actually afford to live here?

Finally, why put all the pressure on the Liberals? They haven’t been in power for 17 years now, yet people seem to be able to say unambiguously they’re a bad bet for vague ideological reasons. We’ve become effectively a one-party state and need to start resolving to vote for change.

Everything I’ve read of Paul on this board says to me he leans right not left.

And why put pressure on the Libs? Simple they won’t get voted in unless their is a major stuff up by Labor OR they present themselves and an electable alternative.

All they do at present is try to muk rake in the vain hope of finding a failing rather than be positive about what they can offer as an alternative.

The Liberals are the ones so concerned about excessive spending that they want to closely examine the cost of painting lines on roads. In the meantime they supported increased election funding (dollars per vote given to candidates) and MLA salaries.

They are so busy attacking the Labor Party’s policies and having internal crises that they have no time to formulate meaningful policies of their own.

Belconandonandon10:20 am 21 Mar 18

The reality is that Canberra is a prosperous place, and for all its faults Labor does have a clear policy platform and a vision for Canberra. If the Liberals ever want to get elected, they need to actually give people a reason to vote for them rather than expecting to get elected by default.

Capital Retro11:03 am 22 Mar 18

If you mean “profitless prosperity” I will agree with you.

The next election result may depend on whether Andrew “I hate journalists” Barr is still Chief Minister.

Let’s start with the contention that the Liberals should have won 2016. In 2012 they won 38.9% of first preferences vs the Labor-Green coalition on 49.6%, a deficit of 10.7%. In 2016 it was 36.7% vs 48.7%, a deficit of 12%. Rather than the needed swing, the Libs went backwards.

On the tram, polling reportedly showed that significant numbers of Labor voters had serious reservations about it, so it was a legitimate area to target, but those reservations didn’t result in a swing to the opposition, probably meaning that too much emphasis was placed on it and not enough on other areas. I’d suggest the conservative coup against Humphries and Liberal policies federally probably accounted for the drop in the Liberal vote.

Looking at the figures it would appear that the government was not really on the nose in 2016. If they had been, surely there would have been a bigger drop in their primary vote that would have gone to minor parties if not to the opposition. I struggle to see how the Libs could have won government in 2016 given the resilience of the government vote even in the face of the problems mentioned, but it certainly could and should have been closer. The Libs didn’t do enough in 2013-2015 to reassure the public they were a safe alternative.

Since the election the government has provided lots of ammunition, but the opposition haven’t used it effectively. I wonder if Coe, as a young social conservative whose career has been all politics, can appeal to enough voters. Especially if Barr goes and takes some of the stink with him. I vote Liberal but have reservations about him, so how will swinging voters choose him? Right now the government should still be 10% in front of the opposition.

You can’t really look at the overall election results in isolation of the results in each electorate which is what matters.

Sure, many people were worried about the tram and you claim it didn’t result in a swing against Labor/Greens which is true overall but when you look at the electorate breakdown, it’s mainly because the electorates that would significantly benefit from the Tram (Kurrajong and Yerrabi) voted heavily Labor/Greens.

If you look at Murrumbidgee and Brindabella, the two electorates least likely to benefit from the Tram, they had large swings against Labor/Greens.

The ALP basically gambled that their vote buying in the northern areas of Canberra would see them home in the election and they were correct. The general apathy in some areas was matched and exceeded by the support of getting “free” stuff in others.

However, how long that kind of play can last long term before the residents in other areas are sufficiently annoyed to boot them out?

Belconandonandon4:17 pm 22 Mar 18

chewy- I just had a look at the election results and there was actually a bigger swing against the Liberals in Brindabella (along with Ginninderra, Yerrabi and Kurrajong).

Plus, if your theory is correct won’t stage two of the light rail to Woden result in a swing to Labor in Murrumbidgee and any electorate they extend it to after that? If so, isn’t there an argument that isn’t so much a cynical gamble but rather building infrastructure people want?

firstly I’ll preface this by saying that it’s difficult to compare between these elections because we went from 3 electorates to 5 in 2016 but you can make general observations on the areas.

Did you look at why the Liberals seem to have gone down in Brindabella? It’s because Zed Seselja ran for them in Brindabella in 2012 and had such a massive personal following as leader that their vote was abnormally high there.

In 2016, Jeremy Hanson as leader, ran in Murrumbidgee which is why they seem to have a swing against them in Brindabella but they still had a very high vote and won three seats.

And yes, if the ALP could miraculously find the money for Light Rail stage 2, they might see a bump in their vote in the Woden area at the next election. The problem is that the likely excessive cost of this infrastructure will start severely hitting all ratepayers and the apathetic people that I mentioned previously will begin to turn on them.

Think about it, how are people in Gungahlin going to vote after the Tram is built and their rates start ballooning to pay for the Tram elsewhere? You can only buy votes with other people’s money for so long.

The Liberals will lose again. For three reasons:

1) Canberra usually votes Labor.
2) The Liberals in the ACT rarely seem to be able to portray themselves as a credible alternative. They can’t seem to do anything really positive and don’t even exist until an election is close (getting them to attend community council type meetings is almost impossible).
3) In the Labor/Greens coalition we actually have both sides of politics leaving little room for the Liberals. Labor has a track record of jumping into bed with the big developers (i.e. a traditional Liberal trait) regardless of the cost to the community and the Greens are driven by their ideological left wing agenda. In theory the Liberals could do well by picking a path down the middle, but that would require skill and effort.

It would be nice to see a Liberal government in. Even if they don’t do a good job it may make Labor improve their act. If the Liberals lose the next election they should consider officially changing their name to “The ACT Opposition”.

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