Mr Coe last week suggested Mr Barr may as well be the Mayor of Queanbeyan because the high price of land and rate rises were driving home buyers and businesses across the border.
Mr Barr said he didn’t have a problem with the region succeeding and much of his work had been with surrounding local government areas under the Canberra Region Joint Organisation.
“I’m proud of the fact that now nearly all of southern NSW, even north-east Victoria, wants to be aligned with Canberra more than Sydney and Melbourne,” he said.
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He said there was no evidence to support Mr Coe’s case that the ACT was losing population or that crossing the border was cheaper for households or businesses.
“He can make all the assertions in the world but do a bit of fact-checking on these specific assertions,” Mr Barr said.
He said the transaction costs of moving to NSW, whether as a household or a business were high, with rates in Googong double that of the ACT average and buyers having to fork out a “whopping great stamp duty to make that change”.
He said the ACT economy was strong, the population was growing, 3200 businesses had set up in the past four years and unemployment was the lowest in the country.
“You could accept [Mr Coe’s claims] if the population was tanking, Canberra’s economy was shrinking, the unemployment rate was incredibly high, businesses weren’t being established here,” Mr Barr said.
“The facts leave him a little barren in terms of that argument.”
Mr Barr also rejected Mr Coe’s claim that there was not enough land available for single housing in the ACT, saying there were 600 blocks waiting on the shelf.
While he would not be drawn on whether the price of land was too high, Mr Barr warned the Liberals that a sharp drop in price would have economic consequences and that his Government was not about to open up land that was not suited for development, such as Kowen.
“What I won’t do is send people who have recently purchased homes into negative equity,” he said. “We can’t have a collapse in the housing market, that would be very bad for anyone who’s gone into the market in recent times. You need to be careful about the supply side.”
Mr Barr said the cost of servicing Kowen would be astronomical and it was too far from employment centres and the CBD.
The Government would continue to focus on Gungahlin, West Belconnen and Molonglo, and “what I won’t promise to do is willy nilly go and bulldoze those parts of the ACT that are just not suitable for housing”.
He ruled out development in water catchments, national parks, and in areas of ecological value.
On his Government being called vindictive and disrespectful, particularly of people who voted no in the same-sex marriage survey, Mr Barr said his team would not be distracted by name-calling, saying how the Opposition Leader wanted to campaign for next year’s poll was up to him.
He understood that people held a range of views on same-sex marriage but noted that his view aligned with the overwhelming majority of Canberrans who voted yes.
“I stand by my advocacy for a yes vote,” he said. “I would hope that over time there’s room for change for those people who did vote no, that they might in time see their concerns were proven to be unfounded.”
He praised Mr Coe for standing up for his conservative values, saying he was pleased the Opposition Leader had not contested the view that he was the most conservative leader the Canberra Liberals had ever had, and “on the spectrum of state and federal Liberal Party leaders sits out there on the right-wing”.