11 October 2022

Why do the Canberra Liberals love a no-confidence motion so much?

| Lottie Twyford
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Elizabeth Lee

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee said earlier this year the Opposition had very few levers available to it. Photo: Region.

Next week, the Canberra Liberals will move their fifth no-confidence motion of this electoral term.

This time it will come from Deputy Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson who is taking aim at Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury over his refusal to commit to a wide-ranging review of sentencing outcomes, bail and appointments to the judiciary.

When he does, he will likely be scolded by his counterparts across the aisle for wasting the Assembly’s time with what the Chief Minister has described as “shallow and superficial motions”.

Because while a no-confidence motion is how a parliament can remove politicians from their positions and governments from power, Mr Hanson should know his will not succeed.

Deputy Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson

Deputy Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson is preparing to move a motion of no-confidence in Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury. Photo: Region.

The reason is twofold.

Firstly, the Opposition does not have the numbers in the chamber to have confidence in its success. It has nine votes compared to Labor and the Greens’ combined 16.

Secondly, the 2020 Parliamentary and Governing Agreement between the two governing parties essentially requires them not to vote for Opposition motions of no-confidence (and also not to move one of its own).

A party can only do so in “instances of proven corruption, conduct that threatens public confidence in the integrity of government or public administration, gross negligence, or significant and intentional non-adherence to this agreement.”

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Looking back at ACT Legislative Assembly history, it’s not surprising the agreement contains such a clause.

The Territory’s first-ever chief minister Rosemary Follett was brought down by a no-confidence motion in 1989. Her successor Trevor Kaine fell to the same fate only two years later.

In 2000, Liberal chief minister Kate Carnell resigned from office before she could be voted out by the Assembly over the handling of a $27 million upgrade to Bruce Stadium.

You’d think the Canberra Liberals would have learned their lesson.

Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman faced a no-confidence motion last year after a spate of incidents at the prison, including a dramatic escape.

Education Minister Yvette Berry faced hers following the revelations of bullying and violence and the barring of students from Calwell High campus and the Opposition moved one in Skills Minister Chris Steel after the Canberra Institute of Technology contracts scandal.

Andrew Barr in the legislative assembly

Chief Minister Andrew Barr survived a no-confidence motion in August. Photo: Region Media.

They even moved a motion of no-confidence in Mr Barr after the ACT Greens indicated they would vote against one line item of the 22-23 Budget.

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee claimed this meant Mr Barr could no longer guarantee supply and had “lost control of his government”.

In a speech of less than a minute, delivered in a special sitting to debate the motion, the Chief Minister retorted that the claim was untrue and the Greens had not threatened to block supply nor had they lost confidence.

It turned out the Assembly needed to be given seven days’ notice.

So why are they doing it?

Government members have argued for a headline grab or a stunt.

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Ms Lee said earlier this year her party didn’t have many levers available to it – simply because it didn’t have the numbers on the floor.

Mr Hanson now prepares to move a motion that can, in some cases, take up hours of the Assembly’s limited sitting time and disrupt other business.

Last year, he accused the “lazy leftie” Assembly of sitting far too infrequently for his liking – only 35 days this year (and potentially even fewer following the death of Queen Elizabeth II).

Nonetheless, the Liberals appear undeterred and prepared to continue moving their no-confidence motions.

“Are we to say nothing when we have serious, serious concerns?” Ms Lee questioned in August.

“Does the community expect the Opposition to sit there and do nothing?”

With two years left of this electoral term, the real question is: who will face the wrath of the Liberals next? Will it be Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith, Business Minister Tara Cheyne, Mental Health Minister Emma Davidson or Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti?

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“Ms Lee said earlier this year her party didn’t have many levers available to it – simply because it didn’t have the numbers on the floor.”

Maybe then, and I know this is pretty out there but hear me out, maybe she could…reflect on why that is and try to do something about it?

Poor old Jeremy. He’s been in the Assembly in opposition for quite a few years now. Jackbooting around, railing against lefties and Commies and all their supporters. Not to mention his wild assertions that there is some sort of bizarre conspiracy going on between Labor and the Greens. Some say now that Zed is gone Jeremy pulls the leadership strings. Jeremy’s leadership ambitions have never been in doubt. We now have another no-confidence motion brought on by the Canberra Liberals to waste the Assembly’s time. Instead of treating Canberrans with respect and engaging in ideas we have another motion in which they will smear and sling mud but reveal yet again just how little the party has to offer in the way of policy direction. This motion will underscore the party’s ineffectiveness and highlight again that they are just a party of wreckers.

Mike of Canberra3:43 pm 10 Oct 22

I see Barr’s got his trolls at work again.

I don’t know Andrew Barr. I have met him a few times in my line of work. I found him charming and engaging. Mr Barr doesn’t need trolls judging by the incompetency and irrelevance we see on a daily basis from the Canberra Libs under successive leaders

“Mr Barr doesn’t need trolls judging by the incompetency and irrelevance we see on a daily basis from the Canberra Libs under successive leaders”

What incompetencies? The opposition have not dug the ACT into to current state of despair we are currently enduring. This current government have been in for over twenty years – the incompetence you speak of surely emanates from Barr and his cronies.

Do you live under a rock Gary Suart? Do I need to remind you that the Canberra Liberals currently have no Federal Representation with their only Senator losing his seat at the last election. Party members despair at the party’s lack of direction as it moves further to the right. Members are leaving in droves. Outside the confines of the comments in the Riot-ACT Labor and the Greens remain popular. The Canberra Liberals’ woeful 2020 election result confirms this. Labor and the Greens have become the party’s of choice in the ACT with party insiders predicting only 5 seats for the Liberals at the 2024 election.

Thank-you MLAs Lee and Hanson, keep holding this defective regime to account?

The ALP – Greens agreement to vote against Lib no-confidence motions, means that the Government can not be held accountable, other than at an election.
Although the ALP has only one seat more than the Libs, the Greens ensure that the Opposition has no voice in the Assembly.
I guess the Libs are using no-confidence motions to disrupt the Assembly because it’s all they’ve got.
With our proportional representation and our left-leaning population, I can’t see the political landscape changing any time soon.

This does nothing more than hold up the process of government in Canberra. While also showing the complete lack of policies of the Liberals. They continue to show why, they cannot be taken seriously as an alternative governing party.

It shows that while the greens and labour preaching their own values come election time, afterwards they are both just the same party.

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