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Why this election won’t be definitive on light rail

By Charlotte Harper - 14 October 2016 36

light rail model

Should media outlets support one contender over another in an election campaign? The Canberra Times has today backed the Canberra Liberals over Labor in its editorial. Many would argue its position on the matter has been clear through its coverage for months.

There’s no doubt that taking a stance against the status quo is more contentious and therefore likely to bring more eyeballs, but I do not believe that is the reason the newspaper has made a case for the Liberals. Having spoken to senior staff there about the issues, it’s my assessment that they genuinely hold the views they are espousing. One could argue also that there is a fine tradition in newspapers of making a call in the editorial just before election day, and not to do so would have disappointed readers.

Here at the RiotACT we have tried to remain impartial. Canberrans are the most highly educated voters in the country. You don’t need us to tell you how to vote. We’re here to foster discussion and debate about the people and policies of all parties (including the many independent candidates) so that you can make your own decision.

We do have one overwhelmingly strong view about this election that we are happy to share with you, though.

It is that we wish that the decision on light rail was one that the city could have made separately to that of who should govern, via a separate section on the ballot paper, independently of candidate selection.

It has been very clear all year that there are many Canberrans who are torn, because they would like to see light rail in our city but would usually vote Liberal, and plenty who are opposed but would typically vote Labor.

There are others who usually vote Labor or Greens but would like to see a change of government this time after 15 years … but not if it means tearing up the light rail contracts.

A huge proportion of Canberrans who feel strongly about the light rail issue must vote against the party of their choice to ensure the light rail result they want.

We ran a poll on this issue earlier in the campaign, and the results reflect all of this. (See One fifth of voters conflicted over light rail.)

Will light rail affect your vote in the ACT election?

View Results

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It’s a conundrum that means candidates voters didn’t particularly want to support will be elected based on their light rail stance.

Others will miss out despite being favoured to govern because of their position on light rail.

And many will vote against their true feelings on the transport issue because their view on who should govern matters more to them at this time.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr says light rail will be dead to the city by Sunday if he loses government. Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson agrees.

But when there are so many other factors in play, how can the result possibly be seen as a true reflection of Canberrans’ feelings on this issue?

What do you think? Are you feeling torn?

What’s Your opinion?


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36 Responses to
Why this election won’t be definitive on light rail
Chris Mordd Richards 11:23 pm 14 Oct 16

Mordd-IndyMedia / Chris Richards endorses a vote for Greens, Sex Party, Community Alliance Party or an Independent. I also call for a 1 seat quota per electorate to be permanently reserved for non-party affiliated candidates only, to ensure a healthy 20% of independents in the assembly at all times (won’t happen but it sure would change a lot for the better if it did!).

rommeldog56 7:58 pm 14 Oct 16

I am a Rabbit™ said :

I’m surprised people still don’t realise this. It’s pretty obvious that the Liberals boycott of the rate increases are going to lead to significantly decreased tax revenue.

Im surprised that you misrepresent the Libs Annual Rates policy. Its not a “boycott”. Increases will be linked to something akin to CPI. Conveyancing stamp duty rate will be frozen as it currently is. If ACT Labor/Greens claim that the 10% avg pa increases in Annual Rates forever is revenue neutral to the reduction in stamp duty is correct, them the status quo is maintained. No decrease in tax revenues at all – unless ACT Labor/Greens is lying of course and its not revenue neutral. God forbid that were so…….

bj_ACT 6:07 pm 14 Oct 16

I am a Rabbit™ said :

Garfield said :

Liberals want to be a lower spending and lower taxing government.

I’m surprised people still don’t realise this. It’s pretty obvious that the Liberals boycott of the rate increases are going to lead to significantly decreased tax revenue. Unlike previous years stamp duty simply can’t be relied upon anymore as we’ve come to the end of the housing boom which has lasted decades, The liberals have so far zealously avoided the issue of what services they’re going to cut (roadworks? health? education? aged care?) in order for their revenue policies to be sustainable.

I think the issue with this argument is that Labor said the Rates rises would be ‘revenue neutral’ so ‘in theory’ there would be not be the significantly decreased tax revenue between the two tax plans that you claim.

However, I think in reality you are probably right. Labor’s rate rises hit the outer suburbs, whose homeowners were struggling to pay off their first house. These strugglers are not the people who would benefit from less sales tax when moving up to a bigger and better house in inner Canberra.

So in reality the working poor with mortgages have paid extra in rates, while property investors and the people trading up to a bigger and better house have saved Stamp Duty money.

Labor unfortunately got the new Rates model wrong and collected too much tax from the working poor homeowners, too much from renters of someone else’s investment property and too much from self funded retirees who had long paid off their house. The Canberra times ran a story where Andrew Barr conceded that tax year Revenue was above expectations due to the changes in rates and Stamp Duty.

I think this means that the Liberals will have to fess up to reduced revenue by their policy to cut the Rates increases. Talk about being painted into a corner.

HiddenDragon 5:06 pm 14 Oct 16

“It is that we wish that the decision on light rail was one that the city could have made separately to that of who should govern, via a separate section on the ballot paper, independently of candidate selection.”

The fiscal implications of that decision are of such a magnitude that it cannot be treated separately from the question of which party/ies should govern.

Fortuitously, though, the simultaneous bright idea of pushing up rates/reducing conveyancing duties has helped to focus the hearts and minds of many Canberrans who would otherwise have happily voted for this lovely, bright, shiny idea on the blissful assumption that the money to pay for it would magically be found (i.e paid for by other people and future taxpayers).

Garfield 3:47 pm 14 Oct 16

I am a Rabbit™ said :

Garfield said :

Liberals want to be a lower spending and lower taxing government.

I’m surprised people still don’t realise this. It’s pretty obvious that the Liberals boycott of the rate increases are going to lead to significantly decreased tax revenue. Unlike previous years stamp duty simply can’t be relied upon anymore as we’ve come to the end of the housing boom which has lasted decades, The liberals have so far zealously avoided the issue of what services they’re going to cut (roadworks? health? education? aged care?) in order for their revenue policies to be sustainable.

Well if you believe Labor, the Libs don’t need to cut anything for their revenue policy to work, as Labor claims that their reform is revenue neutral. With lower revenue and much lower promises compared to Labor (light rail), they shouldn’t need to cut any existing jobs or services.

I am a Rabbit™ 3:06 pm 14 Oct 16

Garfield said :

Liberals want to be a lower spending and lower taxing government.

I’m surprised people still don’t realise this. It’s pretty obvious that the Liberals boycott of the rate increases are going to lead to significantly decreased tax revenue. Unlike previous years stamp duty simply can’t be relied upon anymore as we’ve come to the end of the housing boom which has lasted decades, The liberals have so far zealously avoided the issue of what services they’re going to cut (roadworks? health? education? aged care?) in order for their revenue policies to be sustainable.

Kent Street 2:50 pm 14 Oct 16

chewy14 said :

Yes.

On one hand we have the Labor party promoting wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on unecessary infrastructure and basically looking like an arrogant government who’s been too long in power.

Vs.

a Liberal party with no direction or stated plan other than they’ll waste as much money as the Labor party but somehow we’ll be better off.

Then the Greens party who are promoting even more social control to fit their ideology as well as the obligatory monstrous spend of other people’s money.

hmmm, who to choose? Clearly none of the above.

That covers it in the proverbial nut shell.

wildturkeycanoe 2:35 pm 14 Oct 16

For me, the cost of light rail and the obvious case for BRT instead, has left me torn. I am a long time Labor supporter but this one issue has me voting Liberal this time around.
There are independents who are opposed to the light rail project, but they are a somewhat disjointed and non-committal bunch, saying that “depending on the costs we might change our minds”. Others are opposed but the other key issues they represent will probably be more important and they will fold on the tram to get these other issues through. Even if I decided on the independents as number 1 on my vote card, their numbers are too small to get enough seats to oppose the tram if Labor gets the other seats anyway. The only guaranteed way to get no tram and save our city from financial ruin is to vote Liberal, the same dummies who are ruining the rest of the country federally, in every possible way they can. If the local Liberals are as persistent in creating $100,000 non-HECS supported university degrees, privatizing all our health services like America and not creating jobs, but instead importing cheaper labour from overseas whilst making welfare a forgotten historical fact, I will still vote for them just to stop the tram. If the A.C.T. Liberals don’t win, I am just going to apply for a job in the Rail-Activated-Passenger-Enticement-Department. Plenty of work to do to make the numbers add up!

Garfield 2:31 pm 14 Oct 16

chewy14 said :

Yes.

On one hand we have the Labor party promoting wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on unecessary infrastructure and basically looking like an arrogant government who’s been too long in power.

Vs.

a Liberal party with no direction or stated plan other than they’ll waste as much money as the Labor party but somehow we’ll be better off.

Then the Greens party who are promoting even more social control to fit their ideology as well as the obligatory monstrous spend of other people’s money.

hmmm, who to choose? Clearly none of the above.

In relation to the Liberals, its seemed to me that quite frequently in this campaign their policy announcements have been substantially copied by Labor. For example the Libs announced $395m to expand Canberra Hospital and then some weeks later Labor announced $622m for a bigger better version of the Liberal promise. There’s been similar announcements on extra education and even bus policy. To say the Liberals are planning to spend/waste as much money as Labor does not sound correct to me. If we factor in the cost of Labor’s promised LR Stage 2, Labor’s spending commitments are much greater than the Liberals, so it may be fairer to say that the Liberals want to be a lower spending and lower taxing government.

JC 1:02 pm 14 Oct 16

rommeldog56 said :

If in the 2012 election, ACT Labor had of been honest and said that with running costs, the tram will cost up to b$1.78 for stage 1, if they hadn’t of been dishonest trying to expain it as though “light rail” will cost 1% of the budget (conveniently neglecting to say that’s for stage 1 only)

Two points. Firstly the 1% is quite clearly for stage 1 and always has been.

Secondly $1.78b is an indexed figure spread over 20 years. So year after year income for the government will increase, through CPI and growth so as a percentage of budget, as the bulk of the cost will be in 2018/2019 (year of completion) terms it will reduce in real terms. Just like when you buy a house. The cost of repayments relative to income is high at the beginning and then over time drops as your initial investment was in terms of the year of construction, but your ability to pay relative to that cost increases.

Secondly measure the cost in 2016 terms (so don’t factor in any cost increase or increase in government income etc) the cost of the contract is the $930m figure that is bandied about. This is based on construction cost of around $707m and $220m in running and finance costs.

That works out to be $302 per annum, or $5.82 per week based on 155,000 households in 2016 terms. Though of course over 20 years population will increase, so the actual figure in real terms will be far less over time.

Compare that to health and education, if the yearly cost of that increases by the same rate it has the past few years (about 7% p/a), health will cost is closer to $10b in 2036. $10b p/a spread over 260,000 households is about $38500 p/a per house hold come 2036. And measured as total cost over those 20 by increasing from $2.8b by 7% p/a by 2036 over those 20 years health will have cost in the order of $120b.

Anyway food for thought.

chewy14 12:34 pm 14 Oct 16

Yes.

On one hand we have the Labor party promoting wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on unecessary infrastructure and basically looking like an arrogant government who’s been too long in power.

Vs.

a Liberal party with no direction or stated plan other than they’ll waste as much money as the Labor party but somehow we’ll be better off.

Then the Greens party who are promoting even more social control to fit their ideology as well as the obligatory monstrous spend of other people’s money.

hmmm, who to choose? Clearly none of the above.

rommeldog56 12:18 pm 14 Oct 16

pink little birdie said :

All the major papers run editorials on who to support the day before the election. It’s not that stunning.
Also I think there will be more greens in government because people do want a change of government but the Liberal’s policies just aren’t that great across other issues

Hmmm……so, a vote the Greens will be a vote for the ACT Labor. Same thing. Voting Greens wont change the ACT Government, it will just give us many more years of hard Labor.

devils_advocate 11:44 am 14 Oct 16

The fitness of a candidate to govern and their position on the light rail are inextricably linked. Elections are – and should be – won and lost on the issues. At the federal level, things like workchoices, carbon tax, plebiscites, have decided the outcome. That is a good thing. Otherwise people are left to vote for the candidates themselves, and it becomes an exercise in muck-raking like the US election, i.e. who groped who, who left their diplomats to die in the embassy, who filed for bankruptcy, who was extremely careless with national security, etc etc.

rommeldog56 10:18 am 14 Oct 16

If in the 2012 election, ACT Labor had of been honest and said that with running costs, the tram will cost up to b$1.78 for stage 1, if they hadn’t of been dishonest trying to expain it as though “light rail” will cost 1% of the budget (conveniently neglecting to say that’s for stage 1 only), if they hadn’t of jacked up Unit Annual Rates by 20% so making it less attractive to move to units along tram corridor and defeating their “affordable housing” mantra, if they hadn’t of done such a bogey business case with its paltry benefits costs ratio of 1:1.2, if the Feds had of tipped in the same level of funding that they did for the Gold Coast Light Rail, if the ACT Labor/Greens Govt had of properly evaluated and costed all options including Bus Rapid Transit, if they hadn’t of increased Annual Rates by avg.10% pa for ever at the same time, if ACT Labor/Greens had of released the costing for tram stage 2 to Woden before committing to sign contracts by the next election in 2020 AND if ACT Labor/Greens had of released a costing for the whole tram network (which and independent costing was b$14 and dismissed by Barr without a counter estimate), then the tram might have been much more palatable to ACT voters and Ratepayers and much, much of the community discussions and angst would not have occurred.

By any measure, the tram has been very, very poorly explained and justified.

pink little birdie 9:59 am 14 Oct 16

All the major papers run editorials on who to support the day before the election. It’s not that stunning.
Also I think there will be more greens in government because people do want a change of government but the Liberal’s policies just aren’t that great accross other issues

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