The ACT may feel like all their Christmases have come at once since voters sent the Coalition packing and Labor moved into the government offices on the Hill.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr is looking forward to a more productive relationship with the Albanese Government than the Coalition and Canberrans might feel, especially with former leader Katy Gallagher in the inner circle, that the new government will fill their stockings with all sorts of goodies.
Territory rights, light rail, infrastructure, sports and convention facilities, forgiving the housing debt, social housing, land releases … There is a lot of pent up demand from nine years of Coalition government that did just enough to make it look like Zed Seselja was worth having in the Senate.
And some of Senator Seselja’s own pet projects put ACT Government demands on the backburner.
Will the floodgates open?
Don’t expect it. All of the above are probably on the agenda, but there was always going to be a lot more on the new federal government’s mind than handing out goodies to the people’s republic of Canberra where it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find a Coalition voter.
ACT Labor might want to see the new Feds as family, but political realities such as the mega-deficit might mean Canberra’s needs get pushed down the list and doors that might have been open could suddenly close.
After all, Canberra is a Labor fortress, with even its Liberal senator set to be officially ousted, albeit by an Independent.
If Mr Barr gets the cold shoulder, will he be up for the stoush? A lot of old excuses about a Coalition government that just doesn’t get the ACT aren’t going to cut it.
There may be a lot of big projects getting underway at the moment, such as the Canberra Hospital expansion, Woden CIT and Interchange, and light rail Stage 2A, but some areas of Canberra are crying out for facilities that are the lifeblood of communities, particularly in the newer suburbs, but also where renewal is a happening such as Woden Town Centre.
A lot of focus was on sports facilities during the election – from stadiums to tennis centres – but it only highlighted how much of the resources are concentrated north of the lake and usually tied to the major sports bodies.
The Woden Valley Community Council has produced a map in a call for equity showing where the facilities are, and the south is a desert compared to the north.
From the inner south to Weston Creek-Molonglo to Tuggeranong, there are hardly any modern indoor multi-sports halls to service growing populations and limit the distances that families have to travel.
The buzzword appears to be co-location, with scattered school halls expected to fill the gap in resources.
This is the sort of grassroots constituent demand that the MLAs and MPs face and that voters expect action on.
It is the sort of thing that can be more of a burning issue than whether the ACT’s housing debt can be forgiven, important though that may be.
The question is, what cards will Mr Barr be prepared to play if the Commonwealth won’t play ball.
One would be the soon-to-be-senator David Pocock, who, along with the rest of the Senate crossbench, will play a role in the fate of government legislation.
Getting a fair share of infrastructure spending was a key platform of his campaign, and while he has said his vote is not for sale, it will be in Federal Labor’s interests to ensure there continues to be one less Liberal Senator and for the ACT’s historic Senate result to be not just an electoral blip.
Politics is about common goals and alliances, and success comes down to achievements.
Yes, the Albanese Government may well deliver on the ACT’s wishlist over time, but if the Territory falls off the radar, Mr Barr could do worse than looking to Mr Pocock to remind the comrades that Canberrans should no longer be taken for granted.