the boys line up in their vests
A case studies of how an elected ACT Government has lost track of reality.
This is the larger version of a piece published in Canberra City News 26th November 2022
When a government loses track of reality and operates in a world detached from its own electorates, their stunts become weird. Most politicians strive to be taken seriously but once they become the subject of jokes, their efforts to impress become lost causes.
On Monday 10th October, four blokes showed up at the construction works to lift London Circuit for the tram. This is the extension of the tram in Canberra from the main Civic stop to about a kilometre away near Commonwealth Bridge.
This hugely expensive transport infrastructure has not been costed fully, has been the subject of criticism from the ACTR Auditor-General and despite the government spin, is not justified given people now realise that most other government programs were being stripped of cash to pay for it.
People were outraged mid 2022 when figures were published that clearly set out what happened to money raised that when this government sold off about seven social housing complexes.
The cash from those sales did not go back to purchasing other housing properties as had been claimed, but had been redirected to fund the building of the first stage of the tram, being from Civic to Gungahlin.
In the middle of the photograph were the ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Transport Minister Chris Steel. In the original Andrew Barr had on a high res vest – but for the sake of accuracy about his values, he is wearing an outfit more like a bad actor dictator would wear.
On the outside are two senior fellas who are in charge of the construction works that were about to begin.
Photos were taken to show that these blokes were skilled at holding shiny shovels and a waving them about. It is when officials undergo such silly photo-opportunities that it is confirmed that such politicians no longer live in a same world as most people in Canberra.
Nonsense in spades!
There may be other interpretations. This may have been a signal that they were thanking Senator Katy Gallagher, Labor senator for the ACT, for not saying anything nasty about how this Greenslabor government is allocating any cash it can lay is hands on, be that ACT taxpayers or Commonwealth funds, to get their dream toy tram along three more stops to Commonwealth Bridge.
Senator David Pocock has listed a series of issues about the funding of the tram that should be addressed. We wait to see if he follows through on these. But then again, he is an independent politician, so Barr and co will have no time for his views.
Besides, with Senator Gallagher on side, the independent senator can ask as much as he likes as no answers will be forthcoming. He definitely was not invited to the spade waving photo-op.
Then again, maybe it was really about putting the message out there that this Greenslabor Government does not take seriously the ACT Auditor General’s report that raised doubts about whether the costing as provided by the ACT Government added up or made sense. Shovel that up your audit!
Many community groups have raised doubts about the tram as being the most appropriate form of transport for the Woden to Civic connections. The photo with spades was a clear sign that this government has no time for evidenced based criticisms or questions. Dig a hole and bury those annoying facts!
Then there is the obvious. This progressive ACT Greenslabor Government is about blokes playing with their spades. No women were invited. Why would you?
Most of Canberra knows that the ACT Greens made a lot of the initiative to build the tram to Gungahlin, to Woden and eventually to the moon.
The ACT Greens proudly claim credit for the tram at every opportunity – apparently it will encourage all of Canberra to catch the tram.
But they boast about this sham while turning a blind eye to the reality that this super high cost form of transport is being built at the cost of the ACT’s education, housing, homelessness and social service programs.
Mysteriously the ACT Greens were not invited. This was a Labor blokes-only event.
This is a case study of a government that no longer practices good governance.
Future studies will try to work out how the ACT Greenslabor coalition developed the bad habit of not respecting the community sectors who clearly saw through the spin.
They will also examine the role the endorsed proxies who jump up and down every time someone criticises the tram.
Canberra has seen a few of these formed in recent years. The members troll and make noises when the ACT Labor is regularly caught out being stupid, dishonest, lacking in transparency and hiding behind more of their outrageous and very annoying spin.
Trams in Canberra should have been built decades ago. Trams are great form of transport – in cities that can afford them. Most people who question the huge expenditure are not against trams as a modern form of transport – when appropriate.
They worry more about what is being lost to pay for this tram in this century in this city while all other transport options are ignored.
This tram will most likely happen – at least to Commonwealth Bridge.
That stupid photo with spades does not mean it can be justified.
This article is a version of the piece originally published online with City News
Paul Costigan is a commentator on cultural and urban matters