Andrew Barr turns 50

Hoping that Barr’s 50th birthday will encourage him to change

Andrew Barr has been the ACT chief minister for about nine years.

Unfortunately, he has a reputation for mocking older residents and for messing up the planning for the city that is condemning residents to suffer the effects of climate change – endless heat islands, fewer trees and less biodiversity.

What Andrew Barr gets upset about is that many residents disagree with his ideological stance that their homes are the land banks for developers and therefore the city’s older folk need to move on.

Today Andrew Barr joins those older people. Today is his birthday. He has turned 50. Maybe Andrew Barr is at home packing to leave his inner north home to make way for a developer to convert his home for a younger generation looking to buy in at an affordable price. Is his house to be part of the missing middle?

As Andrew Barr becomes a more elderly member of the community, one could hope for more nuanced responses to issues than has been witnessed from him so far. Alas there are no signs of such a change. Political games both behind the scenes as well as through the media are how he does stuff and there’s nothing to say that this is not how he intends to continue.

In some political states when their prime politician reaches such a milestone, the streets are decorated and parties are held. Somehow it is difficult to see hordes of residents coming out to dance and to be jolly as part of Andrew Barr’s birthday.

Maybe he is dreaming that next year after being in the top job for ten years, that a statue could be place in the front of the legislative assembly and that there will be wild parties in Civic Square.

While Andrew Barr is self-assured that his dictatorial style has achieved things that he regards as being good for this city, too many have not appreciated his outdated and flawed economic approach to planning and development and therefore to urban climate change.

Although he is now 50 years old, there’s little evidence that this chief minister has matured in how he relates to the Canberra communities. The evidence is to the contrary. While residents have indicated frequently that they would like their particular sense of place to be recognised and respected, Andrew Barr as chief minister and as the real planning minister has shown little understanding of the concept of a sense of place. This lack of respect is taken very personally.

The city of Canberra is having to deal with serious aspects of the climate crisis, inequality and that basic democratic processes within the ACT Government often fail. The proposals for planning reform could have provided solutions for many of the issues facing this city and its people. It has failed to do so and that failure belongs with Andrew Barr.

What has been proposed in the planning reforms is simply business as usual – being about profits, progress and the questionable administration of the planning directorate. As a result, affordable housing and equality will not be improved and the complexities of urban climate issues will not be addressed. The result will be suburbs that will become less liveable.

It is highly recommended that someone provide Andrew Barr with a copy of Maja Göpel’s thought provoking book – Rethinking Our World.

To quote: “We do not solely face an environmental crisis, but also a social one. It’s time to question our principles, set new goals, and re-evaluate our priorities. It’s time to rethink our world, because if we want to keep our livelihoods, we need to find a way of living without draining our planet any further. We need a fair distribution of wealth and a way to reconcile the social with the ecological.” The book is an easy read, challenges the standard economic models and has encouraging suggestions.

Andrew Barr could do well to read her book soon after his birthday celebrations. After that he may see that what is being proposed as planning reforms are actually dangerous for this city, its population and the planet and very bad for a host of social and equality reasons.

An informed, humane and intelligent leader would see the obvious problems and drastically change course for the better of the planet.

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