The ACT political parties have had enough time since the October, 2020, elections for voters to see what they are about.
A key measure is the reality of commitments to urban development issues. No more worthy doing-words words and colourful pamphlets.
Who among them have a believable passion for urban design and a commitment to planning that delivers aesthetics, good architecture, landscapes, heritage, greenery, biodiversity, equity, health and wellbeing; and who has the ability to empathise with the aspirations of the people who love this city?
Last year the Canberra Liberals had the shadow of Zed Seselja hanging around – despite a fun campaign to Dump Zed in 2019. It looked as if the Liberals were to deliver a form of conservatism that would not sit well with most of the ACT electorates.
The Liberal voters had a dilemma about how to vote Liberal but not endorse this conservative fringe. The Liberals crashed and were almost thrown out with the rubbish!
With a new leadership under Elizabeth Lee, Liberal-leaning voters expressed a sigh of relief. But how do they explain the Liberal meeting a month or so ago that had Kevin Andrews as the key speaker? That being Kevin Andrews federal MP responsible for the so-called “Andrews Bill” that restricts the ACT making its own laws.
At the same event, the Liberals had fun auctioning a lump of coal. Does the Canberra Liberal leadership think that would appeal to this electorate?
The Canberra Liberals howled about the Labor initiative to provide $2 million of taxpayers’ funds for people to shop locally. Instead of asking whether the scheme made sense in mid-2021 (it might have 12 months ago), the Liberals perversely encouraged the questionable over-use of the program. Screaming a lot and publishing negative press releases do not make the party look as though they could do better if they were in government.
All is not looking good for the Canberra Liberals if they have to face an election right now. Elizabeth Lee either needs to change the party’s priorities by doing positive stuff to empathise with what people are concerned about or risk being seen as a fizzer.
They can no longer sit on the fence on urban issues and simply hope that the Labor/Greens coalition’s failure on residential concerns will deliver them to government. A believable, whole-of-party commitment to urban matters is absent from the Canberra Liberals.
Enough has been said in this column on previous occasions to register that the ACT Greens are yet to move very far beyond making worthy announcements.
The leadership is yet to deal with the greenwash that they and their coalition partners are overseeing in urban development, green infrastructure, biodiversity, heritage and the list is endless.
Despite this failure and the Canberra Liberals’ disconnect with the electorate, I suspect that the ACT Greens voters would largely stick with the “Cult of Shane” if an election were held today.
However, if Labor were to be honest with the residents and were to get real on key urban issues, a few Greens votes could easily travel back to Labor. That could be the game-changer that would deliver fewer ACT Greens MPs to the Assembly.
Could Labor win enough votes to deliver a Labor government with no hangers-on? Given that Chief Minister Andrew Barr has been performing slightly more maturely during the pandemic, this is possible. Ageing-in-place may be suiting him.
However, he still has the occasional hissy fit when responding to awkward questions – even if, at times, the media queries seem stupid.
The issue for residents is that Labor is tied to the ideology of local rampant developers. If Barr could cease being the leader of the barbarians making a mess of the city, this would make a huge difference to how people cast votes.
Then there is the credibility of independent candidates. There have been very few in recent elections that have sounded real. Fingers crossed that one or two can cut through in 2024. But they need to get organised and out there very soon.
Three years to go. Stay safe.
This article is a version of the piece originally published online with City News
Paul Costigan is an independent commentator and consultant on the visual arts, photography, urban design, environmental issues and everyday matters.