Allan Takes Aim Blog

The ACT Government needs courage and new ideas

Posted on: 28 January 2013

The ACT Government needs courage and new ideas

The start of the ACT’s new four years of political fray is now upon us. I live in hope that the start of every new Government heralds a new state of political honesty and the discarding of the usual words of denigration that politicians throw at each other in parliaments.

I hoped also that the incoming Labor/Green Government at the start of its new contract with ACT voters would wish to give them hope that things have changed. Unfortunately, indications are that they haven’t.

Already rumours are rife that Liberal Zed Seselja is moving on the Senate seat held by fellow Liberal Gary Humphries. In all honesty I think that’s more a rumour created by Labor to counter the rumours of unease within Labor, than it is true. But true or false, what it indicates is that things will go on in the same way for the next four years as they did in the previous four.

That apart, what do we mean by honesty in politics? It’s a wonderful idea, but what does it mean? Does it mean we always want our politicians to tell the truth no matter what the truth is, or does it mean something else? Talking to people I get the impression they think that “honesty in politics” means they want people in politics to think the same as they do and deviation from that path means they are dishonest.

Much as most say otherwise I suggest the real truth is that we want are politicians who will confirm our prejudices or, better still, give us good news. Politicians who give bad news are, as Sir Humphrey would say, “courageous.” Sad to say examining the record of the last ACT Government shows that it had few courageous politicians.

For forty years of my forty four years in Australia I’ve enjoyed living in Canberra and for twenty five of those years I enjoyed the benefit of Canberra being subsidised by the rest of Australia.

That subsidy gave my family access to a health system, arguably the best in the world; an education system envied not only by many other countries but also other Australian States; a relatively unpolluted environment; world class sport and recreational facilities that were more generous than in Australian cities with a population size comparable or larger, and better than in cities with seven or eight times the population size in other developed countries; a first class road and transport system; superb cultural facilities; and virtually no unemployment.

In some respects Canberra could be likened to the dream city of “Utopia” described by Sir Thomas More in his 1516 book of the same name as “a seat of perfection in moral, social and political life.” Sadly, however, and much as we all would like our dreams to continue, they fade. Eventually we wake up to be faced with the harsh realities of life.

Canberra was suddenly wakened to the harsh realities of life when self-government was introduced in 1989. Fortunately for Canberra, the infrastructure of the dream remained; unfortunately, the money needed to maintain and grow it, did not.

At last Canberrans were faced with the reality that to maintain their dream city, they would have to put up most of the money because the subsidy from fellow Australians would decrease. Unfortunately since self-government, while most ACT Governments talked of the new reality they continued to hope that Canberra would continue to be treated as dream city.

The first and only Chief Minister to face up to reality was Liberal Kate Carnell. Unfortunately at the moment I cannot support Chief Minister Katy Gallagher because, unlike Kate Carnell, she seems unwilling to be honest with voters by telling them their dream city could become nightmare city unless they change their attitude. To do this she might have to risk unpopularity by doling out doses of strong political medicine.

But perhaps she prefers celebrity to courage?

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