On 25 October 2019, Canberra Liberals leader, Alistair Coe delivered an address to the National Press Club. He outlined the Liberals’ vision for Canberra’s future and detailed our priorities leading into the 2020 ACT Election. Watch the full address below.
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Read the full transcript of Alistair Coe’s National Press Club address.
[00:00:00] Alistair Coe: [00:00:00] Good afternoon Tim. Thank you very much for hosting us today and importantly to the National Press Club. I can judge by today’s meal that you’re not on the vegan bandwagon! It’s a pleasure to be here of course with my colleagues from the Assembly. To Nicole Lawder the Deputy Leader of the Canberra Liberals. Andrew Wall, Mark Parton, Jeremy Hanson, Giulia Jones, Elizabeth Lee, Candice Burch, Vicki Dunne, Elizabeth Kikkert and James Milligan. Thank you for your support and all that you’re doing for the ACT.
[00:00:59] Quite simply, Canberra is too good for a bad government. Canberra and Canberrans deserve a government that is on the same side as its citizens. A government that wants its citizens to thrive. A government that is respectful even of those who they disagree with.
[00:01:24] I want to be in a city where everyone is respected by their government. A city where people feel like, and can actually get ahead. A city where the kids that grow up here can one day afford to buy a home here. A city where it’s okay to be ambitious and taking risks is encouraged. A city where we honor our seniors and where we recognise the vast inheritance they’ve given us. A city where your time and your money is respected. A city where diversity and inclusion is not used as a weapon but is celebrated. I want a city that brings out the best in you. We need a government that’s on your team.
[00:02:17] Now, Opposition is a long-haul. It’s tough. It’s like a three or three-and-a-half year pre-season comp that goes on and on and on. You do the strength and conditioning, you do the training, you do the match preparation and you’re there for the fourth year. Because the main job of an Opposition is to be a credible threat at the next election. We are a very credible threat at the next election – we’re more than that. There is drive and there is hunger to get over the line in 12 months time.
[00:02:59] For three years we’ve been listening and we’ve been representing Canberrans. We’ve been door knocking. We’ve been doing community barbecues. We’ve been visiting shops. We’ve been going to events. We’ve been asking questions. We’ve been revealing scandals. We’ve done a lot from Opposition. In the Assembly we’ve got substantial inquiries into residential and commercial rates. We’ve put pressure on the Government to get a school violence inquiry. We’ve led the Government into a petrol pricing inquiry.
[00:03:28] We have major health reviews, including bullying at The Canberra Hospital. There are ongoing committee investigations into questionable land deals. We’ve revealed spending scandals, such as Floriade and Icon Water. And we’ve revealed that the Labor Clubs did not pay one cent on lease variation for their building in Braddon.
[00:03:52] We’ve brought about a lot of reform and legislation from Opposition. Dangerous dog laws, revenge porn, reporting of government land purchases. A new ICAC is in place. We’ve moved for illegal gang laws. Exemptions for community housing providers and land tax, and many other things. This is just a taste of what we could do in government. We’ll keep fighting for rates. We’ll keep voting for school buses. We’ll keep fighting for a better care and protection system. For our schools, for our hospitals, for our public servants, for our small businesses, for our community sector.
[00:04:32] Now, of course, we are 12 months away from the next ACT election. It will be a Labor Government that is 19 years old. Back in 2001, when the ACT Labor Party was first elected the Canberra Cannons were still playing, Ansett Airways was in the air, a fear of anthrax reigned supreme and John Stanhope promised a government of openness, honesty and responsibility.
[00:05:06] There are only a few other governments in Australian history that have been given the same opportunities that this ACT Labor Government has been afforded. To have 19 years in government is an extraordinary opportunity.
[00:05:25] In Australia, we often lament the shortness of electoral cycles. Well, when you’ve had 19 years you’ve had every opportunity to create the city that you want. When you’re a unicameral government in power for 19 years with all the powers of a state and local government, you should be able to get things done. They have run out of people to blame. So that’s why they blame the Federal Government for anything and everything. Despite the fact that it’s perhaps Federal government revenue that is propping them up.
[00:06:08] Given the money and 19 years of opportunity, the ACT should be Labor’s version of Utopia. Instead it resembles an episode of Utopia. The rates and land tax scandal in the ACT is a massive deception. It is a government that is running a deception racket. The Government said they would scrap stamp duty – they haven’t. They said it would cost a cup of coffee a week – it’s a bit more than that. And they said it would be revenue neutral – it’s not. Canberrans our right to feel betrayed by ACT Labor.
[00:06:54] Remember the high hopes that were conveyed when the human right’s compliant jail was opened, or the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre, or the housing affordability action plans, or the bullying reviews or the Vardon report. The tragic death of Steven Freeman in our prison – a person who needed a dentist, not methadone, is a scandal that is indicative of how this party has governed. It’s a sorry story.
[00:07:31] The Labor Party has changed. This is not the Labor Party that people voted for in 2001. Labor has abandoned their base in the ACT just as they have right across the country. In fact, I think there are elements of the Labor Party that are embarrassed by the traditional base of the Labor Party. Whilst Labor and the Greens battle it out to win the intelligentsia, the Canberra Liberals is the party that is standing up for the working poor of this city.
[00:08:08] Here in the ACT, this is their record:
[00:08:11] Australia’s most expensive education system, yet a lack of support for teachers.
[00:08:18] Australia’s most expensive hospitals, yet nurses are at breaking point.
[00:08:24] Australia’s most expensive prison, yet very little rehabilitation.
[00:08:30] Australia’s most expensive petrol.
[00:08:32] Australia’s highest costs for owning and running a car.
[00:08:35] Australia’s highest rates of assaults on prison guards.
[00:08:39] Australia’s smallest frontline police force.
[00:08:43] Australia’s worst rental stress.
[00:08:45] We have Australia’s highest rent.
[00:08:48] Australia’s highest rate of repeat homelessness.
[00:08:51] Australia’s highest gas prices.
[00:08:54] Australia’s least affordable housing market for young people.
[00:08:57] Australia’s most expensive childcare costs.
[00:09:01] Australia’s longest wait for residential aged care.
[00:09:05] And, Australia’s worst hospital waiting times.
[00:09:10] But perhaps what they should be most ashamed of is amongst Australia’s highest rate of Indigenous incarceration and amongst Australia’s highest rate of removal of Aboriginal children from their families. This is after 18 years of Labor.
[00:09:28] The Government has warped priorities. They are not addressing the real concerns of Canberrans. In contrast, their priority is legalising marijuana. It is crazy to encourage the planting of marijuana in your neighbor’s backyard. If we can stop it from Opposition, we will. But if not, we’ll do it from government.
[00:09:55] We need to cap rates in the ACT. The rates regime is harsh, it’s unfair and it’s hurting Canberra families. In fact, the ACT Government actually acknowledges this. They’ve had to develop a hardship package to deal with their flagship policy. It’s an interesting concept – that your flagship policy needs a hardship package for thousands of Canberrans is fundamentally a bad policy.
[00:10:36] They need a safety net to be in place for people that they’ve intentionally pushed off the rope. They’re asking to be thanked for saving someone from a river after they push them in. It’s pretty selfish. In reality, Labor is pricing Canberrans out of Canberra. Contemplate the circumstances of a delivery driver earning $45,000 a year in this city, or $1500 a fortnight after tax. How can they afford $970 a fortnight in their after-tax income to pay for rent – 65 per cent of their income? How does this driver and their family get by? Well they struggle. Unlike other cities, we don’t have whole suburbs of disadvantage. There’s a fair chance that in every single street of the ACT there is somebody doing it tough. Older Canberrans struggling with rates. Young people without a home or the working poor that are just struggling to get by. The kids of these families often don’t have birthday parties and they’re always sick on the day of the school excursion. These are proud and hardworking people that don’t complain. They just keep struggling day to day. Labor has forgotten them. Here in the ACT, after 18 years of a progressive Labor Government we have 8,000 kids living in poverty.
[00:12:33] Now Canberra is of course home to people from all over the world. They come from different cultures, different countries and different faiths. Like them, we all choose to live in this wonderful city. People of different faiths and different customs should be welcome in the ACT. Regardless of whether you have relatives that have been born in this city, relatives that have lived in this city for thousands of years, or our new resident, Canberra should honour you.
[00:13:06] I think the ACT Government’s multicultural policy is condescending. We can do better than lip service. The multicultural community in the ACT are heavy-lifters. They contribute an extraordinary amount to our economy. They often have skills, expertise and qualifications that go well above and beyond what we recognise.
[00:13:31] We must honour migrants in Canberra by better recognising their skills and their experiences. Be it in health, education, hospitality, community services, IT, finance and so many other industries migrants are contributing a huge amount to this city. And by their very decision to pack up and move to a new land they are entrepreneurial people and they make big sacrifices for their family and for future generations. Our Canberra Liberals team in the Assembly and the team of candidates that will be chosen next month will reflect modern Australia and will reflect our modern city.
[00:14:19] Canberra is a global city. The nature of being the national capital has meant that we’ve always had missions and embassies here in the ACT, a gateway to the world. Today more than 30 per cent of Canberrans were born overseas and 45 per cent have a parent that was born overseas.
[00:14:41] We should be leading the nation when it comes to harnessing the links that people have to other parts of the world. We have hundreds of thousands of people that have direct links to other countries and we would be well placed to make the most of it.
[00:14:59] We also have another large number of international students that return to all corners of the globe. Therefore, we have a massive Canberra alumni right across the world that is potentially an extraordinary opportunity for a city like ours. Because after all, there’s more to international development than going on countless trips abroad.
[00:15:27] Now to lead the nation you must at least be the best in the region. I want Canberra to be the best place in the country to run a business, to employ the next person, to make investments and to deliver the products and services that we all use. But our commercial rates regime is devaluing businesses. How can we be the best in the country if we’re not even the best in the region?
[00:15:57] Now we don’t have regional hospitals, rural schools, rural highways, one-person police stations. We should be a very efficient jurisdiction, and if you’re an efficient jurisdiction you can be very competitive when it comes to taxation. If you’re competitive when it comes to taxation, you can become a hub for investment, for business growth, for businesses relocation from elsewhere in Australia and indeed from all around the world.
[00:16:25] We should be known as the business capital. We should be leading the nation when it comes to running a business.
[00:16:36] Now as expected, light rail is working for people traveling from Gungahlin to the City. The problem is if you don’t work in the City or don’t live within walking distance of the Gungahlin Town Centre; the challenge was always and will always be, for those outside that catchment. Light rail on Northbourne Avenue should not come at the cost of buses right across the City.
[00:17:05] Light rail should not be at the expense of 50 school buses. School buses empower families, express buses save you time and local buses bring empowerment. Light rail is here to stay and I’m sure the network will be expanded. But it should be expanded at the right time, at the right cost and with the right technology. We need an evidence-based approach to light rail.
[00:17:39] Now we must not put education in the ‘too hard’ basket. The Government has taken their hands off the wheel and got a very lazy approach to education policy. There’s got to be more to education policy than laptops and buildings. Because I imagine, like me, when you think about your schooling, the memories you have are not about buildings and technology, but about people. The Canberra Liberals recognise the years of studies, experience and commitment that every teacher undergoes. Let’s back the teachers. We should be leading the nation in every education indicator.
[00:18:26] We must strive for excellence in education. We must have higher expectations as a city. We must allow school communities to do what they do best. Like you, I frequently hear great things about our teachers. I also hear of overwhelming demand for particular schools in the ACT. The Government’s response has not been to find out why people want to go to those schools, but simply to stop people from applying.
[00:18:59] Why don’t we find out why it is that people want to go to Narrabundah, Lyneham and Telopea and then replicate it across the ACT. Those schools shouldn’t be for a few. They should be for the many. Let’s empower all school communities to have points of difference and to back the staff to make these changes. Let’s respect teachers and principals to do what they do best.
[00:19:28] Now for too long our society, sometimes reflected in schools, have not properly recognised the importance of vocational education. Whilst we have a structure that facilitates V.E. Courses, we have some way to go before the status of vocational education, including the trades, is given the recognition that it deserves. Some schools are doing okay, but by and large we can and should do better.
[00:20:00] I would love to see an ACT school or a number of schools that become centres of excellence for people in the trades. Perhaps we could have a school that exclusively prepares kids for trades, perhaps focusing on construction and building. A place where employers are clamoring to get the graduates. A place where students want to be. A place that truly honours master tradespeople. Not everyone should be on a path to university.
[00:20:35] Now we are fortunate to have so many people that work hard in the ACT health sector. To be a doctor, a nurse or other professional is truly a calling. Dealing with the unwell, dealing with death and all the confronting scenes is pretty tough. You shouldn’t have to deal with bullying as well.
[00:20:59] The hard-working staff at the hospital have kept their end of the bargain. It’s just a shame the Labor Government has not kept theirs. After 19 years in office who else could be responsible? Now I want The Canberra Hospital to be a place of choice for employees. I want it to have a reputation for being a good workplace, a place that brings out the best in people.
[00:21:28] If we have a place where people want to work, people will thrive and they will feel respected, and the quality of healthcare in the ACT will surely improve.
[00:21:43] Now central to the character of Canberra is our unique design. And I firmly believe that Canberra is at its best when our city and our town centres are thriving. I want our town centres to be town centres and our suburbs to be suburbs. We are the bush capital and we can have the best of both worlds because access to irrigated parks, playgrounds, street trees, footpaths, the ‘rates, roads and rubbish’ that Tim mentioned should not be luxuries for the rates and taxes people pay.
[00:22:22] These are municipal services that councils right across the country seem to be able to deliver pretty well, but for some reason, the world-saving ACT Government can’t deliver it. The ridiculous Territory Plan, all 2,500 pages of it and 681 pages of the Planning and Development Act and countless other regulations make it a nightmare to administer. Nobody knows where they stand. Nobody knows what the rules are. The DA assessors at the Planning Directorate are truly under the pump. And it’s no wonder they struggle to make decisions. You should not have to waste nine, twelve, fifteen or eighteen months to get your DA approved.
[00:23:14] Now the costs of these delays are real. There’s the holding cost of the land. There’s a need to recover that cost from the sale of the units. And there’s also therefore a need to cut costs and to cut corners. Ultimately, it means that fewer houses are built. I firmly believe that the vast majority of issues in the planning sector can simply be dealt with through having a proper building envelope, proper permitted uses and the National Building Code. We have over complicated it something shocking.
[00:23:55] Now while the argument about our Federal system will rage forever, we have different jurisdictions in this country, and we’ve got a different jurisdiction just a few kilometers away. The New South Wales Government and the council’s surrounding us are competing and they’re competing well.
[00:24:17] They’re competing for households, for businesses, for greyhounds, for clubs, for Oktoberfest and much much more. Why should it be that business people, investors, dog owners, punters, beer drinkers and families should have to seek refuge over the border?
[00:24:39] According to the Bureau of Statistics, 13 per cent of the ACT workforce comes from over the border. Most of these people, about 27,000, live in the Queanbeyan Palerang and Yass council areas. In fact, 60 per cent of the employed people in these council areas work in the ACT. These figures alone raise concerns that ACT government policies are pushing people over to New South Wales. What is it that they’re offering in New South Wales that we can’t offer here in the ACT?
[00:25:24] Now the data shows that there is net migration of young adults. That’s 20 to 24 year olds that are moving from Queanbeyan to the ACT. Primarily they’re in search of education and entertainment. However, things switch considerably for people aged 25 to 49. This is a key age range for families, for people looking at buying a house, or people looking to upgrade.
[00:25:57] Further evidence of this is that there is an outflow net negative migration in the ACT of children under the age of 15. That’s because the parents aged 25 to 49 are taking their kids with them. We are losing families over the border. How can it be that land just a few kilometers away in Googong can be delivered with NBN, gas, electricity, water and a profit margin for a private developer and still be a hundred thousand dollars cheaper than here in the ACT?
[00:26:42] At the heart of this is the ACT Government strangling land supply in the ACT. We need to increase land supply, particularly for standalone homes. I have no problems with apartments. We need apartments in this city, but people should have a choice.
[00:27:02] The economic effect of the ACT losing a household over the border is many many thousands of dollars. The effect on government revenue is also very significant. Rates, conveyancing, motor vehicle registration and many other revenue line items are lost when somebody goes over the border. In fact, for every house built in New South Wales rather than the ACT, we stand to lose approximately $900,000 over 25 years in stamp duty, rates and Commonwealth revenue alone. There is an economic and financial imperative to get people living here in the ACT.
[00:27:57] Of course, there’s also an environmental and social cost for pushing people further away as well. In the ACT, pretty much the last standalone homes that were regarded as being affordable were developed by Bob Winnel and the Village Building Company. At the same time as the private sector was delivering affordable homes, you had the ACT Government selling the expensive ones. So what did the Government do? They stopped the private sector from selling the inexpensive ones and they became the monopoly land supplier of expensive blocks.
[00:28:45] If the ACT Government is going to continue to be a land developer, surely their mandate must be the delivery of affordable homes, not the top end of the market. They should not be profiteering and pricing Canberrans out of the city. I want every single Canberran to have a very clear path to property ownership.
[00:29:10] We should be leading the way. We should be leading the nation when it comes to housing affordability. We have the land. We have the planning capability. We have the expertise. We just need a government that believes it.
[00:29:26] Now Canberrans should feel comfortable to be risk-takers. Whilst there’s a perception rightly or wrongly that Canberrans are not risk-takers, we all know of people, many in this room, that take huge risks, big and small risks and they benefit themselves their families and their community.
[00:29:50] The mechanic that goes it alone and decides to chance their arm. The mum who runs a small home-based business while juggling kids and family. The public servant who gives away job security and becomes an independent contractor. The investor who puts their home on the line to build a dual occupancy or starts a cafe. I don’t regard these people as greedy. These people are the champions of our economy and we should honour them. I admire every Canberran who takes the plunge, who takes risks and goes into business and I admire everyone who supports them on that journey. I just wish the Government did too.
[00:30:40] It seems that in the ACT, for everything the default answer is no.
[00:30:47] “Do you want to do an extension on your home?”
[00:30:50] “Are you allowed to do an extension your home?”
[00:30:53] “Do you want to have a table and chairs out the front of your cafe?
[00:30:55] “Do you want to host a public event?”
[00:30:58] “Can you chop down a tree?”
[00:31:01] It should be the flipside. We should be the city of yes, not the city of no. I know of one Canberra family that for over a year battled the planning department because the block of land that they bought off the ACT Government had a tree protection zone in the middle of the block. It’s a circle on the map which is a no-build zone. What made it even worse is the ACT Government removed the tree before selling them the block. Yet the tree protection zone remained in place. It took a tremendous toll on that family. They were trying to build a home for their disabled children, and it was a battle they didn’t need to have.
[00:31:57] The Canberra Liberals are proud of this city and we’re proud of what we stand for. We’ve been fighting for housing affordability, for rental affordability, for planning reforms, homelessness, land release, bulky waste collection, language education, school safety, anti-bikie laws, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policies, support for police, paramedics and the fire service. For small businesses, for school buses, for disability support, for environmental and heritage groups, for multicultural engagement, for care and protection, and much much more. We’ll keep proposing ideas and keep putting forward ideas that are best for our city.
[00:32:40] Now my wife Yasmin and I have two kids. And like all parents we want the best for them. We want them to have even more opportunities than we have had. In 10 years time what sort of city will Angus and Annabelle live in? We should be striving to be the best in the nation. We’re on the cusp of a new decade. The 2020s are just a couple of months away. We need to determine the direction that we’re headed. By 2030 the Canberra I see is one where we’re world leaders in education. Where an ACT Year 12 certificate is the most valuable in the world. We are globally renowned for our technical and engineering expertise. All students learn a second language. No person, including kids, has to travel to Sydney for cancer treatment. There are no kids in youth detention because our early intervention is working. Our jails release people that are free of addiction but empowered with qualifications. We’re in a city stadium cheering on the Raiders, United, Brumbies, Capitals, Cavalry and even our own A-League team. We’re a destination of choice where people congregate in our convention centre. People are performing, publishing and exhibiting right across the city. There are no barriers to employing the next person in your business. Our town centres are thriving and we have rapid transit and we’re global leaders in autonomous vehicles. But importantly all people are respected by their government. Some of these will take a decade to achieve but we can deliver respect now.
[00:34:39] Unlike Labor, we trust people to make the right decisions for themselves, their family, their community and their business. We do not want to stop people from taking the initiative. We should not have a vindictive government that has it in for people that they disagree with.
[00:35:01] There will always be disagreements and there will always be mistakes. But if there is respect you can overcome it. The Canberra Liberals have been listening. Canberra should be leading the nation. We have the people, the resources and the opportunity to make this place even better and the Canberra Liberals look forward to doing that in 12 months time.
[00:35:46] Tim Shaw: [00:35:46] Thank you Alistair Coe for your speech. You mentioned at the beginning of your speech that you want a city where diversity and inclusion is celebrated not used as a weapon. Many people in Canberra believe there is more that unites us in this city than divides us. What’s your reaction to a proposal for a social inclusion guarantee on some of the issues you mentioned – homelessness, school safety, disability, multicultural engagement, care and protection for all Canberrans. Do we need to have more of a focus on social inclusion and lend a guarantee to that?
[00:36:22] Alistair Coe: [00:36:22] I made mention of lip service that the Government delivers and not much more. If you’re serious about empowering people they’ll be able to afford to live in this city. They’ll be able to have a job. They’ll be able to exercise their faith if they have one. They’ll be able to raise their kids in a school of their choice. That will have a health system that works for them. And they’ll have a care and protection system that is there for the betterment of the next generation. I think that the government has lost its way. I think it’s a government that has pet projects and they go hell for leather for 3 or 6 months on a pet project and then it’s forgotten. And I think we’ve got to do better than that. So I think, the social returns on every single policy must be considered and I don’t think it’s been considered at the moment because if you were, there wouldn’t be 8,000 people living in poverty, 8,000 kids living in poverty 30,000 people in this city.
[00:37:33] Thank you. Our first question for the working press, Ian Bushnell from Regional.
[00:37:40] Ian Bushnell: [00:37:40] It took six months but I finally had a ride on the light rail. And I have to say it was seamless, clean, safe, efficient, all of those things. It’s obvious that the people of Canberra have embraced light rail – why won’t the Liberal party embrace light rail and commit to the building of further stages instead of going to another election, the third, of being resistant to light rail?
[00:38:10] Alistair Coe: [00:38:10] The Canberra Liberals remain open to light rail, remain open to Stage 2 of Light Rail, but it has to stack up.
[00:38:19] We have an obligation to all the ratepayers of Canberra all the people that are doing it tough to make wise decisions based on evidence. And as I mentioned Stage 1 is here to stay. Gungahlin to the city for those living within walking distance and working within walking distance is working well.
[00:38:39] It’s also coming at a cost of $60 million a year with revenue at about $5 million per year. So a disparity of $55 million per year is significant. So you can’t go into Stage 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 lightly. You’ve got to do it at the right time, at the right cost, with the right technology.
[00:39:04] Now it will be interesting to see where the Federal Government gets to or the Federal Parliament gets to with regard to Stage 2. I think it’s fair to say that we will honour contracts if the government signs them before but there is a lot of water to go underneath the bridge before Stage 2 contracts are signed.
[00:39:25] Tim Shaw: [00:39:25] Harry Frost:
[00:39:29] Harry Frost: [00:39:29] It sounds like we’ve heard an eventual commitment to the expansion of light rail, an expansion bus services, improving health services etc. If two things are certain – death and taxes – how are you going to pay for all this with capped rates and an efficient rate scheme for businesses?
[00:39:49] Alistair Coe: [00:39:49] Well quite simply we should be harnessing the growth of the region here in the ACT. We’re losing many families and many businesses over the border to New South Wales because we are not welcoming them here in the ACT. Now the family that lives over the border in Googong or Tralee or Jerrabomberra or Murrumbateman or Sutton or wherever they are is probably going to keep using our schools, keep using our hospitals, keep using our roads – they’re just not going to be paying for it.
[00:40:27] In actual fact, Andrew Barr has done more for the economic development of New South Wales than the New South Wales Government has. He may as well be the Mayor of Queanbeyan because that city is thriving on the back of his policies.
[00:40:48] So I firmly believe that we should be broadening our tax base by having more people living in the ACT rather than just over the border and that starts with having a steady and consistent land supply program so that people can afford to build a house here in the ACT.
[00:41:07] Tim Shaw: [00:41:07] Just following on from Harry, do you support the idea of Transport Canberra and ACTION buses going across the border into Queanbeyan to be able to bring those people who want to come and work here in the capital and secondly, what do you say to the commercial ratepayer who did a comparison of the $24 per square metre for council rates in the ACT versus $6 a square metre that they’re paying in Queanbeyan. You’ll cap the rates but what about reducing for those commercial ratepayers?
[00:41:41] Alistair Coe: [00:41:41] Well firstly on public transport links with New South Wales. There is already a very viable private operator running from Queanbeyan into the ACT. Qcity transport owned by ComfortDelGro provide a good service. I know it’s a tad expensive for Queanbeyan residents but I don’t see a need for the ACT Government to meddle with a private operator there.
[00:42:09] With regard to commercial rates in the ACT, they are out of control. And to think that you can just keep squeezing people and they’ll cop it I think is wrong. People can move over the border and people are and will move over the border. And when you increase commercial rates by $10,000, not only are they down $10,000 for that year, but because the value of that building is determined by the yield, if the yield has just decreased by $10,000 you’ve probably just wiped $150,000 off the value of that property. So every time the ACT Government drives up commercial rates in the ACT, they actually devalue the commercial property in the ACT. So there are real consequences and as long as we’ve got a border and as long as we’ve got a jurisdiction that is competing we’ve got to make sure that we’re in the race as well.
[00:43:16] Tim Shaw: [00:43:16] From The Canberra Times, Dan Jervis-Bardy.
[00:43:20] Dan Jervis-Bardy: [00:43:20] There are some observers of ACT politics that think the Canberra Liberals would be a better chance of winning next October if there was another leader in place. Do you think you’re the best person to the election, and if so, why?
[00:43:38] Alistair Coe: [00:43:38] Leadership talk amongst journalists is an occupational hazard for an Opposition. It’s just one of those things that always has happened and I’m sure always will happen. And I’m sure there are many people many of your colleagues that wouldn’t have predicted I would have lasted three years. The reality is we’ve got a unified team. And we’ve had a unified team in the ACT for the best part of 10 years if not longer, in fact.
[00:44:09] I’m very confident that with 2,000 additional votes in Gungahlin and flipping 400 in Woden/Weston Creek we can win government. It’s as simple as that. This is going to be an election that is about the future of Canberrans. It’s going to be an election that is about respecting the ratepayers of Canberra. It’s going to be an election that is about who can deliver the best essential services and I firmly believe that whilst the Labor Party will run a very dirty campaign aided by the unions and GetUp we will keep the attention firmly on the issues because that’s what the ratepayers of Canberra want.
[00:44:59]Tim Shaw: [00:44:59] You referenced Labor, the unions and GetUp being the dirty bomb throwers if you like and and targeting your policy. Politics 2020, I think it was Janet Albrechtsen from The Australian who said getting angry withGetUp is like getting angry with democracy. Now, do you need political bomb throwers in your front bench? Do you need people to take it up to those critics of your policy? Will you do it yourself?
[00:45:33] Alistair Coe: [00:45:33] Very rarely has an Opposition had universal acclaim for getting the right balance between being negative but not too negative. It’s tough, every time you make a comment you get people who email in saying you didn’t go hard enough and others that email in and say you went too hard. It’s tough.
[00:45:56] The reality is that there are many Canberrans that are not engaged with territory politics. They care about the issues, but not necessarily how they come about. People want to drive on a good road, park at their local shops, see a doctor when they’re sick, get a good education for their kids. They don’t really care how it happens as long as it happens and people tend to only get engaged in the political process when something goes wrong.
[00:46:27] Now I want Canberrans to have high expectations. I don’t want to settle for mediocrity. We should have world class health services, world class education, world class community services.
[00:46:40] Is it too much to ask that people who come out of our jail come out better than when they went in? These are the sorts of things that we’re going to be communicating over the coming 12 months. We’ve got to be communicating with people about the issues they care about in the medium that they connect with. Now politics is changing, but we’ve got to be far more tailored and far more targeted than ever before.
[00:47:07] Tim Shaw: [00:47:07] From the Economic Daily,
[00:47:08] Weng Donghui: [00:47:08] Canberra and Beijing have been sister cities for many years. Earlier this year you and your Liberal team had a successful visit to Beijing. My question is, supposing you win the ACT election, what kind of practical measures will you take to further enhance economic, trade, cultural and people-to-people exchange between these two capital cities.
[00:47:51] Alistair Coe: [00:47:51] The ACT has extremely good links with mainland China. That’s in part because we’ve got 20,000 Mandarin speakers here in the ACT. So each of those 20,000 people serve as a great opportunity as a gateway to doing business in China. And whilst I think the ACT Government has been lagging when it comes to fostering the relationship with China, there is no doubt that businesses right across the ACT are dealing with China almost on a daily basis. The vast majority of technological imports of course come from China. So I do think it’s a relationship that has to be fostered. You know, of course like any relationship there are complexities and there is the national issues to contend with as well.
[00:48:52] But with regard to the people-to-people links and the business-to-business links, I think they are already thriving. And I think if we have a government that put some work into that relationship then I think we can go from strength to strength.
[00:49:10] Tim Shaw: [00:49:10] From ABC Radio Canberra, Adam Shirley.
[00:49:15] Adam Shirley: [00:49:15] The ACT Government has problems managing health, public transport, building integrity and infrastructure and none of those problems are new. And yet, the Canberra Liberals have failed at every election for nearly 20 years now. Why do you think that is?
[00:49:36] Alistair Coe: [00:49:36] Well, I don’t subscribe to the theory that this is a Labor town. Despite the fact that the Government has been in for 19 years, when you actually look at the Liberal vote and the Labor vote there is only 1.7 per cent that separates Labor’s vote from that of the Liberals. The reality is, that with the support of the Greens, the Labor Government is getting over the line. Now the five electorates of five model does of course open up new opportunities for the Canberra Liberals to get to that magical number of 13.
[00:50:22] I also think that as I mentioned before that we do have to run a more targeted and tailored campaign because the vast majority of Canberrans are just not engaged by territory politics. I firmly believe that they care about the issues. But they’re not necessarily watching local news or reading papers the way that they used to. So therefore, you can’t just place an ad on Hey hey, it’s Saturday and expect that everybody saw it. It’s just a little bit different now and we’ll be running a very strategic campaign over the next 12 months to make sure that every single household hears about the issues that concerns them.
[00:51:07] Tim Shaw: [00:51:07] Just following on from Adam, in terms of building integrity we are seeing nationally a complete failure of those processes. And tens of thousands of Australians seriously affected – their home is not theirs as they expected and purchased. What will the Canberra Liberals commit to in the next 12 months relating to ensuring not as the Attorney-General said “Oh, we’ve been dealing with the last 12 months.” Well, what about those built privately? What do you commit to today to secure the integrity of those that have bought homes in good faith here in the ACT.
[00:51:40] Alistair Coe: [00:51:40] Well firstly I don’t subscribe to the notion that there has been a complete failure. I think the vast majority of structures built in the ACT are good. And I think we’ve got to be very careful as politicians or indeed as people in the media to not bring about sovereign risk by saying that every single building in Canberra is risky or it’s dangerous. The reality is that there are thousands of very happy customers in the ACT and we have many high-quality builders in the ACT. Now there are of course some that are not so good. And they’re the ones that we have to make sure that we target because if you end up just clamping down on regulations and ratcheting up the pressure, but not having proper enforcement, the 99 per cent of good guys continue to comply and the 1 per cent of shocks continue to be shonky. So I firmly believe that there’s got to be a better risk-based approach to how construction is managed in the ACT. I do think there’s a need for public registers of what buildings builders have built. I think we need to make sure that there is transparency and there are photos, for instance, of the construction process that are on public databases that are accessible for people to peruse. And potentially there has to be some changes in insurance as well. This is complex. There’s a reason why governments right across the country are struggling with this but the idea of having more inspection points is worthwhile. As long as you’ve got proper enforcement, because if you don’t the good guys comply and the people that you’re targeting will keep getting away with it. We’ve got to be very careful that we get the balance right.
[00:53:47] Tim Shaw: [00:53:47] From The Canberra Times, Daniella White.
[00:53:52] Daniella White: [00:53:52] Canberra is generally, as results from the same-sex marriage plebiscite show is a pretty socially progressive place. How are you going to win over voters who might feel let down by the Barr Government but don’t feel comfortable voting for a social conservative like yourself?
[00:54:09] Alistair Coe: [00:54:09] I accept that they’ll be some people out there for whom same-sex marriage and some of these social issues will be the number one issue for them. But just about everybody in Canberra is still going to drive on roads, catch local buses goes to the hospital, needs a care protection system that works, needs a good education system, etc.
[00:54:33] As I mentioned earlier, there will be disagreements. There will be people that will have a different worldview to me. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t respect them. And that’s the problem that we’ve got. Because the Chief Minister described people who voted no in that plebiscite as neanderthals. I think it’s a legitimate position to vote no, just as I think it’s a legitimate position to vote yes. I don’t think it’s right for the Chief Minister to devalue the opinion of tens of thousands of Canberrans that differ to his. Now we’re going to do whatever we can over the coming 12 months to make sure that we continue to listen to the voices of Canberrans. Because it’s a very vindictive government that we’re up against. Whether you disagree with the Chief Minister, whether you’re a club in the ACT, you run the greyhounds or you’re a non-government school, once you’re on the wrong side of the Chief Minister, you certainly feel the consequences.
[00:55:46] Tim Shaw: [00:55:46] Ian Bushnell, Region Media.
[00:55:52] Ian Bushnell: [00:55:52] Are you committing, if you win government, to release more land through the Suburban Land Agency for more single-residence homes and where would you do that and what would you do about those forgotten people who you mentioned who no matter what you say have no hope of buying but will need to rent. Beyond what the government’s already doing with its hundred million dollar housing strategy, what will you do?
[00:56:28] Alistair Coe: [00:56:28] Firstly, with regard to land supply, absolutely we do need to increase the amount of land that is available for free standing homes. Now that could be developed by the Suburban Land Agency or it could be developed by private operators. A bit like how the Reserve Bank has a target range for the economy, I think we should have a target range for what we want land prices to do.
[00:56:57] And whether that means having a target range of perhaps two to five per cent for land price increases, I think it’s going to be much fairer than a compounding 10 or 15 per cent increase that we’ve seen in recent years. If you have that target range you can increase or decrease supply to ensure that you’re maintaining the values of people who have invested but that you’re also bringing new land into the market.
[00:57:31] As to where there’s still plenty of opportunity for development in Gungahlin. I note that the Labor Government has dismissed outright the idea of going to Cowan. I don’t think that should be dismissed. Nor should West Tuggeranong be dismissed nor should Molonglo – the current footprint but also west of Molonglo and west of Weston Creek.
[00:57:57] So there are plenty of opportunities here. For all this talk that land is running out in the ACT, you know, you only need to fly in or out of Canberra to see that there’s plenty of land in this city. And with regard to rent in the ACT, the Government seems to care about people who can afford a thousand dollars a square meter, and then people who need public housing. All the people in the middle are left behind by the Government. And even those that need public housing, there are still a couple of thousand on that waiting list. The best thing you can do to bring down the cost of rent, which is the highest in the country for a free-standing home at $570 a week, is to increase land supply and put a cap on rates. That will make the ACT far more attractive to bring rental properties into the market.
[00:58:53]Tim Shaw: [00:58:53] Former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope wrote in the CityNews this week about the restoration of the $50 million revolving finance fund for the CHC. Senator Zed Seselja’s been lobbied by former Chief Minister Katy Gallagher for the ACT housing debt. Tasmania seem to do quite well there. Just give us a final reflection about your potential relationship with the Morrison Government federally and on key issues such as you know, losing that debt.
[00:59:24] Alistair Coe: [00:59:24] Firstly, on Senator Gallagher’s comments about the debt waiver, we of course would all love to see the Commonwealth Government give more money to the ACT. That’s what every jurisdiction fights for, that’s the nature of a federalist system. But I do note that when Katy Gallagher signed up to this deal in 2014 she was on the steps of Parliament House heralding it as a great deal for the ACT. Five years on she’s saying it’s a rort. You can’t have it both ways. With regard to Community Housing Canberra or CHC, there’s definitely an opportunity to help give them some equity so they can then leverage against that. We’ve got to make sure that if they do get that equity and I think we’re open to that as a party, there would have to be a real commitment that it’s going to be exclusively for housing types that are not being provided by the market at present. If it’s simply going to be for more apartments, I’m not sure that’s going to be the best deal for the ACT.
[01:00:38] And with regard to the relationship with the Prime Minister, look it helps to have the blue flag at The Lodge, there’s no doubt about that.
[01:00:43] Tim Shaw: [01:00:43] Do you believe in miracles?
[01:00:43] Alistair Coe: [01:00:43] Look I think to be a Liberal in Canberra you have to believe in miracles.