ACT News


Andrew Leigh dismisses light rail 'premature propaganda' as office search begins

Re-elected Labor MP Andrew Leigh has dismissed anti-light rail advertisements run during the federal campaign as "premature propaganda" and backed the ACT Electoral Commissioner's moves to deduct spending amounts from the Canberra Liberals ACT campaign.

As the nation waited for the final seats to be decided this week, Dr Leigh also turned his mind to finding a new electorate office.

The now third-term MP, whose northern electorate of Fenner would be home to almost all of the Gungahlin-Civic line, said commissioner Phillip Green took the "only sensible position" in an initial finding to include the federal anti-tram spending in the Canberra Liberals' $1 million advertising cap for the October vote.

"Let's be clear about what the Canberra Liberals' ad said," Dr Leigh said. "It didn't just target the Greens, it targeted Labor.

"Given that the Federal Labor and Federal Liberal Party both support Canberra light rail, the ad can only have been a premature piece of propaganda for the Liberals' campaign in the territory election."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a strong supporter of the Gold Coast light rail, has not publicly spoken in favour of the Canberra light rail project.


The Commonwealth's asset-recycling initiative will provide $60 million to the ACT that will be directly used to support the project. However, in announcing the federal payments early last year, then treasurer Joe Hockey said it was solely the territory's choice what infrastructure was built with asset sales proceeds.

"While the [Capital Metro] project was considered to meet the criteria of the initiative, the Commonwealth is aware that there has been debate as to whether alternative projects may have higher potential economic benefits," he said.

ACT opposition leader Jeremy Hanson said the light rail became a federal election issue once the Greens' Senate candidate proposed a further $400 million funding, and he and Senator Zed Seselja would write to the commission requesting the advertisements be excluded from the ACT cap.

Dr Leigh said he had only begun to explore seriously and discuss options for a new electorate office with the Finance Department this week, and there was no set time frame to leave his Braddon base of six years, which is now 600 metres into the Canberra electorate.

Asked if the office could be along the Northbourne Avenue tram line, Dr Leigh said there were no site preferences yet, but it would ideally combine public accessibility and value for money.

He predicted a weakened Coalition government would be riven by disaffection and resentment. "Far-right Liberals like Zed Seselja will be yammering for a return to their policies – discredited though they are – of cutting Medicare, blocking marriage equality and ignoring climate change," he said.