ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher Photo: Jay Cronan
As we approach the one-year mark for this ACT Labor government, it is clear the government has settled down to business.
The path it has mapped is bold, difficult, but profoundly important. Like it or not.
The ACT budget has been bedded down and it is now clear the government has a very definite purpose: social reforms, transformative infrastructure investments and continued fiscal responsibility.
The ACT is committed to DisabilityCare Australia and the National Education Reform Agreement, assuming the new federal government doesn't change them dramatically. The major infrastructure projects are the Capital Metro, the University of Canberra public hospital and the City to the Lake project.
Breaking it all down, it means a focus on health and education reform, major transformational infrastructure projects and continued fiscal responsibility through nation-leading tax reform and balanced budgets over the economic cycle.
More practically, the now-settled ministry is working pretty well, incorporating the four experienced Labor members and the capable and approachable Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury.
Key senior public service appointments have been completed with the new head of the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate and the new Under Treasurer.
Without wanting to understate or detract from the impact those major federal social reforms will have, the Gallagher government's fate will be determined by how well it delivers on its transformational infrastructure projects.
The Capital Metro, UC hospital and City to the Lake are not just big, ambitious projects. They are projects that put in place a long-term vision.
These projects are the embodiment of where the government thinks Canberra should go in coming decades. They represent what Canberra could be, in the mind of the government.
Their ambition and scale will shape other government policies, priorities and ultimately business responses to the challenges these projects will throw up.
The Capital Metro project, for example, is about more than just laying some tracks and buying some rolling stock. It's about transforming how the city operates, transforming the fabric of the urban environment.
Just as the NCDC in decades gone by turned the ACT into a car-dominated city (and created the blight of the old Belconnen town centre, without being held to account, I might add), the Capital Metro project will start the process of recalibrating Canberra away from cars.
In unison, the City to the Lake project charts a course to physically change how Canberra grows. The limits of urban sprawl have almost been reached. There is almost a near consensus that infill is the way of the future and City to the Lake with Capital Metro are the first serious and significant attempts to realise that view at some scale. It is ambitious, difficult but profoundly important. Difficult things are ultimately worth doing.
And to a lesser degree, the UC hospital and other investments at UC are transforming this city's university (which also happens to be our main export - education) into a national educational powerhouse. This broadens our economic base, brings people to the ACT from around the world while beefing up our high-value health system.
Now, in a sense, it's over to the private sector. The government is in place until at least late 2016.
The vision is there. Not all the details are sorted. But business now has a framework within which to work. Nothing prompts a government to resolve fine-grain detail more than the private sector coming to it with good ideas.
So, to all those businesses out there that build our urban fabric and provide jobs and develop the life of our city, now is the time to think about the future and swing into action.
- Pierre Huetter is the director of Aleseva Consulting, a strategic engagement firm in the ACT. (@pierrehuetter)