One of the things that bugs me the most about the ACT government is the number of own goals it kicks for Canberra.
The other week, I received the May issue of the government's Our Canberra newsletter for the Molonglo Valley. Despite living in Tuggeranong, I was interested – and somewhat appalled – to read about the proposed street names for Canberra's newest suburb, Denman Prospect.
Fourteen streets in this new suburb are named after "inspiring and dynamic people linked to activism and reform". After seeing this advertisement for the government's decision on whom to name these streets after, I wondered whom the government deemed "inspiring". So I did some research.
Of the 14 streets, some are named after people who unmistakably did a lot of good and are not at all contentious. However:
Two related to feminism and women's rights. This includes Julia Trubridge-Freebury, who campaigned to repeal abortion and euthanasia laws in NSW. She proudly admitted to having four abortions. When she ran for the Queensland Parliament, her campaign slogan was "10 stone lighter, and lots, lots brighter" in reference to the incumbent conservative minister she ran against. Trubridge-Freebury didn't win and the issues she is known for are contentious, to say the least.
Three street names relate to environmental activism.
Five of the 15 street names relate to unionism and industrial action. The fact that such a high proportion of the 14 "activists" have union ties is unsurprising. This is the same government that struck a secret deal handing unions – particularly the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union – unprecedented power in the ACT.
What is surprising, though is the blatancy of the government's decision to accord unionists the privilege of naming streets after them. The CFMEU, Australia's most militant union, was graced with a couple of street names. This included organisers who had strong links to the Communist Party. I have a hard time believing they are representative of Canberrans or Australians.
Among these streets named by the government to pay tribute to its union rulers is one that honours the birthplace of the Labor Party and the labour movement. There are also streets named after events tied to the CFMEU's history. Neither of these organisations are relevant to the ACT's proud history – except that both now run rampant in this town.
The government missed an opportunity to recognise some great Australians in Denman Prospect. Instead, it created an excuse for the Labor Party to celebrate itself.
This government tells only the side of history that benefits itself. It's said history is always written by the winners, but the ACT government must understand that Canberra is not at war with itself. There are people who live in the ACT who dislike or disagree with the side of history that the government has decided to celebrate.
In government, ACT Labor has mantra of fostering an inclusive community. But actions such as this only foster anger and resentment among parts of the community. The national capital should be celebrating the many great Australians who have worked selflessly to make this country a better place for everyone.
If I learned anything from my first term as a member of the Legislative Assembly, it's that this behaviour won't change any time soon under Labor.
Andrew Wall is a Liberal member for Brindabella in the ACT Legislative Assembly.