Federal Politics


Gallagher rolls on, a tinge Green

Now we've all had a chance to catch our breaths, after the excitement, let's take stock of where our local political leaders are at, and what sort of next four years we can look forward to.

First of all, Katy Gallagher. Well, she's Chief Minister, which she'll be pleased about, but she's got a Green, the one and only Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury, in her cabinet. He's come in with a list of demands that would make Bob Brown blush, and even then he has negotiated the right to be an awful pain in the government's bum, should he happen to feel like it.

Gallagher has retained the health ministry, determined to iron out the problems that beset the portfolio. But already the bad news is emerging again. Spending $120 million on a new maternity hospital and having women being shown the door six hours after giving birth is hardly ideal, after all.

Stand by for stories about long, long waits in the Canberra Hospital emergency department.

The Chief Minister has also acknowledged that the government's delivery of infrastructure simply has to improve, there are economic clouds on the horizon, and a forecast deficit of nearly $400 million to contend with, too.

And she wanted this job.


Across the way, Zed Seselja is riding high in his party's affections after the bigger-than-expected gains made last month. But second honeymoons don't last four years and when the euphoria dies down, some facts are going to have to be faced.

Such as the Canberra Liberals have now lost four elections on the trot, two with Seselja in charge, one with his deputy, Brendan Smyth, as leader and another with Smyth very much to the fore.

That's not to suggest these men are liabilities - the opposite is true - but it does mean the party has to think fresh, try to avoid the perception of being old hat.

Seselja won't be challenged, certainly not in the short term, but talk of making a move for the Senate is not going away, although both the incumbent, Gary Humphries, and ambitious MLA Alistair Coe might have something to say about that.

There's a suggestion that the leader might challenge Labor's Gai Brodtmann for the lower house seat of Canberra. For Seselja to leave an established and well-paid role where he is unlikely to face credible challenge to try to take on a Labor incumbent who has a 9 per cent margin would be silly.

No, that's a job for someone with nothing to lose and plenty to prove, and Seselja hasn't fallen into either of those brackets for a long time.

Opposition leader in this town is not a bad gig, but after five years in the job, and contemplating another four, Seselja wouldn't be human if he wasn't feeling just a little bit over it.

The first three months of next year will tell us a lot about the future of the nice young man from Tuggeranong.

As for the Greens, nothing defines the potential for weirdness in ACT politics than the position this lot find themselves in.

They suffered probably the worst electoral flogging sustained by any outfit in territory political history and ended up more powerful than they've ever been.

There's a fair argument for serious electoral reform there.

The Greens' new power will bring responsibility, accountability and scrutiny, things the party only got the occasional taste of from the cross-bench.

It will be an interesting few years.