Interesting times ahead for ACT government in 2017

Interesting times ahead for ACT government in 2017

With just over a month before the ACT Legislative Assembly resumes sitting on Valentine's Day it is fair to guess Andrew Barr and his colleagues are hard at it catching up on their homework.

Even without the pressure of an election, 2017 is shaping up to be a challenging and significant year.


Mr Barr's administration lost a little skin last year and must deal with an emerging trust deficit as a matter of some urgency.

An ACT Independent Commission Against Corruption is particularly topical given poker machines, historically a major source of funding for the ALP, feature strongly on the political agenda right now.


Two gaming related issues that have to be dealt with openly and transparently are the allocation of 200 machines to Casino Canberra and the push for a territory-wide cap of 4000 poker machines.

The industry has already had much to say on these matters and will almost certainly be turning up the heat as the year unfolds.

While the investigation into the shape, size and flavour of Canberra's ICAC is expected to begin soon, it probably won't be up and running before these issues are resolved.

That said, all parties in the pokies negotiations will be conscious that actions they take now may be subject to an unprecedented level of scrutiny (for Canberra) in the not too distant future.

While this debate is playing out Mr Barr and his colleagues face fall out from the decision to appoint Greens MLA, Caroline Le Couteur, to the chair of the Parliamentary Planning Committee.

Ms Le Couteur has already flagged a committee of inquiry into the Territory Plan. While this has been welcomed by many residents concerned over the future of the "Griffin legacy", it is not expected to hand out many gold stars to a government labouring under the weight of nearly 17 years of incumbency.

With construction now underway on the first stage of the light rail project, the Barr government, which went to the election with an 11th hour announcement that the next stage would be heading due south to Woden and not east to the airport as some had expected, will be bracing itself for unintended consequences.

These will likely range from heritage issues along the Civic to Gungahlin corridor, inevitable traffic snarls and mounting pressure to finalise the route for the second act in the city's public transport drama.

All of these issues come on top of the perennial challenge of trying to balance the budget in a jurisdiction that has such an unhealthy dependence on land sales for revenue the government has had to make significant changes to the way the Land Development Agency is managed.

We are definitely in for some interesting times.

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