It's time to decide: tram or no tram

It's time to decide: tram or no tram

Saturday's ACT election is effectively a referendum on light rail, as it's seemed it would be for at least the past two years.

Elect Labor, or a Labor/Greens coalition, and construction of the $939-million, 12-kilometre tram line between Gungahlin and the city will proceed.


A decisive vote for the Canberra Liberals would bring the project to a grinding halt, the tearing up of contracts estimated to cost at least $220 million.

This huge project has split Canberrans into the camps of those who view it as visionary and transformative and those who think it an expensive folly.


But decisions on election of a government should be about more than just one policy or project.

This has not been an Assembly without achievement for Labor. It approved historic marriage equality laws in 2013. It acted, albeit belatedly, on the Mr Fluffy asbestos crisis.

It also leads the nation in its response to climate change, with its target of 100 per cent renewables by 2020 and zero net emissions by 2050. It has bravely continued to reduce its reliance on punitive stamp duty charges, sticking with its 20-year tax reform plan that will see household rates increase significantly to take up the shortfall.

But on the other side of the ledger, this has also been a government bedevilled by errors of judgment, competency and arrogance.

The poor performance of one of the government's key ministers, Joy Burch, across a range of portfolios, including education, policing and gaming, reflected poorly on the leadership of the Chief Minister.

And Chief Minister Andrew Barr will be judged by some voters on his leadership more broadly, and on Labor's approach to planning, development and transparency.

Under his watch Labor has shown a willingness to entertain major development proposals without engaging the community in any meaningful way, or measuring such proposals against its own long-term objectives. This alone has left many Canberrans feeling their government couldn't care less about their views.

The pre-election political manoeuvre of hiring opposition Treasury spokesman Brendan Smyth to a plum new role, without even advertising the position, was nothing more than a cynical play to damage an opponent's electoral chances.

So what of the alternative, the Canberra Liberals? Like oppositions before them, they have been guilty of carping and populism and while they have been remarkably unified this term, the conservatism of some members will worry progressive Canberrans.

But under Mr Hanson the Liberals have put forward a very solid alternative to light rail, an enhanced bus system that could be used by far more Canberrans in the short to medium term.

They have landed policy blows on health and hospitals. In the main they have presented a more credible alternative to Labor than has been seen for some time.

Saturday's election is arguably the most significant since Canberrans elected their first government in 1989.

Whatever the Assembly's make-up, and whoever takes government, it clearly needs to perform better than the administration of the past four years.

After 15 years, Labor looks too long in government – complacent, at times lost and increasingly hard of hearing. There is an alternative that seems more willing to listen to Canberrans.

The Canberra Times, therefore, supports the election of a Canberra Liberals-led government in Saturday's historic poll.

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