ACT Sustainable Development Minister Simon Corbell launched a strong defence of the light rail project on Wednesday, calling on Canberrans to think about the good of the city, not what was in it for them.
"The frustrating thing about this discussion from my perspective is that this is not just about 'what's in it for me'," he said. "I think everyone in Canberra needs to think broader than what's in it for me – ie, where I live dictates how I feel about the project. The challenge is to say what's in it for Canberra."
Under pressure from increasing high-level leaks about the expensive project, Mr Corbell offered an interview to The Canberra Times in which he declared his determination to stay the course.
In the weeks following the June 3 budget, the government would mail design details of the project to all householders in the inner north and Gungahlin and invite comments on the location of stops, frequency of services, alignment of the track and landscaping.
"This is the nuts and bolts that people are hungry to see," he said. "We're moving to the next stage following the budget and for the first time Canberrans will see a very high level of detail around what is physically proposed on the ground."
Light rail would be important for the city, he said. It would deliver public transport in a way never before done in Canberra, and if successful could be rolled out by future governments across the city.
It would create thousands of construction jobs in the short term and other jobs longer term, especially important when Canberra was facing significant unemployment among youth and the low-skilled.
It would result in people living closer to work and services, and provide the kind of public transport necessary to attract "the smart industries of the future".
And it would send a signal that Canberra was open to a different kind of investment from the international market.
Mr Corbell rejected the suggestion other parts of the city would suffer as demand for housing and infrastructure was sucked up by the Northbourne corridor, which would need major investment and commercial development to make the light rail figures stack up.
The development of the inner north was being driven by a massive shift in demographic preferences for higher-density apartment living, he said, pointing out also that Tuggeranong was "complete in terms of its urban area", other than infilling, with no new suburbs planned there.
He said there was a clear divide between the property markets of the north and south.
"This is not about winners and losers. Everybody wins from this project. The city wins, and we should be thinking about this from a city perspective as Canberrans, not about our own individual suburb.
"I don't live in the inner north, I live southside, I live in Weston Creek. I'm not directly benefiting from this project in the way that some people would characterise that debate, but I know that my city's going to benefit."
Mr Corbell reiterated that the government was determined the light rail project would be built.
"Big things are not easy to do, important things take work and effort and determination and a willingness to stay the course, and as minister I'm staying the course on this project.
"It's easy to knock a big idea. It's easy to criticise it. It's much harder to make it happen. But for all the reasons I [have] outlined ... this project needs to happen."
Asked about the leaks, Mr Corbell said he had alerted the head of the Public Service, who had taken "appropriate steps".
"It's the Public Service's job to implement the policy of the day, that's our expectation and that's their professional duty."