Around 300,000 voters head to the polls in the ACT this weekend in an election the Property Council’s ACT executive director Adina Cirson has described as a “defining moment” for the national capital.
ACT voters will be deciding the fate of the incumbent Labor chief minister, Andrew Barr, who has been in office since 2014. Labor has governed in the ACT uninterrupted since 2001.
“COVID-19 has thrown up some of the greatest economic and social challenges that the ACT and the rest of the nation has had to deal with,” Cirson explains.
“While the rest of the country sometimes thinks Canberra is protected from downturns because of its role as the national capital, the reality is our private sector has been hit just as hard by the pandemic,” Cirson says.
“The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows 7,000 private sector jobs have been lost over the past year.
“Our private sector includes a high proportion of small businesses involved in building and construction, so the COVID-19 recession is having a particularly deep impact on them, as well as other businesses across the ACT.
“We need the next ACT Government to have a strong focus on supporting local business, growing our economy and creating jobs to support our economic recovery,” Cirson says.
Planning issues were in the spotlight at a sold-out ACT election debate, hosted by the Property Council and Master Builders ACT, last week.
Representatives from the Labor, Liberal and Greens put forward their respective policies on property and planning, revealing some clear differences on key policy issues such as land release, housing affordability, social housing, transport-oriented development and infrastructure.
Many these issues were outlined in the Property Council’s election platform, which prioritises stimulus measures to support recovery and growth.
The Property Council is championing Canberra’s transformation into “the world’s coolest and most liveable capital – a city that is built for our people and is the thriving and diverse economic heart of our region,” Cirson explains.
The Property Council’s plan included measures to make Canberra a lifestyle destination of choice to attract new residents, boost the supply and choice of housing (including more social housing investment) and drive urban renewal through a more efficient planning system.
More competitive rates, taxes and charges would reduce the burden on property owners and attracts new investment, Cirson says, while a Canberra Region City Deal would prioritise investment that “unlocks opportunity and growth”.
“If the last ACT election in 2016 was known as the ‘light rail election’, perhaps the 2020 election should be known as the ‘planning election’.
Cirson says Canberrans should think carefully about which party “can set Canberra up for recovery, has a plan for growth and has the vision needed to undertake our transformation into the city we want”.
“We need a great plan for our recovery from the COVID-19 recession, as well as the longer-term growth and transformation of Canberra.”