Technology | Innovation

Canberra is nation's policy incubator: Barr

The ACT must be the nation’s leader in policy innovation, ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr has told CEDA’s Economic and Political Overview in Canberra.

“My government’s focus will always be on delivering essential services to this community but it also needs to be the nation’s incubator for good policy,” he said.

Mr Barr said at the Federal level the shortness of the political cycle and seemingly permanent election cycles mean implementing reform is difficult.

“The nature of public policy debate in this country at this time seems to make it very difficult to achieve reform at a Federal level,” he said.

“There’s a fundamental lack of passion and desire to expend a little bit of political capital in order to get the better outcome for the community at a Federal level.”

Mr Barr said the states and territories are taking the lead in policy reform.

“It’s falling to the states and territories to be the innovators at this time,” he said.

Mr Barr’s sentiment was echoed by ABC 7.30 Chief Political Correspondent, Sabra Lane who said focus will shift to states to reform inefficient taxes such as stamp duty and payroll tax.

“More of the spotlight will now go back onto the states and territories about what they’re going to do,” she said.

On the likely re-election of the Turnbull Government, Ms Lane said voters are loath to toss out first term governments and this hasn’t happened at a Federal level since 1932.

“(But) the Queensland state election shows that voters are not rusted on anymore, if they believe political leaders are not listening to them, they will toss them out,” she said.

The major challenge for the Turnbull Government is “delivering major runs before he calls an election otherwise Labor’s criticism that he is a do nothing Prime Minister will start to stick,” she said.

Ms Lane said the days of “big bang” reform are over in politics.

“Incremental reform is what we’re likely to see in the years ahead and that next wave of reform will be difficult to achieve,” she said.

Discussing the future of Canberra at the event, Canberra Airport Managing Director, Stephen Byron said new international flights will transform the city.

“The opportunity that comes from flights to Wellington and Singapore is the transformational opportunity for Canberra,” he said.

“It will trigger significant investment right across the city”

Mr Byron said there is likely to be development in hospitality including new restaurants and wineries opening and new hotels.

Also speaking at the event, Capital Metro Project Director, Emma Thomas said as Canberra grows,  infrastructure projects such as the light rail are beginning to attract international attention and investment from Spain and Japan. 

“Australia’s population (growth) rates are higher than the UK and US,” she said.

“Canberra is just one of those cities that’s experiencing that massive growth so with all the work that we are doing we have to keep up with infrastructure to support the lifestyle that we’ve got today.”

Ms Thomas said the light rail project will be integrated with urban development to ensure it delivers for Canberra. 
National Capital Authority Chief Executive, Malcolm Snow said it’s important to define a proper land use strategy that includes urban development, densification and mixed use precincts.

Mr Snow said that developing infrastructure in the right place is key to Canberra’s future.

“We can’t just keep consuming greenfield land to the extent we are,” he said.

Travel times are increasing each year and we have to recognise that people are forced to move further from the CBD.

“We can learn from the lessons that other big cities are now grappling with if we take the right steps now,” he said. 


More videos from CEDA's 2016 Economic and Political Overview in Canberra can be viewed below.