How will you/your party encourage economic growth and how do you envisage Canberra taking a leading role in the region?

See our Local Economy and Business plan for addressing the ACT’s challenges.

What policies and programs will you/your party implement to stimulate local small business start-up and development?

See our Local Economy and Business plan for boosting Canberra’s government-dependent economy.

We will be making an announcement in the coming weeks about our plan to reduce payroll taxes, which we consider inefficient and harmful to local businesses.

With the Federal government pulling back from supporting Canberra, how do you/your party see the government being involved in the federal smart cities plan?

We consider that local decisions should be made locally. The creation of a federal body to administer and fund decisions about cities is unwarranted and undermines competitive federalism that reflects local priorities. In principle, we do not support federal bureaucrats and political figures driving the development of the ACT. This is consistent with our view that ACT-based Commonwealth public servants make too many decisions for the rest of Australia.

We also note that fiscally strong polities are in the best position to resist external pressures. The rise of s96 specific purpose payments has allowed successive federal governments to drive local priorities. For this reason, we consider that restoring a strong financial position in the ACT budget—after having reduced expenditure and having reduced taxes—is a significant priority for the ACT.

What is your/your parties position on housing choice (diversity of options) and how do you plan to ensure a supply of affordable housing in the future?

The Liberal Democrats believe that housing affordability issues in Australia are driven more by misguided government involvement than by the needs of their residents. The sad reality is that the ACT government is as addicted to residential and commercial land transaction taxes as other jurisdictions in Australia. We consider that the best means of addressing affordability is to reduce red tape, remove artificial barriers to the release of land, and abolish transactional costs. The best means of providing housing diversity is through the market: let consumers decide what kind of properties they wish to buy. Where restrictions prevent consumers from attaining the type of property they want (e.g., restrictive covenants), those restrictions should be considered for what they are: a drain on economic wellbeing in the community.

For more information see our policy on Land Use and Development.

Do you/your party support controls and incentives for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and how will you ensure a long term solution?

The ACT Liberal Democrats are formally agnostic on the question of the best means to address climate change. The best mechanism for the problem is through the market. Any particular adaptation strategy proposal would need to be based on a compelling cost benefit analysis. At this time, we consider that the ACT government’s suite of climate change abatement and management strategies are essentially of no international significance—the ACT is simply too small to have any conceivable impact on aggregate emissions—and are in fact harmful to local business.

Where a private entity chooses to spend its own funds, or those of its shareholders, on additional green initiatives they ought to be applauded. However, the community should not be coerced into subsidising economically inefficient green initiatives to indulge the senses of politicians (see e.g. solar rebates in the Canberra residential sector).

What is your/your party’s position on mandating the implementation of estate development plans and master plans as approved?

The Liberal Democrats do not support centralised planning, with a premium placed on letting landholders determine optimum use. Where proposals encroach on the utility of neighbouring land holders, effective property rights should be allowed to determine the preferred outcome of the parties as much as possible.

Clearly there can be coordination problems with entities such as cities, and where plans – and variations to plans - are necessary there should be as much transparency and consultation as possible. Decision makers, whether political or administrative, must make transparent decisions that do not enrich particular people at the expense of others at the expense of others. Significant risks to the community arising from corruption and rent-seeking must be avoided.

How do you/your party intend to police development conditions and manage quality outcomes?

See above regarding an opposition to centrally-mandated development conditions. In the context, however, of the current system, we strongly support the use of the courts system to enforce conditions, where those conditions are, in reality, property rights held by third parties. We consider the poor state of the ACT judiciary, and particularly, long waiting times for the resolution of civil disputes, to be a significant priority. Our plan to increase funding to the courts system is needed for precisely this reason.

Do you/your party have any plans for the redevelopment of moribund areas in Canberra and how will you involve the community?

Privately owned land is rarely left to lie idle where there is the possibility of meaningful economic activity. The depressing state of some areas in Canberra is attributable to distortions created by government: some local suburban shops have been near empty for years, while others teem with life. This is the sign of an inconsistent regulatory framework that destroys economic wellbeing of some land holders at the cost of others.

By moving away from restrictive zoning, we can remove the vagaries of inconsistent regulation, bolster investment confidence, and remove the risk of rent-seeking and corruption.

How will you/your party deal with public transport equity?

Canberra’s public transport is usually of a poor standard because it is badly run by government bodies with little interest in serving the needs of the wider community.

We will be announcing an exciting proposal regarding reform of the public transport sector in Canberra.

Do you support Canberra becoming a city of design under the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and if so, what will you/your party do to assist this process?

We firmly believe that the best means of achieving a vibrant and exciting design culture in Canberra will be to get government out of the way. We fully endorse and support civil society and professional organisations seeking international acclaim for its work, however, we don’t consider it a worthwhile use of the community’s scarce economic funds to actively promote the interests of one group. Promoting one initiative usually means another isn’t promoted.

How does you/your party see the role of government architect evolving in the future?

Artistic and cultural endeavours of central-planning governments —whether in the arts, architecture, or any other field—tend to produce costly and ugly results and divide communities over the use of their scarce resources. The role of government is to allow the enforcement of private property rights, not to try to anticipate what kind of architecture has cultural or aesthetic value into the future. As a result, a smaller, leaner ACT government, with a smaller economic footprint, will make room for considerable investment and development in the ACT that would be more reflective of the diverse aspirations of the Canberra community.

How do you/your party plan to address cross border development to maintain a sustainable region?

The ACT Liberal Democrats consider that the cross-border developments planned in the north of Canberra, and more earmarked into the future, should be open to market conditions and consumer choice as much as possible. To the extent that government is involved in such developments, key principles ought to be community engagement and taking active steps towards increasing transparency and reducing opportunities for rent-seeking. Cross-border development creates opportunities for governments to extract economic rents from nearby communities. The Liberal Democrats consider that government involvement should not second guess markets that tend to trade away the relative premiums associated with the effect of nearby borders (see e.g., residential prices in Queanbeyan compared to nearby Canberra suburbs).

On the question of sustainability, the Liberal Democrats note that the worst land degradation tends to occur in publicly-owned areas. History shows that nations run by corrupt or collectivist governments often have far worse track records in environmental stewardship than nations committed to private property ownership. As a result, we strongly support private ownership of land as a means of ensuring sustainability and recognise that growth-oriented economies offer the best chances of generating the resources needed to deal with environmental issues.

How do you propose to ensure design and construction tendering processes are ethical and adequately renumerate all skilled services for their work during each stage?

While an ACT Government run by the Liberal Democrats would be considerably smaller, we appreciate that there are times where governments will need to undertake the procurement of major construction services. We are firmly committed to increasing integrity in local government. To deal with shortcomings in administration, we would push for a reinvigoration of integrity mechanisms such as the ACT Audit Office, which we consider too weak and inactive given the footprint of ACT government economic activity. The ACT Liberal Democrats are committed to evidence-based policy-making and leave expert judgements about best practice in procurement to specialists in the area, such as bureaucrats across different jurisdictions, industry bodies, and academics.

We are aware that there have been shortcomings in payments to prime and subcontractors dealing with the ACT government. Our suite of reforms to land use, reducing red tape, increasing accountability, and reforming the ACTPS would go a long way to reducing the risk of these issues arising in future.