Politics in the Pub on August 24 with Jeremy Hanson gave insight into some of the policies that Hanson and the ACT Liberal Party will be bringing into the upcoming local election.
Hanson made a strong point from the beginning on emphasizing his loyalty to Canberra: “I’m a Canberran first and foremost.” His prioritization of the welfare of Canberra’s population existed to the extent that he would oppose federal government policies similar to the job cuts proposed by the Abbot government in 2014.
In fact, there were quite a few incidences in which Hanson made it apparent that his own personal views differed from the party line. One was to declare his support of the new abortion clinic exclusion laws, something that a questioner pointed out was not the position of Hanson’s fellow party member Zed Seselja.
Hanson also claimed not to have been opposed to the idea of gender quotas to increase female representation in the Liberal Party. He claimed this did not come about because female Liberal members themselves wanted to earn their positions “based on merit.” Yet, it should be noted that this was mainly an expression of views and not an outline of solid policies.
It was only a matter of time before the conversation moved to the topic of ACT Light Rail. As Hanson himself admitted, it is quite refreshing to have an electoral campaign in which there is a very clear policy differences between the two major parties, providing voters with a very distinct choice to make. Hanson framed this decision as being a choice between health and education and Light Rail.
The choice could also be seen as being between stability and innovation, however Hanson was adamant that Light Rail, far from being a progressive step, would be a step back for Canberra. He refused to debate the location or accessibility of the Light Rail project, and instead determinedly remained fixed on the fact that Light Rail as a whole was the wrong step for Canberra, regardless of how it was implemented.
He proposed that a better way for Canberra to embrace technology would be to embrace a future of autonomous vehicles and in doing so sustain Canberra’s current reality as a city designed for car transportation. It became clear that Hanson’s issue with Light Rail is not the spending but where the spending is being targeted. The message was that it should be instead invested in health and education, particularly towards developing Canberra Hospital.
This still leaves the affordability of either policy, whether it be prioritizing transport or health, yet to be clearly determined.
Finally, the discussion moved to issues more likely to affect students. There was a question about how Hanson was going to make sure that Canberra established itself properly as Australia’s “cool little capital”. Hanson pointed towards the Liberal party’s strong opposition to lock-out laws but concluded with putting the responsibility of fuelling Canberra’s social scene as being in the hands of its citizens.
When it came to issues such as student accommodation and housing affordability, Hanson gave little detail other than to emphasize opening up the housing market and ensuring affordable accommodation options off-campus close to universities. Nevertheless, his commitment to the issue was put into question when he claimed that poor accommodation was part of the “student experience.”
The discussion concluded with Hanson claiming “without any specific answers to do with ANU or the UC, philosophically I believe we are taking the right steps.” Words of good intention. Whether their foundational merit will be given the opportunity to be tested will be decided on election day.
Izzy Wilson is affiliated with the Labor Party