What the Liberal Democrats stand for
A High Quality of Life
While Canberra residents enjoy a high standard of living, there are some warning signs that government provided services are not up to scratch. About half of all parents choose to educate their children outside the public schooling system at some stage of their education. We have some of the worst hospital waiting times in Australia. Our public housing system is bloated and inefficient. The cost of childcare is beyond the means of many working parents. Young homebuyers can often only find affordable houses in far-flung suburbs on small blocks, as Canberra begins to feel the impact of a confused planning system, and we see concerning signs of a two-tiered market developing in the housing sector. Mum and dad investors are now finding themselves paying a quarter of their rental earnings in land taxes, rates and other fees to the ACT government.
A vote for the ACT Liberal Democrats is a vote for choice and flexibility in education and childcare. We would act to address housing affordability issues in Canberra. After all, government policies should focus on genuine homebuyers, not speculators. While we acknowledge that the federal funding of state and territory health systems is a complex issue, we believe that reform to the delivery of medical services within the ACT could achieve significant benefits for citizens. You would be voting for serious reform to public housing in Canberra, allowing government to prioritise access to a smaller stock of housing based on need. And you would be voting against the seemingly endless increases in rates, levied by a government that seeks more and more from its citizens without looking for efficiencies within its own operations first.
A Diversified Economy
The ACT is home to a large part of the Commonwealth public service. We all benefit from having thousands of well-paid, securely employed and well-educated citizens drawing an income from the federal government. This benefit, however, is not without its risks. Many of us would recall the impact of cuts to the APS in the early Howard years on house prices, unemployment and bankruptcies. More recent efficiency dividends, job cuts and the movement of APS roles out of Canberra have also had a negative impact on the ACT region. Indications are that these reductions will continue into the foreseeable future, as more functions are moved to other cities and regional areas, and individual vacancies created by retirements in an ageing APS remain unfilled by government agencies.
The ACT also faces revenue challenges. The Commonwealth government has expended huge amounts of money in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this money will need to be paid back. We should fully expect that funding to states and territories will necessarily decrease over the coming years. The ACT could also lose out in GST reform. GST revenue is raised through a tax on all non-exempted goods and services and is allocated by the Commonwealth to states and territories using a series of complicated formulas. The ACT is currently a net recipient of GST funding – which is to say, we receive more from the Commonwealth government than we pay in GST. With the intensity of lobbying of the larger states and territories, it is uncertain whether the ACT will continue to receive an equally favourable deal into the future.
On the upside, Canberra is home to a pool of highly-skilled labour, a great number of national bodies and functions that provide roles in servicing the federal government, and world-class research institutions and educational facilities.
The ACT government should be responsive and act now to address the probable reduction of APS employment in Canberra and the possibility of decreases in GST and other funding. A vote for the ACT Liberal Democrats is a push to diversify the local economy. We know that this can be achieved by encouraging private investment by reducing red tape and restrictions, and by reducing the cost of doing business in Canberra. Industry should be encouraged to partner with government in the provision of services, to work with our research institutions to innovate, and to make long-term investments that create jobs and stimulate economic activity. It will require the removal of unnecessary barriers to competition that protect special interests and the reduction of the growing array of taxes that unfairly punish business under the guise of government service delivery.
A diversified economy is the only way in which Canberra residents can ensure that we continue to enjoy a high quality of living in the face of the challenges of coming decades.
Your Personal Freedom
The ACT has seen a significant increase in rules and regulations affecting the way each of us can live our lives. University students have been fined for cycling without a helmet between classes on campus. The government engages bureaucrats to run consultation processes on what we should be allowed to do with the green strip in front of your property. There have been calls to ban the humble moggie from going outside. If you choose to go out of an evening, there are pages of rules about where you can drink, what you can drink, in what volume and in which container, and at what time you can drink it.
We have had 19 years of avowedly progressive government, but are still little closer to progress on voluntary euthanasia or marijuana legalisation. In fact, there are now more rules and restrictions on what you can do than ever before.
A vote for the ACT Liberal Democrats is a vote against the Nanny State. It is a vote for common sense and personal responsibility. We don’t believe that the right way of dealing with a one-in-a-thousand problem is to punish the vast majority of People who do the right thing. We will oppose any lockout laws because they do just that: they punish the law-abiding majority for actions of a tiny minority. We would work to ensure that cats are not banned from going outside, but rather look to work within the current system where owners are responsible for their pets, including their impact on local wildlife.
While there have been obstacles to the ACT legislating on matters such as euthanasia (and previously gay marriage), we would look to work cooperatively with likeminded MLAs to undertake work towards a trial euthanasia program and to lobby the federal government for change on the matter. Finally, we would seek to end the waste of government resources tied up in the policing and prosecution of marijuana users. A vote for the ACT Liberal Democrats would be a vote for a sensible policy on marijuana—that is, the full legalisation of the growth, consumption and sale of marijuana—allowing adults to make decisions for themselves.
If you believe that societies don’t tax their way to prosperity, if you worry about the rise of the Nanny State, if you despair at the cosy relationships between the major parties and special interest groups, and if you think that your government ought to spend more time balancing the books and spend less time passing rules about matters of personal choice, the ACT Liberal Democrats is for you.
Your Economic Freedom
People cannot have personal freedom without economic freedom. It simply isn’t possible to divide people’s lives into an “economic sphere” that is tightly controlled and a “personal sphere” where people are free to pursue lifestyle choices. These spheres are not independent of each other. The economic sphere does not only pertain to “material concerns”. It is also the sphere where businesses and non-profits enable people to engage in their lifestyle choices.
As an example, people wishing to express their religion need to have the freedom to save money, buy land and raw materials, and to then have the freedom to use those materials to build the church or other structure that conforms to the specific requirements of the religion. Without such freedom then people are dependent on convincing the government that their religion is worth investing in and in such a circumstance it is highly likely that minority or fringe religions will be discriminated against. The same applies to charities or non-profits looking to gather the materials they need to help their community in the areas that they feel are needed. Or to musicians, artists, writers, broadcasters and so on. All of these groups and individuals benefit from the economic freedom to buy and sell materials and convert them to the products and services that they deem more valuable.
The economic sphere is intrinsically interlinked with people trying to live their life in the way that gives them meaning.
Economic freedom is a vital component of human dignity, autonomy and personal empowerment. There is not, however, a single system or country that provides perfect freedom to its citizens, nor is there a clear consensus by academics about exactly which aspects of economic freedom are the most important. What is clear, however, is that both economic theory and real-life experience tell us that policies that allow greater freedom brings greater prosperity. Societies are healthier, the environment is cleaner, there is greater wealth per person, and real poverty is eliminated.
The ACT Liberal Democrat’s policy on economic freedom is essentially interlinked with all of our policies. We support efficient regulation that is not burdensome and is without undue interference, combined with an honest, fair and effective judicial system that is accessible to all and can deal with issues in a timely manner. Combining these components with our civil liberties and freedom for people in our community to engage in the lifestyle choices they want will enable people to open the businesses and non-profits that engage with their preferences, and to tailor the environment, heritage, and character of our city and region to match.
The official page of the Liberal Democratic Party in the Australian Capital Territory. Authorised by Guy Jakeman, Florey, ACT, 2615