The ACT Legislative Assembly said farewell to two familiar faces yesterday, Thursday 27 August, on the final sitting day before the 2020 ACT election.
Greens Member for Murrumbidgee, Caroline Le Couteur, and Liberal Member for Ginninderra, Vicki Dunne, both announced last year they would not contest the 2020 election.
Mrs Dunne is the Assembly’s longest serving member, first elected in 2001, and used her valedictory speech to thank the people of Ginninderra for electing her “not once, but five times”.
“I thank them all for their ongoing faith in me … I hope that they are satisfied, that they consider that I have lived up to their expectations.”
She said there are things she “very much regrets” – such as changes to the ACT’s liberal abortion laws – and said Canberra has “a long way to go to improve the way we treat the troubled, the ill, the disabled, the frail and the marginalised”, there have been some “good bits”.
“In 2012 I had the honour of becoming the Speaker of this Assembly. It was not a position I had ever looked for, but it was a singular honour,” she said, as well as highlighting her time as a director and the treasurer with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
Leader of the Canberra Liberals, Alistair Coe, said in the Assembly yesterday that Mrs Dunne is “respected by all” and “has impeccable integrity”.
“To be elected five times … is extraordinary,” he said. “She’s a team player … and her departure will be a significant loss to our party room.”
Ms Le Couteur, who was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2016, said she is “honoured” to have been elected twice to the Assembly. She said a highlight was passing legislation to reduce greenhouse gases in the ACT.
“I guess that’s probably my major concern for the future, we simply, as a world we’re simply not doing enough about climate change. We’re doing the right things here but … we need to do more.”
Ms Le Couteur said that moving forward, she’d like to see the Assembly move to tackle climate change more broadly and reduce “our entire ecological footprint, not just our local greenhouse gases”.
The self-described “hippy from Nimbin” used her valedictory speech to express her disappointment about a number of issues, namely her frustration with Canberra’s planning system. She said the last four years have been “wasted” in this area, citing concerns about unsustainable and unaffordable development as well as community consultation.
With “no idea” what her future plans – COVID-19 has thrown a spanner into the works – Ms Le Couteur said her last day in the Assembly was a “bittersweet moment”.
Mr Rattenbury said Ms Le Couteur was a “crossbencher extraordinaire” and unwavering in her “commitment to make a difference”.