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Friday, May 14, 2021

Chief Minister prefers Greens alliance over crossbench

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said it was his personal preference to form government with the ACT Greens through another parliamentary agreement rather than face a Greens crossbench, but he fully respected their decision-making process.

While the final make-up of the ACT Legislative Assembly is yet to be determined, Labor expects between 10 and 12 seats, Greens between four and six, and Canberra Liberals between eight and 10.

“There will be some ups and downs, we are sweating the results,” Chief Minister Barr said.

He said ACT Labor and ACT Greens had an “80% policy overlap” but conceded the two parties would need to bridge the divide on a pathway to reduce gas emissions and a plan for social housing.

“I can see the basis of a workable parliamentary agreement,” Mr Barr said. “But we will work with either outcome.

“The general structure of the agreement will need to be broad, but planning, social housing, climate change and energy will be features.

“We’ve got to get our big battery in place and electricity infrastructure upgraded before we can make really big inroads away from gas.

“I don’t want to shame anyone away from gas; I do want to support a transition away.

“Right now, the electricity infrastructure is not at sufficient scale to just turn gas off.”

Mr Barr ruled out giving the Deputy Chief Minister role to the Greens and said despite his close personal and working relationship with ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury, he did not think it was viable to have two men in the top two jobs.

“On a personal level, I value his contribution as a cabinet minister, his personal engagement with me and support for me at various points.

“I just don’t think it’s feasible that we’re both from the same electorate and both blokes.

Mr Barr acknowledged the Greens’ strong result and offered flexibility in the cabinet size and timing.

“I have flexibility in cabinet size up to nine,” Barr said. “But it’s a big ask for a brand-new MLA to come in and to be a minister a week later.

“Maybe spend your first year learning the ropes and then come into the cabinet. That might be a sensible option.

“Stanhope threw me in the deep end, and I had to close all those schools. I’m not going to do that to someone.”

Mr Barr said cabinet positions would go to the most qualified and some of his existing members had extensive experience.

“I’m not going to change the health minister in the middle of a pandemic,” he said.

Mr Barr said the Liberals pathway and how they choose to conduct themselves in parliament was an “interesting question” and Saturday’s result would “no doubt” lead Canberra Liberals leader Alistair Coe to do some “soul searching”.

“He is a great representative of the conservative wing of the Canberra Liberal party. I just don’t think he is representative of the broader Canberra community.”

But while the Liberals’ vote wasn’t as strong as expected, Mr Barr said he had listened to their voters, their key commitments of tree planting and cost of living, and would work to address these areas.

“These are things we take seriously,” he said.

“There will be more trees planted in Canberra, that’s a given.

“Our preferred model to reduce the cost of living is with our sustainable household scheme. We think we can save households thousands of dollars every year.

“We still want to continue stamp duty reform, but the pace of that change will be slower.”

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