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Monday, April 12, 2021

World first: Greens hold balance of power for fourth time

ACT Labor and the ACT Greens signed on Monday a Parliamentary and Governing Agreement to work together as a two-party government – the first time a Greens party has been returned for a fourth term as balance of power holders anywhere in the world.

The Greens representation has swelled to six – triple the numbers in the previous session. Five new members join party leader Shane Rattenbury, whose colleague Caroline Le Couteur retired ahead of the election in October.

Three Greens will serve as ministers. Mr Rattenbury has been appointed Attorney-General and Minister for Consumer Affairs, for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction, and for Gaming; Emma Davidson is Minister for Disability, Justice Health, and Mental Health; and Rebecca Vassarotti is Minister for the Environment, Heritage, Homelessness and Housing Services, and Sustainable Building and Construction.

Under the Agreement, the two parties agreed to focus on sustainable economic development; protection and creation of secure local jobs; a healthy natural environment; closing the gap for First Nations people; rapid transition to zero net emissions while protecting households; reducing inequality and poverty; providing dignified housing to all Canberrans; and governance with integrity and transparency.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the Agreement would ensure a stable Territory Government that benefitted from the distinct but collaborative approaches of the two political parties, and entrenched the Government’s commitment to climate action, taking the next essential steps to net zero emissions.

“The agreement … reflects our shared progressive values and our shared commitment to continuing improvements to health, education, transport, and housing, whilst taking real action on climate change,” Mr Barr said.

Mr Rattenbury said the Agreement would continue the parties’ productive working relationship to address the social, economic, and environmental challenges the community faced.

“The Agreement represents Labor and the Greens’ shared commitment to serve the people of the ACT, and to govern with, for, and in the best interests of Canberrans,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“Our commitment is to work in genuine partnership while we retain our distinct political identities and operating cultures. We have demonstrated over previous terms that we can collaborate, compromise, and innovate to get good outcomes. And that is what we plan to deliver for Canberrans during this term.”

The Greens took a “bold and progressive” agenda to the election, Mr Rattenbury said. “From the vast and destructive fires and suffocating smoke at the start of the year to the social, emotional, and economic impact of the pandemic, it is clear that business as usual will not help us meet the challenges we are facing.

“We need to take action to address the climate crisis. We must do more to ensure everyone has a roof over their head, and we need to confront the growing inequality in our community.”

The Agreement committed both parties to undertake rapid science-based action to mitigate and adapt to climate change, Mr Rattenbury said. He promised to phase out fossil fuel gas in the ACT by building all-electric suburbs and in-fill developments; creating the ACT’s first gas-free all-electric commercial centre in Molonglo; and helping households transition from gas to electric.

Climate ready and environmentally sustainable buildings, zero emission vehicles, an expanded light rail network, and better walking and cycling infrastructure were also on the cards.

A thousand new public and community housing dwellings by the middle of the decade would help address homelessness and affordable housing – some of the most expensive in the country – while the Greens also wanted to foster neighbourhood democracy, giving Canberrans a stronger voice in how their city is governed, and what their neighbourhoods were like.

“One question that has already been posed is whether we can get it all done,” Mr Rattenbury said. 

“It is a broad-ranging agenda brimming with plans to make this city better and meet the needs and aspirations of our citizens. It is ambitious; but we make no apologies for that. It is what we stood for, and it is what the city of this people deserve.

“For the Greens, we would rather set stretch goals than have a shortage of ambition. This agreement does that, and we Greens look forward to working with our colleagues in the Labor party to deliver our ambitious plans for the residents of this Territory.”

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