ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Director's update: Engaging in the ACT Election

2 September 2016

By Susan Helyar, Director, ACT Council of Social Service

Getting the message through: Leaders forum & shared statement

On Monday 29 August 2016 ACTCOSS hosted the first head to head leaders debate of the ACT Election campaign. It is fitting that the first forum of this election should be about responding to the social priorities that so many of you have identified through our shared statement for the 2016 ACT Election.

This shared statement was signed by 20 organisations and seeks to frame the election by inviting candidates to see city infrastructure, services, social infrastructure, the local environment and economic development as linked underpinning resources that we need to invest in and harness in unison if we are to achieve a fair, prosperous and sustainable Canberra over the next ACT Legislative Assembly.

Over 20 organisations signed up and coming out of this unprecedented commitment we are starting to see the change that can come from working together.

Our goal was to encourage party leaders to take notice of issues that mightn’t be getting airplay, but are critical to everyday voters. We have seen progress towards this goal already.

For instance, on Monday night we saw some significant announcements:

  • The Canberra Liberals confirmed they supported a goal of 100 per cent renewables by 2020 and zero emissions by 2050
  • The Labor Party pledged $1 million in grants to build bulk-billing GP centres in Tuggeranong and Molonglo and mentioned they were planning announcements on affordable and accessible housing
  • The ACT Greens promised to freeze public transport fares and implement a housing affordability policy, which would place a member of the social and affordable housing sector on the Land Development Agency's board. They also promised action on universal housing design. 

Meanwhile a number of questioners used the opportunity to bell the cat on some important social issues that so far have gained minimal attention in the campaign. These included the case for harm minimisation in drug law reform and concerns about sustained support for information, linkage and capacity building services for people with disability in the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Many of the answers to other questions on the justice system, the aspirations of older people, support to children and young people in the out of home care system and the need for employment opportunities and security included consideration of how action on affordable housing could contribute to addressing these needs.

Many conversations, many ways to be heard: Upcoming events

ACTCOSS is strictly non-partisan in our work and the Federal Election outcome, which saw a large crossbench, has shown the importance of initiating dialogue across the political spectrum about justice, fairness and the kind of city we want to be.

That is why Monday night’s leaders debate is only one of the ways we are engaging with candidates.

In April and May we engaged a range of candidates on the personal stories and evidence of housing stress in their own electorates through our Stories of Home events.

Lunch with the Independents - 23 September

As a next step, from 12 noon to 2.00pm on Friday 23 September at the ACTCOSS offices in Weston, we will be inviting independent and smaller party candidates, not currently represented in the ACT Legislative Assembly, to join us at Lunch with the Independents – a chance for local independents to ask questions of us, gain quality briefing and meet with local peak organisations within a genuine dialogue.  More information will be available soon.

Canberra Housing Social Media Forum - 10 September

We’re also holding a housing social media forum on 10 September that will allow voters and candidates alike to tell stories, put up ideas and be part of a conversation about housing and homelessness in our city.

We are delighted that both Minister Yvette Berry MLA and Shadow Minister Nicole Lawder MLA, have now agreed to post in the forum and participate in various ways in the lead up to and across the day

Anyone can have a say and you can join the event on Saturday 10 September 2016 from 10.00am – 4.00pm in the Facebook event or via Twitter #CBRHousing.

Can’t make it on Saturday? Well, the forum is already online so you can also speak up before and after the event to be included. 

Getting everyone out to vote

ACTCOSS believes that it’s pivotal that every Canberran, whatever their issues may be, exercise the right to take part in the election due on 15 October 2016.

Voting is a human right in the ACT and all our voices should count. That’s why we’re also publishing in our eNotices some important factual voter information on the new electorates, resources and support available to voters who are sometimes at risk of being excluded and the logistics of having your say.

You can also find comprehensive voting information via Elections ACT