Standing up for Canberra

Transcript: Interview with Mark Parton

SUBJECTS: National Capital Authority; Conscience vote

MARK PARTON: We read this morning that Federal Cabinet has agreed to significantly curtail the power of the National Capital Authority over planning in parts of Canberra, signing off on a proposal to scrap the authority’s control over the Molonglo and the Murrumbidgee River Corridor, also the Namadgi National Park and the Tuggeranong Valley. Now we all know why this has happened, don’t we? The change is pushed by ACT Senator Zed Seselja and he’s got this dream, he’s got this vision, which I think sounds pretty exciting, of creating more residential space in Tuggeranong out west of where the Town Centre is now. So I’m gathering it’s one of the main reasons why he’s pushing for this. We’ll find out because Zed is on the line right now. He’s Liberal Senator for the ACT. We’ve also been joined by Gai Brodtmann, who’s the Federal Labor member for Canberra. Hello Zed, hello Gai.


ZED SESELJA, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR THE ACT: Good morning guys, how are you?

PARTON: Excellent. I’m gathering that’s what’s behind this push, Zed?

SESELJA: Well it was certainly a big part of what started the conversation. I mean, I’ve had the view for a long time that the NCA should be doing a better job in its core areas like the Parliamentary Triangle and doing less in other areas, and certainly that’s been my view for a long time. Certainly the restrictions on West Tuggeranong, which were imposed before self-government a long time ago Mark, have really held back the whole southern part of Canberra because Tuggeranong was designed to be much bigger, the fact that the Town Centre is on the Western edge demonstrates that it was meant to be in the Centre and it wasn’t and that means a number of things. It means that we’ve run out of new greenfields affordable housing in Tuggeranong, so people go over the border. It means less facilities at the Tuggeranong Town Centre so less job opportunities, less educational opportunities for our kids and young people. So all of those things have come together and so by removing that restriction, which is there from the Commonwealth at the moment and won’t be under this proposal, I think it would be great for Tuggeranong and I think it would be great for right across Canberra. And this has implications right across Canberra in places like West Belconnen as well.

PARTON: Gai your electoral office is smack bang right in the middle of Tuggeranong, right there on the main street, what are your thoughts on this?

BRODTMANN: Well I was interested to see the report today and I know that Zed’s been pushing this for some time. I didn’t realise that it had gained the momentum that it had, and good on him for that, but I look forward to reading the report and making a comment.

PARTON: But you can just tell us what you think generally, Gai?

BRODTMANN: Yes I am on Anketell Street and for some time I’ve been saying that the focus should be on revitalising Tuggeranong - now. There’s a heap of empty office space around my office and what we need - now - is density in the existing Town Centre. We’ve got South Quay coming on board which is going to be fantastic for bringing in more residents to the Town Centre or just on the edge. I’ve been pushing for a CIT, the new CIT that the ACT Government’s proposing, to be on Anketell Street to get that density, to get that life actually happening in the Town Centre. What we need is plans to revitalise the Town Centre - now.

SESELJA: Gai can I respond? I agree with you. I think that those things are very important. I think more density and things like some of those apartment developments are a good thing for the Town Centre. I think also though that if you’re going to see investment in places like the Tuggeranong Town Centre, people need to know that there’s going to be growth and there’s going to be the population to support that sort of investment. So I think in the short term, you’re right, but I think you also need a medium-term plan as to how you revitalise these areas and I think the two go hand in hand.

PARTON: I wonder how much of a difference South Quay is going to make for Tuggeranong? Because it won’t be long before we actually see that structure taking place.

BRODTMANN: Well I hear it’s selling well and I think it will make a huge difference just in terms of bringing people closer to the Town Centre, using the facilities there. The more residential in the Town Centre or just on the edge of it the better in my view. Just going back to the West Tuggeranong plan, as I said it’s great that Zed’s got a vision. We all have a vision for Tuggeranong and how we can revitalise it and ensure that it remains strong and prosperous for the future, but there are concerns about it. There were concerns expressed when it was floated some years ago in terms of the environmental impact and also the need for bridges to get into that centre. At that time, when the idea was originally floated, it was said that there needed to be one bridge which was going to cost millions and millions of dollars. But I understand now there’s a need for two bridges to meet existing or modern environmental standards.

PARTON: When it comes to small town Tuggeranong – because I still see Tuggeranong as like a small town – can I just give a small plug to one of the businesses which is like three doors down from you Gai. How cool is the dry cleaners over on your side of the building?

BRODTMANN: They’re fantastic! They’ve been there forever. I had lunch with Kate just recently and it was great hearing her story about the business. They’re part of the Tuggeranong family, very much so.

PARTON: Yeah they are. Good to see. Gai while we’re talking, are you prepared to comment at all – Gai says “oh oh, what’s coming” – on Tanya Plibersek’s push to basically take the conscience vote out of it and get everyone to vote the same way with same sex marriage. David Feeney’s not on the same page. Are you prepared to comment on that?

BRODTMANN: Sure. Yes I’ve been commenting on this all week Mark. Zed and I had a discussion on this earlier in the week. I support marriage equality but I also support a conscience vote. And I support a conscience vote because I believe we’re a tolerant party and we’re a party that can tolerate and accommodate a broad range of views. My electorate supports marriage equality which is why I’ve adopted that position, but there are others whose electorates don’t hold that view and they’re reflecting the view of their electorates. So I do believe that they should have the ability to exercise their conscience.

PARTON: Alright, while you were making that comment I’m sure that was a text coming in from Malcolm Turnball was it Zed?

SESELJA: [laughing] It wasn’t actually. It was a friend of mine. I’m trying to see what it is. I’ll get to it later.

BRODTMANN: Well that’s the issue here. We have conscience and they don’t!

PARTON: Gai! Let him have his say.

SESELJA: If I could say one thing. First thing is that Tanya Plibersek is showing great hypocrisy here because only a year or two ago she was saying ‘well the Coalition has to have a conscience vote on this issue’ and now she’s saying that the Labor party shouldn’t have a conscience vote on this issue. So I’m not really sure how those two match up. What I would say is that we do have a conscience vote. We have a conscience vote on everything in the Liberal party. We don’t always have a free vote where we have a policy. At the moment we have a policy that is against same sex marriage; I support that policy and I would vote in favour of that policy. But we don’t throw people out of the party like the Labor party does if they cross the floor, and that is the fundamental difference. So people who take a different view in the Liberal party won’t be expelled if they happen to vote against the party line.

PARTON: Martin Miller has just commented on Twitter, in closing, and he says ‘good old Zed. The Senator for Tuggeranong. Nowhere else matters.’

SESELJA: Can I just respond to that Mark because I did make the point that these changes apply right across the board. West Belconnen, there’s a housing development proposal there and this would mean that it can be streamlined. So whilst Tuggeranong has a particular restriction that doesn’t exist in other parts which will be taken away, which I think is a very good thing. Belconnen doesn’t have that restriction but will see significant benefits as we streamline affordable housing in places like West Belconnen. So I reject that. This actually benefits right around the city.

PARTON: Zed and Gai, thanks again for your time this morning.

BRODTMANN: Thanks Mark, thanks Zed.

SESELJA: Thanks guys.