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Cabinet reshuffle: a strategic move or an incoherent jumble?

Jodi Morrell

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr implemented his foreshadowed cabinet reshuffle on 20 January this year. He announced a probable expansion of the ministry after stepping up as Chief Minister in December last year. As outlined in the local newspaper in late January there have been no huge surprises or major changes to the cabinet line-up and most current ministers retained their existing responsibilities. The expansion the Chief Minister had planned included newly created portfolios for urban renewal, to be retained by Mr Barr, social inclusion and equality to be allocated to new kid on the block, Yvette Berry and transport reform being allocated to Shane Rattenbury.

While you may think this to be old news and no huge changes or big surprises, this is a reshuffle which simply demonstrates that there’s a new Chief Minister in town. It also gave Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson the opportunity to slam the changes as incoherent. Hanson has claimed that with three separate ministers having overlapping responsibilities for transport issues, ministers will be competing for issues rather than perhaps resolving them.

What no one has mentioned yet is that, in my ever so humble opinion, the Chief Minister has made an extremely strategic move in boosting the number of ministers who deal with transport issues. With an election coming up next year, he’s set himself up with three potential scapegoats that he can throw at us, the trusty Canberra populace, if we get het up about a transport issue between now and then.

Let’s face it, transport issues really push our buttons here in Canberra. In early January, we had a conniption when Tharwa Drive had to be closed and motorists faced delays of up to 90 minutes. Now, when you add the fact that this was a temporary issue because a fire station was being built and the sewer pipe needed to be laid, our reaction could be gauged as unreasonable. After all, a 90 minute delay in traffic is probably a daily occurrence for someone in Sydney. Plus, the infrastructure being built was for our emergency services.

But when you put our objections in the context of our fair city, they make sense. When it comes to traffic and roads we are downright spoilt. We’ve only recently had to begin paying for parking around the capital when other cities instituted this years ago. Everywhere in Canberra is a maximum of 30 minutes’ drive from everywhere else. We live in an accessible city, the roads are maintained extremely well and generally, as a population, we’ve been pretty spoilt being able to just drive ourselves everywhere.

The Chief Minister has demonstrated with his emphasis on transport issues in his new cabinet that he intends to move the city forward. We’ve already demonstrated with our reaction to the paid parking concept and general inability to cope with road works and slight delays in our commutes that Canberra is sensitive – and resistant to change – when it comes to transport issues. So Mr Barr has set himself up, not only with a team of three ministers to help him shove us through the change process of adapting to new transportation systems in Canberra, but with three potential scapegoats he can blame when our resistance gets too much and he needs to back down on something.

What do you think of the new Cabinet? Are we going in the right direction to develop our transportation systems in the city? Dare I ask a question about light rail? Let’s talk about these issues so we can become a city that adapts to change rather than resisting it with all our might.

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Jodi Morrell

Jodi Morrell recently abandoned her long-term public service career to pursue her passion for writing full time. She is passionate about politics, federal and local, and loves to explore and understand opposing political standpoints. Jodi loves travel, good food and wine, fitness and obstacle races (the muddier the better) and books. More about the Author

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