The ACT Government is ACT Labor, with the opposition being the Canberra Liberals. Democracy is made up from government and opposition. The balance counts. So, what is the role of the ACT Greens in promoting cycling?
The power balance in the Legislative Assembly is dependent on its make-up. The members of the ACT Legislative Assembly are found here. Canberra Liberals and ACT Labor have their familiar roles. ACT Greens can throw their weight into the mix to balance the scale – at least in theory. What happens in reality lies in the detail. The Parliamentary Agreement and parliamentary process are the rules of the game. Can the ACT Greens improve the lot for cyclists?
Improving cycling in Canberra requires money and strategic change leadership (and expert change management). The ministries that are most valuable for enabling a cycling culture are the big three portfolios: Health (Stephen-Smith, Rachel), Education (Berry, Yvette), and Transport (Steel, Chris). Planning (Gentleman, Mick) has little influence on cycling networks as it is seen as the responsibility of Transport.
All four of these ministers belong to ACT Labour. ACT Greens is the outsider. ACT Labor have the lion share of money and power. The ministers work autonomously and are largely independent of each other. There appears to be an unwritten rule, that “you shall not dip your fingers into my pie, and I shall not dip mine into yours.” At a cabinet level, the ACT Greens do not have a lot to say that would immediately help cyclists in Canberra.
Having worked out who is responsible for what, we can consider what is possible and compare it to the current state.
The health agenda gets the lion share in the ACT Budget ($2 billion). This may be surprising, as most of us rarely spend any time at a hospital. The ACT has a good health system, but it is expensive, and the costs continue to grow. ACT Health are aware that our lifestyle is a major factor in our health, and the associated cost. A more active lifestyle would improve our physical health, wellbeing, and longevity. We would live happier and better lives. For this reason, the goal of cycling is beyond zero: not just decrease traffic related deaths to zero, but making our lives better and longer through a more active lifestyle.
It has often been stated that power is money. ACT government strategies desire that more money is spent on active travel, including cycling. ACT Health (Stephen-Smith, Rachel), Education (Berry, Yvette), and Transport (Steel, Chris) would all save money if more funding were directed to active travel to achieve an overall positive outcome. Cycling projects have a positive net benefit: the savings to the government are greater than the cost. Below you see the funds from the 2020-2021 ACT Budget by minister portfolio in the 10th Legislative Assembly (2020-2024).
The 2020 ACT Parliamentary Agreement permitted ACT Labor and ACT Greens to form a government. ACT Labor has the majority of the ministers (5 from 8 ministers, or 63%), but notably those ministers control 82% of the budget funds. Money talks, and ACT Labor ministers talk loudest.
Certain directorates would benefit if more people cycled. The areas in the budget where cycling is relevant to policymaking have control of 60% of the budget funds. The other directorates are shown in greyed in the pie chart below and labelled as “other”.
The 2020 ACT Election saw the ACT Greens promise a minimum annual spend of $20 million for cycling – more than any other party. The last pie chart shows the funds available to the directorates that would benefit from cycling. The next chart shows that the $20 million pledge is the equivalent of a 1 cent from every dollar allocated to cycling from the total funds available to those directors that would save the most from implementing this policy. An increase from 1 to 2 percent would double the funds available for cycling – and make a huge difference for all Canberrans. The key to supporting safe and networked cycling (commuting and otherwise) is for all major directorates – under the change leadership of active and visible sponsors – to divert funds to it. The amount is small compared to the funds they have available, but it would make a huge difference towards moving the cycling agenda forward.
ACT Greens in parliament
- Leader of the ACT Greens
- Minister for Consumer Affairs
- Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction
- Minister for Gaming
- Minister for Environment
- Minister for Heritage
- Minister for Homelessness and Housing Services
- Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction
- Assistant Minister for Seniors, Veterans, Families and Community Services
- Minister for Disability
- Minister for Justice Health
- Minister for Mental Health
- ACT Greens whip
- Better Neighbourhoods
- Multicultural Affairs
- Integrity and Community Engagement
- Police and Emergency Services Corrections
- Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations.
- Transport, Active Travel and Road Safety
- Parks and Conservation
- Animal Welfare
- Arts and Culture
- Circular Economy.
- Drug Harm Minimisation
- Night Time Economy
- LGBTIQA+ Affairs
- Sport and Recreation
- Tourism and Events
- Young People.
The fate of Canberra’s cyclists is largely in the hands of ACT Labor. What Labor wants, it gets. The Canberra Liberals are in the opposition, and the ACT Greens are balancing a conflict of interest – they are both government and opposition.