The future of renewable energy in Australia is a hot topic at the moment, as my RiotACT post discusses:
Regardless of whether you think that using clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar is the “right” thing to do for our environment, within a few years it’s going to be the smart thing to do financially.
Recently I attended a meeting where Stephen Parker outlined his latest plans for the University of Canberra. I was impressed by the vision and wrote about it for the RiotACT:
UC has outlined an ambitious program for transforming itself into a world-ranked university that supports a wide range of teaching, research and development programs run by both public and private enterprises. This will reshape the suburb and the Belconnen town centre forever.
After sending an open letter to the Chief Minister and relevant Federal Ministers, the ACT Chief Minister’s response states that there have been motions in the Assembly on maintaining immigration in Belconnen, and letters have been written to the relevant Ministers. However, to stop rogue Federal Department Secretaries destroying communities and to genuinely accommodate ‘local interests’, the ACT government and Federal government MUST work together. I am suggesting that:
The Federal Government should notify the ACT Legislative Assembly of any potential movements of 100 or more Federal public service employees.
The Federal Government should provide the ACT Legislative Assembly with a list of upcoming lease expirations that would affect staff of 100 or more.
A bi-annual committee should be established comprising of representatives of the Federal Department of Finance and representatives of the ACT Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate to discuss any possible responses to any movements of 100 or more public service employees.
After 25 years of self-government, it is an opportune time to rethink how we expect our Assembly to operate.
At the moment there is an ivory tower mentality held by many in the Assembly. Uniquely amongst parliamentary systems in Australia, members are not allocated local electorate offices. This means that MLAs and their staff can work in the Legislative Assembly every day and virtually never see their actual electorates.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr is on record as wanting Canberra to be the “coolest little capital city”. And while the tower might have seen better days, it is iconic and will continue to attract tourists. As one of the first experiences that many tourists have of Canberra, let’s use some creativity and investment to make it unforgettable.
I have been asked to contribute some guest posts for the RiotACT. My first post continues the push for the Commonwealth to adopt a more consultative approach if it wants to move departments around the city. Here’s an excerpt:
The Federal Government is by far the largest employer in the ACT. Precisely because of these large potential impacts, the local governments of most cities with a single major employer remain in constant conversation about employment and investment decisions. Yet the ACT Government remains strangely disengaged about this whole affair, and appears to be just hoping that things work out.
Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance
Hon Jamie Briggs MP, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development
Andrew Barr MLA, Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory
(click to view PDF)
Dear Minister Cormann, Assistant Minister Briggs, and Chief Minister Barr
The potential move of 4000 Department of Immigration and Border Protection employees out of the Belconnen Town Centre would be devastating if it went ahead. As the employer of more than one-third of all Canberra workers, the federal government has a unique duty of care to Canberra citizens.
Now that Finance has taken responsibility for the Commonwealth property portfolio, it is pleasing that Minister Cormann’s press release of 11 May 2015 agrees that ‘local impacts’ need to be taken into account. However, the Commonwealth can still unilaterally act in a way that seriously damages the ACT.
As such I am requesting three commitments from you:
To amend the National Capital Plan so that all major proposals to change Commonwealth employment arrangements in the ACT are first subject to consultation with the ACT Chief Minister and affected communities.
To rule out any move of Immigration employees out of the Belconnen Town Centre.
Should the Commonwealth want to consolidate Immigration and Customs into one location, that it will first consult the ACT government and community on the option of moving Customs to Belconnen.
I look forward to your response.
Kim Fischer #BetterBelconnen
UPDATE: The Chief Minister responded to my open letter on 30 June. His full reply can be viewed here.
I asked the National Capital Authority at their Annual Public Forum on Thursday what they were planning to do to respond to the potential move of the Department of Immigration out of Belconnen. Specifically, how they intended to make it so that Canberra wouldn’t be left in this situation in the future.
I wasn’t very impressed with their response. Apparently Belconnen is in the Parliamentary Triangle now?
Needless to say I approve. I really want Whitlam to be a Belconnen suburb since its key construction period was during Gough Whitlam’s time in parliament. I still think the idea of the Gough and Margaret Whitlam walk raised as part of my Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan 2015 submission has legs:
Much as part of the walk around Lake Burley Griffin is named after former Prime Minister Robert Menzies, I think it would be fitting for a part of the Lake Ginninderra Walk to be named the “Gough and Margaret Whitlam Walk”.
– Kim Fischer, Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan Submission.