ACT Labor-Greens cabinet meets for first time | The Canberra Times

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The new-look ACT cabinet featuring three Greens ministers has met for the first time. Greens leader Shane Rattenbury was announced as the ACT’s new Attorney-General last week, joined in cabinet by first-term Greens MLAs Rebecca Vassarotti and Emma Davidson. Mr Rattenbury said the meeting delved into issues like the territory’s coronavirus response and bushfire preparations. “It was really straight down to work today,” he said. “There’s obviously a different physical feel to the cabinet, there are now nine ministers for the first time. “With the three Greens ministers it was really straight down to business, they have all been briefed in by their directorates.” It was the first time Mr Rattenbury has been joined by any Greens colleagues in cabinet meetings. “The cabinet operated as it has done in recent years – everyone contributed to the conversation, members were very focused on the business that was there, making sure that the decisions reflect both their own views and the advice being put forward by agencies,” he said. “In that sense it was an unremarkable cabinet, but great for me to have some colleagues there.” Mr Rattenbury said in his experience, the Greens-Labor cabinet worked in a collegiate way. “People discuss matters quite frankly, but in terms of whether it’s myself and other ministers, there often are robust conversations,” he said. “But they are very policy focused, there are no obvious factions, it’s really about getting the best outcomes for Canberrans.” The first sitting week of the new Parliamentary term will begin in the first week of December, while the delayed budget will be handed down early next year. READ MORE: The Greens won six seats at the October election and negotiated a power sharing deal with Labor that landed them with three ministers. Ms Vassarotti has been given the environment and heritage portfolios, while Ms Davidson is overseeing mental health and disabilities. It also marked the first cabinet meeting for new Labor minister Tara Cheyne, who has been handed the business, human rights and arts portfolios. She was picked for the job over former minister Suzanne Orr in a party room meeting.


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Three new ministers in ACT cabinet as Labor-Greens Government focuses on climate action

The ACT’s Labor-Greens Government includes three new ministers, two of whom have not yet sat in the Legislative Assembly.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who will remain Treasurer, unveiled the nine-person cabinet on Tuesday.

He has taken on for himself a new portfolio of “climate action” — the issue at the heart of the parliamentary deal between the two parties.

That deal, struck over the weekend after two weeks of negotiations, included agreement on six Labor and three Greens ministers.

“A key priority in this portfolio will be to commence work on Canberra’s big battery — the largest battery-storage system in Australia — as well as the rollout of the sustainable and resilient household scheme, and our climate change adaptation and resilience programs,” Mr Barr said.

For the first time, the ACT will have a chief law officer who is not a member of the lead governing party.

Greens leader Shane Rattenbury will be Attorney-General, taking the place of Labor’s Gordon Ramsay, who lost his seat at last month’s election.

Mr Rattenbury has also been named Gaming Minister and will oversee policies to reduce harmful gambling — another area outlined in the parties’ governing agreement.

The other senior ministries remain mostly unchanged — Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry retains the education and housing portfolios; Rachel Stephen-Smith is Minister for Health, Family and Community Services; Mick Gentleman is responsible for police and emergency services; and Chris Steel remains in charge of transport and city services.

Veteran Labor MLA Joy Burch will stay in her role as Speaker of the Assembly.

New women in female-dominated cabinet

Labor MLA Tara Cheyne will be the ACT’s first Human Rights Minister.(ABC News: Tom Lowrey)

The Labor caucus’s 10 members decided at a party meeting yesterday to dump former community services minister Suzanne Orr from cabinet and replace her with Ginninderra MLA Tara Cheyne.

Mr Barr said Ms Cheyne would be his Assistant Minister for Economic Development, but also have several portfolios of her own, including arts, business, human rights and multicultural affairs.

The Chief Minister noted it was the first time the ACT would have a human rights minister, saying Ms Cheyne would “lead the Government’s advocacy for the right of our community to determine laws on voluntary assisted dying”.

The main surprise in the cabinet make-up was the relatively senior portfolios given to new Greens MLA Rebecca Vassarroti.

After the election, Mr Barr expressed his personal opposition to appointing new MLAs as ministers, saying it was too much of a burden on someone who lacked experience in the Assembly.

However, unlike the other new ministers, Ms Vassarroti, as Environment Minister, will be in charge of her own government directorate.

She has also been given responsibility for heritage, homelessness and housing services, and sustainable building and construction — putting her in control of efforts to improve Canberra’s much-criticised building code.

Ms Vassarroti’s fellow newly elected Greens MLA Emma Davidson will enter cabinet as Assistant Minister for Families and Community Services, and manage the junior portfolios of disability, justice health and mental health.

Mr Barr said he was the first chief minister to have 16 members to choose from to form a cabinet, as a result of Labor and the Greens’ election success.

“It would have been very difficult for a single party to govern alone in this parliament,” he said.

The ACT electorate of Kurrajong, which represents Canberra’s central suburbs, is unusually well represented in the new cabinet: four of its five members are now ministers.


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ACT Labor-Greens governing agreement prioritises public housing, action on climate change, transport

The Greens will have three ministers in the next ACT Government, under a parliamentary agreement that aims to speed up the phasing-out of petrol vehicles and expand the number of social housing properties.

The parties announced their new governing agreement for the next four years today, committing ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr to appointing three Greens to his nine-member ministry.

The agreement outlines a renewed focus on climate change, planning, housing and transport for the next four years.

Mr Barr said he looked forward to governing jointly with the Greens, who won a record six seats at the election on October 17.

“My entire political career has been based upon collaboration, compromise and working with other people to get an outcome,” Mr Barr said.

ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said he was glad to have a closer relationship with Labor for the next term.

“It gives me great confidence that the two groups are building a collaborative relationship for the next four years,” he said.

The Greens and Labor will hold 16 of the ACT Legislative Assembly’s 25 seats in the tenth assembly.(ABC News: Dave Sciasci)

At least one Labor minister to lose portfolios

The new Cabinet will be made up of nine ministers, with three of those spots being taken by the Greens.

It means one of Labor’s ministers in the previous assembly will be forced out of Cabinet.

The party had already lost one minister, former attorney-general Gordon Ramsay, because he was not re-elected.

The new Ministry is set to be announced tomorrow.

Climate change, social housing chief among joint commitments

The headline promise between the parties is an expanded program of climate change initiatives, including pushing forward plans to reduce the number of petrol cars on ACT roads — now the biggest source of carbon emissions in Canberra.

Labor and the Greens say they want to adopt an “ambitious target” for all new vehicles sold in the ACT by 2030 to be emissions-free.

To help reach that target, a promised zero-interest loan scheme for rooftop solar will be expanded to allow people to borrow up to $15,000 to buy an electric or hydrogen car.

New electric and hydrogen car buyers will also be offered free vehicle registration for two years.

And the Government will also install at least 50 new charging stations across Canberra for electric vehicles.

In a move that will further distance it from the Federal Government, the parties have also agreed to new plans that will accelerate the ACT’s move away from gas.

The Government already had a 2045 target in place for phasing out gas.

Under the new agreement, legislation will be introduced next year to ban gas connections in greenfield developments, and a transition program will be developed with industry to begin phasing out gas in existing areas.

New ACT Government buildings, whether owned or leased, will be all-electric, as will the planned Molonglo Commercial Centre.

The Government will also raise minimum energy efficiency standards for rentals, while providing $50 million to improve energy efficiency for social housing, low-income owners and low-performing rentals.

Monday’s agreement also resulted in the Government pledging to spend $18 million on homelessness services, acknowledging the sector had not received a growth in funding to meet the recent explosion in demand.

The Government also aims to build 1,000 new affordable homes in the next five years, 400 of which would be public housing dwellings.

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) welcomed the Labor-Greens commitment to housing, saying it looked forward to working with the Government to ensure the “progressive reform agenda” was successfully implemented.

“Community housing needs to be a strong focus if we are to meet the current shortfall of 3,000 social houses in the ACT,” ACTCOSS chief executive Emma Campbell said.

“We also call on the new government to enact a Right to Housing in the ACT Human Rights Act.”

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