ACT Labor and ACT Green Parliamentary Agreement is a long list of “must haves” and “options”. Cycling is an option. We can be thankful that cycling is mentioned at all.
The ACT 2020 Election was eventful. The ACT Greens and ACT Labor formed government through the Parliamentary and Governing Agreement: 10th Legislative Assembly ACT (2020) (the Parliamentary Agreement). The document is not all that long and contains little about cycling. What is included will be introduced in this article.
The negotiations to form government seem rushed. The “must haves” that ACT Greens and ACT Labor wanted (the reason for forming government) are listed in Appendix 1 and 2. Other things may have been discussed but not committed to. In order to not be lost they were added to Appendix 3 for ACT Labor, and Appendix 4 for the ACT Greens.
- Appendix 1: Policy issues of particular interest
- Appendix 2: Legislative, Executive and Administrative reforms
- Appendix 3: ACT Labor Policy Platform for the 10th Assembly
- Appendix 4 ACT Greens Policy Platform for the 10th Assembly
Why what was left out matters
The vetoed items are not in the agreement. The negotiations were confidential. Without knowing all the details, we can deduce some things were dropped. We know that promised during the election and the contents of the agreement. The gap includes items that were never on the table. We generally like to deliver on our commitments. Items missing from the agreement are things that there could be awkward questions about.
A cycling example is ACT Greens’ shift on electric bikes. Part of the Greens’ rEVolution was the introduction of electric vehicles to reduce transport emissions. Subsidising those that shift from combustion to electric vehicles is subsidising those who pollute most. If you ride or walk, you do not see any financial benefit. (Psychologically, this lack of recognition for good and wanted behaviour can be perceived as “punishment” and can demotivate and decrease the desired behaviour.) The ACT Greens decided to subside electric bikes, too. The subsidies would be less, as bikes are cheap. It was a good deal – the cost of subsidising 10 electric bikes is about the same as that for just one electric car. Consider also the “providing choice” argument and not everybody may not be able to afford a new car, but an electric bike might be possible. This proposal, although of little risk, is not in the agreement.
Further, the EV subsidy change is just a loan. In the final agreement, the EV subsidy is a maximum $15,000 interest free loan. The ACT Government forfeits the interest that they would otherwise get, but the current super low interest rates make it attractive. Additionally, two years of registration are free. Most of what we pay to register the car goes to the insurance company for third party insurances. I think we will still need to pay the insurance ourselves. The ACT Government component of the registration is less than $500 per year or $1000 over two years. Consider a top-selling electric vehicle costs about $60,000, the $1000 is not all that much, but certainly appreciated.
What about the benefits from cycling?
What is in the Agreement for the cyclist? The ACT Greens and ACT Labor could not agree on anything for cycling, but at least it was not dropped off altogether (except the subsidies on electric bikes, of course).
The optional, miscellaneous stuff was put in Appendix 3 or 4 with the qualification: “the key priorities (party name goes here) will progress this term are listed below.”
What happens next will depend on the time and cooperation and party interests. The Agreement does not require that any of these items are achieved this term, or even started. Reading the press, it would seem issues have already been prioritised, and one party or the other is trying to win support in the electorate for the policy. Cycling has not been discussed this way – at all. Let’s hope that this is not a bad omen.
Appendix 3: ACT Labor Policy Platform for the 10th Assembly (page 15)
ACT Labor section: The key priorities ACT Labor will progress this term are listed below.
City Services, active travel and roads
9.4 Roll out an active travel plan, including construction of an off-road shared path along Sulwood Drive, starting construction of the Garden city cycle route, and extension of the Belconnen bikeway
9.5 Undertake urban realm upgrades including better playgrounds, new amenities at Yerrabi Pond, widening the Lake Ginninderra path, age-friendly suburbs, a half pipe at the Belconnen skatepark, and replacing and repairing suburban footpathsParliamentary and Governing Agreement: 10th Legislative Assembly ACT (2020), page 17
Appendix 4 ACT Greens Policy Platform for the 10th Assembly (page 21)
ACT Greens section: The key priorities ACT Greens will progress this term are listed below.
22.1 Build and maintain walking & cycling infrastructure by allocating 20% of the roads and parking capital upgrade budget or $20M per year, whichever is greater
22.2 Deliver a community-driven 10 year walking and cycling infrastructure priority plan in 2021
22.3 Construct large scale cycling corridors in key areas of demandParliamentary and Governing Agreement: 10th Legislative Assembly ACT (2020), page 25
Priorities and role modelling say more than a 1000 words
The Agreement contains many goals – perhaps too many for one legislative term. Priorities will have to be set. For the purpose of this evaluation, every bullet point in the four appendices is counted as a single agenda point. The scope varies between agenda points, as does the political will and risk of the population’s acceptance.
There are 286 agenda points in the Agreement and only 5 are cycling related (2% of the total). None of the cycling agenda points are amongst the must-haves. Cycling makes up 2.9% of ACT Labor options and 2.6% of the ACT Greens’ options. ACT Greens’ cycling options have greater scope and require more funding.
The first graph shows the ACT Greens have much more on their agenda to negotiate with ACT Labor, than visa versa.
The second graphic compares the number of ACT Labor’s (red) and ACT Greens’ (green) agenda points as a portion of the total. Most of the Agreement has nothing to do with cycling. It remains to be seen whether cycling will be put back on the table. In the meantime, we are getting the blues.
Room for gloom
Cycling rEVolution? Nah, not really.
The funds available for cycling have not been agreed upon and there is no concept of how to achieve the set goals. Considering that ACT Labor has a poor track record of putting cycling in the limelight, the 10th Legislative Assembly could be disappointing again for regular and passionate cyclists.
List of indicators that suggest the political wind is not blowing in our favour.
- the electric bike subsidy was dropped
- all cycling related promises are related to the “nice to have” list
- neither party has brought up the topic of cycling since the last election
- planning reform discussion has started but does not mention active travel goals
From the press, the transport investment in the ACT is for more roads, electric buses and light rail. Cycling is clearly not worth a mention. The “must haves” in the Agreement will keep the government busy for the next years. This term looks less promising for cycling. Hopefully, the 2021-2022 ACT Budget will hold few surprises.