Page 4025 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 20 September 2017

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Whilst it is extremely expensive to retrofit, many people over the years have promised footpaths in some of these older suburbs that do not have them. I know that many streets in the inner south and the inner north do not have adequate footpaths. If we are serious about improving active travel and about trying to get people to make the most of public transport, we need to have proper footpath connections to facilitate that. So whilst it is, of course, a considerable expense, it would be wise of the government to develop a strategy or plan—even if it is a 10 or 20-year plan—about how footpaths can be delivered to many of these older suburbs that simply do not have them.

In conclusion, I want to pay tribute to the staff of TCCS. I know that they have a tough job. They have many competing demands. There is a bit of “how long is a piece of string?” in that portfolio. Especially in this spring season, when everything is growing frantically, I know there are many people, especially those out on the road, that will be flat out attending to the amenity of our city.

MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (5.48): I thank Ms Orr for moving this motion and reiterating the government’s support for the city services participatory budgeting trial I raised last month. As I am sure we all know, and as Ms Orr and Mr Coe have reiterated, our experience as MLAs is that city services are by far and away the most popular topic of conversations with constituents. Whether it is a new playground in their neighbourhood, wanting to get a pet dog for their kids or the lack of street lighting in an underpass, this is what people talk to you about. This is what matters to everybody. You deal with health if something goes wrong and you are sick, and with education if you have school-age kids, but city services is something that everyone in Canberra deals with. Usually, it is a very positive experience, I would have to say. We are very fortunate in our city services in Canberra.

This reminds me of something that I was told recently—a fun phrase called “sewer socialism”. It is a concept that is fundamental to how the Greens and other social democratic parties approach government. I seek the Assembly’s indulgence to give a little bit of a history lesson. Sewer socialism is an American phrase coming out of the city of Milwaukee. It was a pejorative term originally, poking fun at how the Milwaukee City Council, which was dominated by the Socialist Party between 1910 and 1960, would brag constantly about how excellent their public sewer system was.

At first, it seems ridiculous. Why brag about your sewer? But the point was pretty simple. The sewer was the symbol of government’s role and duty to ensure that the dirty and polluting legacy of capital—in their case the Industrial Revolution—was mitigated by government action, and that, in doing so, the growth at the top was redistributed down, in the form of public projects to benefit everyone. We can thank radicals, activists and unions for raising the public profile of problems in these early days, like the absence of proper sanitation, unequal access to water and power and the absence of public education, and our social democratic forebears, like those in Milwaukee, for organising, campaigning and actually doing something to make people’s lives better.

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