Sunday, 01 Oct 2023

How Canberra became a progressive paradise and a housing hell

How Canberra became a progressive paradise and a housing hell


How Canberra became a progressive paradise  and a housing hell

Canberra has always been one of Australia's more divisive cities. With its cold climate and designed to encourage work, Canberra is a city of binaries - you either love it, or love to hate it.

But in recent years Canberra has developed a new reputation as Australia's most progressive city.

Labor has held power in the ACT, often in coalition with the Greens, since 2001. More than two decades later, the territory is a vanguard of progressiveness for the country, with Canberra heralded as a "laboratory of democracy".

The chief minister, Andrew Barr, the first openly gay person to lead a government in Australia, says it's the result of governments working in lockstep with the population.

"Both the progressive nature of the city and a long-term progressive government has resulted in us being the first jurisdiction in Australia to pass many pieces of landmark legislation," he said.

The recent move to make abortion healthcare free and universal is just the tip of the iceberg; Canberra earned the ire of Peter Dutton when it became the first to decriminalise marijuana for personal use and later this year small amounts of other illicit drugs will also be decriminalised in a bid to get more people out of the addiction cycle. It has allowed pill testing since 2018.

"The ACT has led the nation with a progressive approach to reducing the harm caused by illicit drugs with a focus on diversion, access to treatment and rehabilitation and reducing the stigma attached to drug use," the health minister, Rachel Stephen-Smith, said in October last year.

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