ACT election 2020: Who is Alistair Coe?
7 min read
He's cast as too conservative for Canberra, a Young Liberal hack with no real-world experience. Can Alistair Coe defy the stereotypes, and history, to lead the Liberals into government for the first time in 19 years?
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The normally busy Gungahlin cafe where I arrange to meet Alistair Coe and his wife Yasmin is closed. It is a public holiday, but the Liberal leader suggests there are deeper problems on Hibberson Street. These businesses are hurting, Coe says, the victims of light rail construction work, bushfire smoke and now the COVID-19 crisis. He understands their plight. He spent much of the early weeks and months of the pandemic speaking with them as they fought for survival. It is from those conversations that he formed the view that some of the restrictions imposed on businesses have been too rigid and draconian, even "absurd". Chief Minister Andrew Barr has accused his adversary of undermining public health officials, but Coe remains unapologetic. In his mind, he's standing up for Canberrans doing it tough. He's put that belief at the centre of his election pitch, which he set out in full as he launched the Canberra Liberals' campaign as the sun set over the National Arboretum the previous evening. Dressed casually in a blue shirt and chinos, an energised Coe roused the party faithful with a 20-minute address delivered without notes or prompts. He stepped off the podium red in the face, the back of his shirt darkened by sweat. The 36-year-old gave it everything he had. He knows no other way. It was the long-form version of the stump speech he's repeated each day on the campaign trail. In short, the Liberals want to lower taxes while improving services, an ambitious - Labor say undeliverable - promise to be paid for through population growth. After 19 years in power Andrew Barr's Labor is stale, out of ideas and out of touch with the community, the Liberals say. Coe has recited the same line at the start of each press conference: '"The Canberra Liberals want to make the ACT the best place to live, work and raise a family". He has avoided answering questions directly throughout the campaign, stubbornly, and at times nonsensically, retreating to those…
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