Pollies descend on Queanbeyan

FEDERAL politicians Tony Abbott, Tanya Plibersek and Kate Ellis have all hopped the border into Queanbeyan this month to spruik their various electoral claims.

And while it looks like we'll see plenty of our federal politicians in Queanbeyan this year as the battle for bellwether seat Eden-Monaro heats up, these recent visits are just the latest in a long tradition of MPs who have sought to escape Canberra's toxic political stench by crossing into sunny Queanbeyan.

ANU political scientist and long-time Queanbeyan resident Dr Norman Abjorensen said the tradition of federal MP border-hopping helped put Queanbeyan on the map, and he put it down to lingering perceptions that Canberra was just not like the rest of the country.

"Looking at the whole history of Canberra, there's still a bit of resentment out in the rest of Australia that it's somehow not the real world," Dr Abjorensen said.

"Politicians- particularly when they're trying to getting national coverage and also send a message to their own constituency- don't like to be seen against a Canberra backdrop. So a short hop across the border to Queanbeyan tends to be the antidote to that," he said.

Health minister Tanya Plibersek and Childcare minister Kate Ellis joined with local MP Mike Kelly on Tuesday to announce a new early learning hygiene program at a Queanbeyan preschool, while Tony Abbott met with local police officers and the liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro Peter Hendy yesterday to announce a new crime prevention policy.

Mr Abbott was also here last Friday for a small business round table at The Strip restaurant on Monaro Street.

All these events could easily have been held in Canberra and all had national media in attendance. However Liberal and Labor MPs alike chose to forego closer, more easily accessible venues to Parliament House and cross over the border.

Dr Abjorensen said politicians were seeking a more authentically Australian backdrop for their television spots in Queanbeyan without the political baggage associated with Canberra.

"I think that notion of Canberra being a planned city and a bit of an artificial environment, whether it's true or not, sort of sticks in the public mind as a little bit too manicured. Here you've got an environment that just about anyone can identify with who has come from a suburb or a small town- it looks like most of Australia, and I think that's why politicians come here," he said.

As for why Canberra is still perceived by Australians to be an artificial environment lacking a typically 'Australian' character, Dr Abjorensen said it went right back to Canberra's foundation.

"It [Canberra's development] stopped and started, the First World War got in the way, then the Depression and the Second World War.

"Canberra didn't get the last of the Government offices here until the mid-1970s. And over a couple of decades to try and attract public servants to change a fairly comfortable lifestyle in Melbourne and move up to a less comfortable lifestyle in Canberra, there had to be cheaper houses for them, there had to better schools, there had to better roads.

"And this perception was gradually fostered around the country that somehow people in Canberra enjoyed the largesse of the tax payer with all these things that the outer suburbs elsewhere didn't have. And to some extent that was true," Dr Abjorensen said.

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