ACT Election: Brindabella

The electorate of Brindabella covers the rural areas in the south of the Territory and outer southern Canberra including Tuggeranong. Five members are to be elected under the Hare-Clark system, with a quota of 16.67 required for election. It is only compulsory for voters to number one candidate for each vacancy (so five in Brindabella and Ginninderra and seven in Molonglo), after which they have the option to exhaust. At the first two elections under the current system Brindabella returned two members for each major party plus independent Paul Osborne. In 2001 Labor broke through to win a third seat at Osborne’s expense, their primary vote increasing from 28.5 to 44 per cent. Their challenge this time is to try and hold that seat against the rising tide of the Greens.

In this respect the bar has been raised by the retirement of member Bill Wood, a veteran of the first ACT Legislative Assembly in 1989, who will take with him a name recognition that is very important in these elections. Incumbents John Hargreaves and Karin MacDonald are assured of re-election while the remaining Labor candidates, Mick Gentleman, Paschal Leahy and Rebecca Logue, appear from this distance to have about as much chance as each other of taking a third seat. To do this they will also need to overcome the two Greens candidates, Graham Jensen and Kathryn Kelly. Crispin Hull of the Canberra Times argues that Labor will need to substantially improve on the 44 per cent of the vote they received to win the third seat in 2001, when the non-major party vote split in several directions and petered out through exhaustion and leakage to the major parties. This time they will face a consolidated Greens vote. However, Antony Green notes that the 6.9 per cent vote for defeated independent Paul Osborne, who is not contesting this time, "is more likely to return to the major parties than to go to the Greens".

There are also two sitting Liberal members who appear certain to be re-elected – Opposition Leader Brendan Smyth, who held the federal seat of Canberra for one year after the 1995 by-election that lit the fuse on the Keating Government, and Steve Pratt, the CARE aid worker who was imprisoned in Yugoslavia on spying charges in 1999.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.