ACT election: Ginninderra and Brindabella

The five-member electorate of Ginninderra covers the Belconnen district in Canberra’s north-west. It is the strongest of the three electorates for Labor, having given them 50.1 per cent of the vote in 2004 against 45.7 per cent in Brindabella and 45.3 per cent in Molonglo. The 2004 election also produced a relatively strong performance for the Australian Democrats due to the presence of sitting member Roslyn Dundas (4.1 per cent against well under half that elsewhere), who nonetheless lost her seat to Labor. The three-Labor, two-Liberal result was the first time non-major players had been frozen out. The first election under the current system in 1995 delivered a seat to Lucy Horodny of the Greens, who retired at the 1998 election. The seat was then won by conservative leaning independent Dave Rugendyke, who failed to win re-election in 2001. Dundas won the final seat after finishing 48 votes ahead of Greens candidate Shane Rattenbury, who is now his party’s lead candidate in Molonglo. The 2004 election result gave Labor 3.01 quotas and the Liberals 1.95, leaving all minor players well out of contention. If the recent Patterson/Canberra Times poll is even remotely accurate, this time Labor looks almost certain to drop one of its three seats to the Greens.

Labor’s Wayne Berry is retiring after 19 years in parliament, reducing the risk of an incumbent emerging as a casualty. In any case, it was highly unlikely that Chief Minister Jon Stanhope was going to run into trouble. Stanhope entered parliament at the 1998 election and was immediately elected leader of what was then the six-member parliamentary party. A former staffer to Kim Beazley, the unaligned Stanhope was deemed the best prospect to lead the party after a disastrous election result neutered the previously dominant Left faction. Stanhope’s personal vote went from 8.0 per cent on debut to 24.5 per cent at the 2001 election, at which he led Labor to victory, to 36.9 per cent in 2004. Mary Porter was elected to parliament in 2004 with 3.8 per cent of the vote, and has thus far remained on the back bench. A member of the Right faction, Porter was previously chief executive of the ACT Volunteering Association, a staffer to Keating government minister Ros Kelly and a midwife in remote Aboriginal communities. Newcomers on the Labor ticket are Chris Bourke, described by the Canberra Times as a “prominent Aboriginal dentist”; Adina Cirson, advisor to Jon Stanhope and former CFMEU official; and Dave Peebles, a training consultant.

The Liberals also have a former leader bowing out, namely Bill Stefaniak, who led the party from May 2006 to December 2007 as a compromise candidate between the warring factions who supported Brendan Smyth and Richard Mulcahy. The remaining incumbent is Shadow Education and Transport Minister Vicki Dunne, who was elected to parliament in 2001 with 3.6 per cent of the vote, which she increased to 5.7 per cent in 2004. She was stripped of her portfolios in February 2006 following an argument with Brindabella Liberal MLA Steve Pratt in a corridor of the Legislative Assembly building, of which she was accused of leaking details to the media. Then-leader Brendan Smyth said she had been dropped because she could not assure him of her loyalty. Dunne returned to the front-bench when Stefaniak deposed Smyth as leader three months later, and she remained on Mulcahy’s side of his ongoing leadership stand-off with Smyth. The absence of other incumbents has created opportunities for the newcomers to the party ticket: Jacqui Myers, an accountant; Andrea Tokaji, a “mental health professional and small business owner”; Matthew Watts, whose unspecified occupation involves “assisting vulnerable new migrants or cracking down on migration fraud”; and Alistair Coe, 24-year-old former vice-president of the National Young Liberals, a late addition to the ticket following Stefaniak’s retirement announcement in late August.

The Greens’ only sitting member in the parliament is not seeking re-election, but in each of the three electorates they have designated senior candidates who have taken prominence in party advertising. In the case of Ginninderra the candidate is Meredith Hunter, director of the Youth Coalition of the ACT. Also on the ticket is James Higgins, a 23-year-old field organiser for the Community and Public Sector Union.

The most noteworthy of the micro-party and independent candidates is Canberra politics veteran Harold Hird, who was a Liberal member from 1995 until 2001 when Dunne defeated him by 55 votes. He polled 2.0 per cent in his first bid to recover the seat as an independent in 2004.

The five-member electorate of Brindabella covers Canberra’s southern suburbs, beginning in the north with Chifley and Farrer and extending through Tuggeranong, along with the unpopulated balance of the ACT. The Liberal vote of 40.4 per cent in 2004 was around 8 per cent higher than in the other two electorates, although this resulted from lower support for the Greens (7.2 per cent) and minor candidates (6.7 per cent) rather than Labor (40.4 per cent, compared with 50.1 per cent in Ginninderra and 45.3 per cent in Molonglo). The first two elections under the current system, in 1995 and 1998, returned two Labor and two Liberal members along with one independent, Paul Osborne, whose support helped maintain the minority Liberal government of Kate Carnell and Gary Humphries. Osborne’s defeat at the hands of Labor’s Karin MacDonald in 2001 was a crucial factor in the election of the Stanhope government, helping boost Labor from six to eight seats and allowing them to govern them with the support of Kerrie Tucker of the Greens. The only change at the 2004 election was the election of Labor’s Mick Gentleman in place of the retiring Bill Wood, who had been in parliament since 1989. The least clear-cut part of the outcome was Liberal incumbent Steve Pratt’s win over party colleague Steve Doszpot, whom he outpolled by only 6.1 per cent to 5.8 per cent.

Two of Labor’s three sitting members are seeking re-election, with Karin MacDonald retiring after seven years in parliament. The senior of the two is John Hargreaves, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Territory and Municipal Services and Housing. Hargreaves entered parliament at the 1998 election at the expense of sitting Labor member Andrew Whitecross, and polled 17.8 per cent at the 2004 election. When first elected he was described as “socially conservative”, and he remains a stalwart of the Right faction. Mick Gentleman is a member of the Left, and has remained on the back-bench during his first term. He won the third Labor seat at the 2004 election after polling 7.4 per cent of the vote, not far behind Karin MacDonald on 8.3 per cent. The other Labor candidates are Wayne Sievers, a former Australian Democrats candidate and ACT branch president who served with the Australian Federal Police in East Timor; Joy Burch, a nurse and director of the Australian Rural Health Education Network; and Tracy Mackey, a public servant with the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

Both Liberal incumbents are seeking re-election, but the past electoral weakness of one means the internal contest is of considerable interest. Despite having lost the party leadership in May 2006, Brendan Smyth‘s record in polling 16.5 per cent in 1998, 15.8 per cent in 2001 and 21.4 per cent in 2004 suggests he is unlikely to be troubled. Smyth first came to prominence after winning the federal by-election for Canberra in 1995, but the seat reverted to Labor type amid the party’s otherwise disastrous performance at the 1996 election. Eighteen months after entering territory politics Smyth became Deputy Chief Minister when Gary Humphries replaced Kate Carnell as Chief Minister, and he replaced Humphries as Liberal leader when he departed for the Senate in 2002. The 2004 election initiated a leadership stand-off between Smyth and newly elected Richard Mulcahy, who each claimed two supporters in the seven-member party room. Bill Stefaniak was able to marshall the support of the Mulcahy faction to depose Smyth in May 2006, with Mulcahy emerging as deputy leader. It was well known that Smyth continued to harbour ambitions to recover the position, but he was persuaded to settle for deputy to Zed Seselja when Mulcahy was dumped from the parliamentary party in December 2007. One of Smyth’s party room backers was Steve Pratt, who made national news in 1999 when he was imprisoned on spying charges while working as a CARE aid worker in Yugoslavia at the time of NATO’s Kosovo bombing campaign. Pratt scored 7.0 per cent of the vote when first elected in 2001, but this fell to 6.1 per cent in 2004. He was only narrowly able to defeat newcomer Liberal candidate Steve Doszpot, the managing director of Canberra Strategic Marketing, who is again taking the field at this election. According to Liberal sources quoted in the Canberra Times, both Doszpot and another new candidate, David Morgan, outpolled Smyth and Pratt at the Liberal preselection vote. However, beyond a “background in economics and finance”, information on Morgan’s professional background is elusive. The other Liberal candidate, Audrey Ray, is described on the party website only as a “professional project manager”.

The lead Greens candidate is Amanda Bresnan, a policy officer with the Mental Health Council of Australia. Bresnan polled 3.4 per cent as a candidate in Molonglo at the 2004 election, and was also the candidate for Canberra at last year’s federal election. Her running mate is Sue Ellerman, described on the party website as a “counsellor and health educator”.

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.

31 comments on “ACT election: Ginninderra and Brindabella”

  1. Looks like the polls are roughly reflecting three things:
    1. nimby (not in my back yard) people and yimby (yes in my backyard) people have got annoyed by the Stanhope mob’s lack of ‘real’ consultation
    2. the ACT libs are still widely (and properly) regarded as a rabble
    3. people don’t much like the rampant pro-development approach of Stanhope’s govt

    Not that it really matters too much in the proper scale of things. The ACT government is really only a jumped-up local council which contributes disproportionately to the bloated costs of rampant over-governance in Australia.

  2. Why the large ALP vote in Ginninderra? From what I remember there’s nothing special about Belconnen and Gungahlin that would make it any stronger for Labor, or even the Greens, than the rest of Canberra.

    Is it just the Stanhope factor? That might explain the good Liberal vote in Brindabella, given Smyth is from there.

  3. The NIMBY vote in Canberra is huge. Riduculously enough a centre for aged care and aged residential care at the end of my street was sucessfully blocked some years ago on the grounds of excess noise. However it will matter less and less in the future as more and more development is approved and completed in NSW just over the highway from the Brindabella electorate.Zed Seselja lives over a hill from the major rubbish tip and has led the protest at the approval of an (light) industrial development adjacent to the tip. The fact that the project is in an area designated as suitable for industrial development has not stopped these clowns from trying all the usual tricks to prevent anything happening in their “back yard”. Hypocrites all of them!

  4. MDMConnell the large ALP vote in Ginninderra is due to Stanhope and the ‘Captain Underpants’ factor last election – that is Stanhope’s hero status after jumping into a dam to help rescue a helicopter pilot and his noble leadership during the bushfires which saw people applauding him in supermarkets and seeking his autograph (I kid you not). He got something like 2.6 quotas in his own right, gobbling up anything that wasn’t rusted on Lib votes. Interestingly, during the scrutiny there was a frisson of excitement that his overquota distribution would lead to the Green getting elected – this was because a lot of people put Stanhope first, then resumed their normal voting patterns – so a soft green would put Stanhope 1, then Greens 2 & 3, or soft Libs would put Stanhope 1, then Libs 2,3,4,5.
    Because of the decline of Captain Underpants Stanhope will not get that large a vote again so normal patterns will resume which should see the Green getting a seat, helped over the line by Labor preferences.

  5. Boerwar: The comment about overgovernance is hardly fair – after all, ACT residents are some of the few Australians living under only two levels of government, instead of three!

  6. I’m working on Saturday at the booth at Chisholm Primary school. It is hard to get excited about this election when I’m more interested in the outcome of the US election at the moment 😉 …….

  7. What!

    “Zed Instead” > “Change, we can believe in” as a slogan.

    ACT election trumps all. There may be another Liberal leader in the country to overtake the Lord Mayor of Brisbane!

  8. Labor may just win 7 seats.

    They got infected with the arrogance of uncontested majority and made some decisions without consulting and seeking input.

    The schools was a hard but good decision, close schools in aging areas and build new ones where needed.

    The power station and roads were arrogance in that we decide.

    Still labor offer a far better alternative than what is on offer.

    The looney left kept labor out of power until Stanhope took over, and looks like the libs will stay out of power until they can control or expel the religous right in their party.

  9. Noticed today’s Canberra Times had a different bit of advertising for the Labour party. I do NOT know if this was an editorial decision by the paper or paid advertising. Editions of todays paper (all that I saw on two newsstands) had little stickers on the top of the front page that said words to the effect of “don’t risk the Libs”. Anecdotal evidence, don’t know if this was in all papers across the ACT. Didn’t look into the interior of the paper today but the cover didn’t indicate an editorial position today; suspect that their editorial will be out tomorrow. I’m buying a paper to check on that.

  10. juliem:

    “The post-it note is a paid advertisement and is not designed or intended to be confused in any way with editorial content or comment. It is not an endorsement by this paper of any political party or point of view. Advertising of this nature has been available to all our clients for some time and has previously been used in The Canberra Times and other national papers. Indeed it was used for political advertising during the New South Wales State election. Placement of these post-it note advertisements is totally governed by a mechanical process in the course of printing of the newspaper. Following your feedback we are reviewing that process to see if the note can be placed in another position in future.”

    Very clever move by the Labor Party.

  11. I was polled for this survey earlier on this week 😉

    Liberals fall behind in ACT election
    October 17, 2008 – 7:39AM

    The Liberals are slipping behind as voters prepare for Saturday’s ACT election – but more voters are unsure of how they will cast their vote.

    A poll published in The Canberra Times has found 43 per cent of voters want incumbent Labor Chief Minister Jon Stanhope to stay on in the top job, a slight increase on the last poll.

    Liberal leader Zed Seselja has dropped behind, with 36 per cent saying he is their preferred leader, down from 40 per cent in the last poll.

    Those who said they didn’t know how they would vote has risen to eight per cent, while 11 per cent said neither candidate was their preferred chief minister.

    The Canberra Times poll focused on perceptions of the youthful Mr Seselja, who took over the leadership of the Liberals last year at the age of 30.

    Inexperience was his greatest hurdle, with 43 per cent of respondents rating him as too new to the job.

    He rated well on the “energetic” and “capable” fronts.

  12. Really the only thing the Liberals have to campaign on is that they are not Labor and that they are a chance to ‘Send Jon Stanhope a message’.

    Certainly not convincing enough to get me to place them significantly high in my vote.

  13. “Baseless attacks on Zed”?

    I don’t recall making any “attacks” on Zed, I’m saying the Libs are not fit for government. And the article highlights the point.

    Anyway, something seems to be resonating considering Zed’s preferred leader rating has dropped 4 points.

  14. No 24

    They are not fit for government because one of their candidates got some campaign material printed? Dear oh dear oz.

    How about focussing on the real issues like the poor services, closed schools and road congestion that prove Stanhope to be an utter failure.

  15. How can anyone find any candidate who is running, wothwhile voting for. The labor governmet has done liile for Canberra, raising taxes, fares, registration fees, the canberra Busfire Levee, (Why are we still paying that, closing schools, millions wasted on getting “Consultants” opinions for the outcome of the bushfires, “Gay marriage” what a joke. The GST was brought in to take the place of abolishing ridiculous stamp duty fees, why has that not been done??? In 1988 Canberra said NO to self government, and look what happened we were inundated with oxygen thieves, with no clear direction, still none and nothing for the future.
    Yeh build another dam “idiots,” it needs to rain to fill the damn thing, install pay parking in places where it was once said that pay parking would not be implemented, close a hospital (we dont need it) yeh goodonya, is there plans for another???
    I could go on..

  16. Rofl. Liberal in-fighting is by no means the only issue that makes them a completely pathetic group of people, but it is one.

    The irony of your second paragraph is that the Liberal’s actually aren’t that concerned with spending more on public infrastructure. But they did copy Labor’s health policy.

  17. The Canberra Times again today had Labor stickems on the front pages 😉 ….. No editorial for the election though, suspect that will be in Saturday’s paper now …. the main thrust of that poll in today’s paper vis a vis the Lib leader seems to be that he is too young and inexperienced. I’ve no idea about him myself and told the caller when I was polled I had no opinion about Zed but irregardless of any opinion about Zed, I was voting Labor anyways. Even 1 in 5 Lib voters told the pollsters that he needed more “seasoning”

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