I have just published a guide to Saturday’s Australian Capital Territory election, which provides an overview of the territory’s political history going back to the establishment of self-government in 1989, and observes the lay of the land in the five newly created five-member districts. I am indebted throughout to the coverage of the Canberra Times, which has a good overview of the election issues here.
The new regime will result in a parliament of 25, replacing an existing arrangement of one seven-member and two five-member regions, with 17 members overall. The numbers in the chamber since the 2012 election have been eight each for Labor and Liberal, with Labor surviving in government by the grace of Greens member Shane Rattenbury, who has held a position in cabinet throughout the current term. Labor has been in power since 2001 and is seeking a fifth victory under a third Chief Minister, Andrew Barr. The Liberals are led by Jeremy Hanson, who replaced Zed Seselja when he moved to the Senate in February 2013.
In the absence of published opinion polling, the situation is not easy to read. While the Liberals stand to benefit from the government’s longevity, and perhaps also the controversy over its pursuit of a light rail scheme that so far offers benefits only to the city’s north, Canberra is always difficult ground for the conservative side of politics. The challenge they face is to have three out the five seats won by Liberals or amenable independents in three of the five regions. They are presumably well placed to again win three seats in the southern suburbs district of Brindabella, but to this must be added third seats in two out of Ginninderra and Yerrabi, in the north of Canberra, or Murrumbidgee, which neighbours Brindabella in the south.
The Greens were reduced to a single seat in 2012 after winning four in 2008, and the new electoral arrangement – the fruit of a deal between Labor and Liberal – has made life difficult for them by abolishing the seven-member region of Molonglo. However, the party’s concentration of support around the centre of the city should at least be enough for them in the Kurrajong district, which Rattenbury is contesting.