Australian Capital Territory election guide

An overview of Saturday’s election in the Australian Capital Territory, where Labor is seeking to make it five in a row.

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.

Newspoll: 55-45 to Coalition

The latest Newspoll is no worse for Labor than the last on voting intention, but Julia Gillard has lost her lead as preferred prime minister.

The Australian reports the latest Newspoll has the Coalition leading 55-45 on two-party preferred, down from 56-44 at the previous poll three weeks ago, with both Labor and the Coalition down a point on the primary vote to 31% and 47% respectively and the Greens up two to 11%. Tony Abbott has apparently hit the lead as preferred prime minister; more to follow.

UPDATE: GhostWhoVotes relates that Julia Gillard’s ratings have plunged yet further, her approval down six points to 30% and disapproval up six to 58%. Tony Abbott is effectively unchanged at 33% (steady) and 55% (down one), but his 41-39 deficit on preferred prime minister is now a lead of 40-36.

UPDATE 2: The latest Morgan face-to-face result combines the last two weekends of polling, and it shows the Coalition sustaining a commanding primary vote lead of 44% (down one) to 33.5% (steady), with the Greens up a point to 10%. On respondent-allocated preferences the Coalition lead has narrowed from 56-44 to 54.5-45.5, while on previous election preferences it’s down from 54.5-45.5 to 53.5-46.5.

Other news:

• The Australian Electoral Commission has accepted Julian Assange’s enrolment in the Melbourne seat of Isaacs, which clears him to proceed with his Senate bid unless someone cares to mount a legal challenge. I had expected that Assange might fall foul of the requirement that a person enrolling overseas must intend to resume residing in Australia within six years of having left. To the best of my admittedly limited knowledge, Assange was last here furtively in 2007. Another legal grey area is his political asylum status, and what it might mean for the constitutional injunction that parliamentarians not be “under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or … a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power”.

• Gary Humphries, who has held the Liberals’ ACT Senate seat since 2003 and was the territory’s Chief Minister from October 2000 to November 2001, has lost preselection to Zed Seselja, leader of the ACT opposition through five years and two election defeats. Seselja prevailed in the contentious party ballot on Saturday by margin of 114 to 84. Humphries says he will abide by the result, but even before the vote his supporters had petitioned for it to be referred to a divisional council meeting on the grounds that the process had been rushed to Seselja’s advantage. That would throw the vote open to around 400 extra party members who were denied a vote because they hadn’t attended a branch meeting in six months.

• With Seselja standing aside from the leadership to contest the Senate preselection, the ACT Liberals have chosen Molonglo MP Jeremy Hanson as their new leader ahead of former leader Brendan Smyth. This was despite Gary Humphries’ claim that a deal had been reached between Seselja and another MP, Alistair Coe, in which Seselja would decisively throw his weight behind Coe in exchange for Coe’s support for his Senate preselection bid (which was nonetheless forthcoming, along with that of the remainder of the Liberal party room). Humphries claimed his decision to reveal the deal to the public caused it to come undone, although Coe denied it had ever been made. Coe won the party room ballot for the deputy leadership, unseating Smyth.

• Natasha Griggs, the Country Liberal Party member for the Darwin-based seat of Solomon since she unseated Labor’s Damian Hale in 2010, has seen off a preselection challenge from Peter Bourke, a clinical immunologist at Royal Darwin Hospital. In January the Northern Territory News reported a party source saying Bourke was likely to prevail, as Griggs was “not cut out to be a politician”.

• A rank-and-file Labor preselection vote for the south-western Sydney seat of Werriwa will be held on March 5, pitting Labor veteran Laurie Ferguson against union and party activist Damien Ogden, who had been an aspirant for the seat when Ferguson moved there after his existing seat of Reid was merged with neighbouring Lowe at the 2010 election. Anna Patty of the Sydney Morning Herald reports Ogden has some support from both the “hard” and “soft” left, respectively associated with Anthony Albanese and the United Voice union, although it appears to be generally expected that Ferguson will see off the threat. A report by Samantha Maiden in the Sunday Telegraph suggests that might not avail him in the long run, with union polling conducted late last year said to point to a decisive swing against Labor of 13%.

Ben McClellan of the Blacktown Advertiser reports the Liberal preselection for Greenway has been set for March 9, with 12 shortlisted candidates including 2010 candidate Jayme Diaz, Rose Tattoo singer Gary “Angry” Anderson, Hills councillor Yvonne Keane and “anti-bullying campaigner and motivational speaker” Brett Murray. Also in the field are business coach Robert Borg, gym owner Rowan Dickens, senior financial analyst Mathew Marasigan, marketing manager Ben Jackson, Hills councillor Mark Owen Taylor, accountant Mark Jackson, security supervisor Renata Lusica and, curiously, Josephina Diaz, mother of Jayme. The choice will be made from a panel of delegates from the electorate’s five branches and head office.

Galaxy: 53-47 to Coalition

A lot has happened since Galaxy’s last federal poll in mid-June – enough on this evidence to have lifted Labor three points, while still leaving them well short of the two-party parity recorded by Newspoll. Tony Abbott also cops the troubling finding that even Coalition voters now prefer Malcolm Turnbull.

GhostWhoVotes reports a Galaxy poll shows the Coalition leading 53-47, a three-point gain to Labor since the last national poll conducted by Galaxy, which was conducted in the Labor dark age of mid-June. The primary vote figures give Labor 35%, the Coalition down two to 47% (still well up on the other phone pollsters) and the Greens on 11% (down one). A question on preferred Liberal leader gives Malcolm Turnbull an advantage over Tony Abbott of such order (60% to 29%) as cannot be easily dismissed, with Turnbull even leading 51-45 among Liberal voters. Julia Gillard also trails in competition with Kevin Rudd 49% to 34%, which is the narrowest result in a head-to-head poll between the two since March last year. Most encouragingly for her, the improvement has been driven by Labor voters, among whom she leads 57% to 39%. However, only 25% said they believed her account of the 2010 leadership coup against 63% who said they did not believe her.

The following chart shows the results of head-to-head polling between Gillard and Rudd since the beginning of last year, as conducted by Nielsen (eight polls), Galaxy (six) and Newspoll (three).

UPDATE (5/11/12): Essential Research will not be reporting until Wednesday, but we have today a Morgan face-to-face poll derived from the last two weekends of surveying which shows a sharp improvement for the Coalition on a depressed showing last time. The Coalition primary vote has moved over three surveys from 43% to 38.5% and back to 43% – Morgan is selling the latest shift as a negative response to the mini-budget, but a far likelier explanation is that the previous result was simply an aberration. Labor is down two points to 35.5% and the Greens on 10%, down 2.5% from an unusually good result last time. On two-party preferred, the Coalition have a 52-48 lead on the previous election measure compared with a 52.5-47.5 deficit last time, while on respondent-allocated preferences a 50.5-49.5 deficit has turned into a lead of 53.5-46.5.

UPDATE (7/11/12): While attention was elsewhere, Essential Research published what by its standards was a solid move to Labor: they are up one point to 37%, with the Coalition down two to 46% the Greens steady on 9%. This amounts to a one-point drop in the Coalition’s lead on two-party preferred, which is now at 53-47. The poll also has 20% of respondents approving of Christine Milne’s performance against 33% disapproval; 17% holding the Greens as having done a good job against 47% poor; and 53% thinking them too extreme against 26% as representing the views of many voters (remembering that Essential has become quite a tough series for the Greens recently). Further questions find respondents are all in favour of Asia, but divided 41-41 on expanding uranium mining and broadly wary of nuclear energy.

Some reviews of recent electoral events. Firstly and more recently is the Sydney by-election of last Saturday, October 27. This gave a clear win to Alex Greenwich, the independent candidate endorsed by the involuntarily departing Clover Moore. Labor did not a field a candidate in order to give Greenwich a clear run, but it hardly seems likely he would have been troubled had it been otherwise. Turnout was poor, in keeping with the recent trend of state by-elections.

SYDNEY STATE BY-ELECTION, NEW SOUTH WALES
October 27, 2012

					#	%	Swing	2PP	%
Alex Greenwich (Independent)		17,687	47.3%		21,283	63.7%
Shayne Mallard (Liberal)		11,543	30.9%	+5.3%	12,120	36.3%
Chris Harris (Greens)			6,616	17.7%	+4.9%
Glenn Wall (Independent)		825	2.2%
Robyn Peebles (Christian Democratic)	724	1.9%	+0.8%
Labor							-11.3%

Formal					37,395	97.2%	-0.6%	
Informal				1,062	2.8%	+0.6%
Enrolment/Turnout			61,428	62.6%	-21.3%

Secondly, the result of the ACT election of October 20 was resolved on Friday when the sole remaining Greens MP, Shayne Rattenbury, threw in his lot with Labor in a deal that will bring him into the ministry. The Liberals emerged from the count with the frail bragging right of a 41-vote win on the aggregate primary vote, but Labor achieved equality on seats, having gained a seat from the Greens in the five-member region of Ginninderra. The Liberals gained seats from the Greens in the five-member region of Brindabella and the seven-member region of Molonglo.

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY ELECTION
October 20, 2012

				Seats	#	%	Swing
Liberal				8 (+2)	86,032	38.9%	+7.3%
Labor				8 (+1)	85,991	38.9%	+1.5%	
Greens				1 (-3)	23,773	10.7%	-4.9%
Others				0 (-)	25,376	11.5%	-3.9%

Formal					221,172	96.5%	+0.3%
Informal				7,953	3.5%	-0.3%
Enrolment/Turnout			256,702	89.3%	-1.1%

Another feature of the election to be noted was the poor performance of the only published opinion poll, conducted by Patterson Market Research and published in the Canberra Times during the last week of the campaign. Patterson has a creditable track record with its large-sample polling, despite lacking the match fitness of outfits like Newspoll and Nielsen. On this occasion however the poll was by orders of magnitude in every direction, overstating Labor and the Greens at the expense of the Liberals and “others”. Cathy Alexander at Crikey reports the Liberals are greatly displeased about the poll, which they believe blunted their momentum. Pollster Keith Patterson defended his work in Saturday’s Canberra Times, and while he is commendably revealing on the question of methodology, the argument that the poll might have been brought unstuck by late shifts in voting intention, possibly initiated by the publication of the poll itself, is not entirely convincing.

Australian Capital Territory election live

The Liberals are claiming a moral victory after appearing to win eight seats to Labor’s seven. It remains to be seen how persuasive this sounds to the Greens, who are still the kingmakers despite losing two of their four seats.

Friday

I believe the results don’t attain official status until tomorrow, but the preference distributions published today are off essentially the same numbers of votes as the primary vote counts, and can thus be treated as final to all intents and purposes. Here’s how it pans out:

Brindabella: Liberal 3, Labor 2. Zed Seselja is effortlessly elected for the Liberals, while Brendan Smyth makes it to a quota after distribution of Seselja’s surplus and preference from excluded Liberals Nicole Lawder and then Val Jeffery. At the point of Jeffery’s exclusion, he trails Liberal colleague Andrew Wall 5135 votes to 4938. Wall thus remains in the count with enough votes to see off defeated Greens member Amanda Bresnan by 8859 to 8247, leaving him the last candidate standing and winning him the fifth seat. For Labor, incumbent Joy Burch led the primary vote count with 8989 followed by former incumbent Mick Gentleman on 5069, with other Labor candidates some distance behind. Preferences do little to disturb this, resulting in Burch and Gentleman picking up the two seats.

Ginninderra: Labor 3, Liberal 2. As has been very widely discussed now, Ginninderra has indeed delivered the Greens the nightmare scenario of Labor’s surplus over the second quota dividing almost perfectly evenly between the second and third Labor candidates, Chris Bourke and Yvette Berry, leaving Greens member Meredith Hunter unable to overcome either. At the relevant exclusion, Bourke is on 9449, Berry on 9127 and Hunter on 8245. Comfortably leading the Labor primary vote and first elected from their ticket is incumbent Mary Porter. Similarly, the Liberal incumbents Alistair Coe and Vicki Dunne were untroubled by intra-party challengers.

Molonglo: Labor 3, Liberal 3, Greens 1. As I foreshadowed yesterday, late counting favoured incumbent Steve Doszpot in the race for the third Liberal seat against Elizabeth Lee, overturning yesterday’s narrow deficit and putting him in front 9311 to 9068 at the final exclusion. This immediately follows the election of the second Liberal, newcomer Giulia Jones. By far the strongest performing candidate on the Liberal ticket was incumbent Jeremy Hanson. Katy Gallagher overwhelmingly dominated the Labor ticket, and the distribution of her preferences heavily favoured the other two incumbents, Andrew Barr and Simon Corbell, over the four other Labor candidates. The election of Barr as the second candidate was never in doubt, but it takes Gallagher’s preferences to put Corbell ahead of Meegan Fitzharris, a 1896-2614 deficit turning into a 5269-3689 surplus. That gap is little changed after the exclusion of the other Labor candidates, with Corbell prevailing 8037-6437 at the relevant exclusion. Shane Rattenbury outpolls the other Greens incumbent, Caroline Le Couteur, 4937-4503 on the primary vote, and remains about that far ahead until Le Couteur is excluded with 7765 votes to Rattenbury’s 8001.

Thursday

I dropped the ball for a couple of days there in covering the very exciting developments in the count, with the prospects firming for a 3-2 outcome in Ginninderra – meaning another seat lost to the Greens and a final result of 8-8-1. Today’s indicative preference distributions published on the Electoral Commission site account for about two-thirds of all votes cast, with the process to be finalised on Saturday. As anticipated, the trend in Ginninderra has been strongly in Labor’s favour – and particularly in favour of Yvette Berry, with Chris Bourke’s vote share actually declining slightly. On today’s numbers, Meredith Hunter finishes in sixth place with 6406 votes at the final exclusion (0.77 quotas compared with 0.76 yesterday) against 7253 for Berry (up from 0.83 to 0.87 quotas) and 7054 for Bourke (down from 0.86 to 0.85 quotas).

In Molonglo, Liberal incumbent Steve Doszpot continues to trail by the slenderest of margins against party colleague Elizabeth Lee, being 28 votes behind at the key exclusion in today’s distribution, up from seven yesterday. However, the relativites between the primary vote and preference distribution figures suggest Doszpot should gain from here. The count the preference distribution is based on includes 67.9% of the total first preference count, and Doszpot’s share of the first preference count is 5.73% compared with 5.49% in the preference count. Lee’s relative shares are 4.92% and 4.87%. On the Labor ticket, Simon Corbell is now sure to survive an intra-party challenge from Meegan Fitzharris thanks to the large share of voters who gave their first preference to other incumbents and continued to favour incumbents on their preference orders thereafter. His lead at the relevant stage of the count is 5229 to 4448.

In Brindabella, the latest distribution has Greens incumbent Amanda Bresnan’s trailing the third Liberal by 864 votes at the final exclusion, Bresnan’s earlier narrow lead being wiped out yesterday as anticipated as more favourable votes for the Liberals were added to the count. The point at issue is thus who out of Andrew Wall and Val Jeffery wins the third Liberal seat. Wall has a handy lead of 398 on the latest distribution, although this has narrowed from 474 yesterday.

Monday

Antony Green suggests the election count may yet take an unpredictable turn, with the Greens in danger of losing their Ginninderra seat to a third Labor candidate. If this came to pass the result would be Labor 8, Liberal 8, Greens 1.

Presently the Electoral Commission’s indicative preference distribution, based on the pre-poll electronic votes which accounted for 28.2% of the total, gets to a 2-2-1 result by having Labor’s Yvette Berry bow out and her preferences electing Labor colleague Chris Bourke, whose preferences in turn deliver a seat to Meredith Hunter of the Greens. This is the outcome one would ordinarily expect with Labor on 2.4 quotas and the Greens on 0.6. Certainly such a result could be taken for granted in the Senate, where candidates appear in a fixed order on ballot papers and voters dutifully follow the above-the-line voting option. The top two Labor candidates elected at the beginning of the count, leaving the third Labor candidate with the remaining 0.4 quotas.

The issue under Hare Clark is the candidates are generally not elected at the beginning of the count, which means a greater share of the Labor vote remains in the count for a longer time. In this case only Mary Porter is elected early in the count, which means 1.4 Labor quotas for the Greens to contend with. The risk for the Greens is that the 1.4 will divide evenly between the second and third Labor candidates, leaving each with more than Hunter’s 0.6. Compared with the electronic polling figures, that would require an improvement in Berry’s vote and a decline in Hunter’s – which is exactly what the polling booth vote shares suggests will happen.

We have also seen today a substantial chunk of the primary vote count added, accounting for 10.6% of enrolment, with a number of booths that did not report on Saturday night doing so today. This has seen Labor’s 1.1% lead in overall vote share shrink to 0.3%, with the Greens down a further 0.3%.

		Labor		Liberal		Greens		Counted
Brindabella	35.9 (-0.7)	46.2 (+10.9)	7.9 (-5.7)	87.2%
Ginninderra	40.0 (-0.2)	33.6 (+5.5)	10.0 (-3.8)	85.5%
Molonglo	40.8 (+4.6)	37.1 (+5.7)	13.2 (-5.2)	82.2%
TOTAL		39.0 (+1.7)	38.7 (+7.1)	10.7 (-4.9)	84.6%

Overview

Barring late surprises, the result looks very much like 3-2 to the Liberals in Brindabella, 2-2-1 in Ginninderra and 3-3-1 in Molonglo for a total of Liberal 8, Labor 7, Greens 2. The Liberals have been aggressively asserting their moral right to govern, which is tactically understandable but harder for an objective observer to credit. By the end of the evening they had fallen behind Labor on the primary vote, and the figures are such that a two-party preferred result under a single-member system would be about 53-47 in Labor’s favour.

Liberal claims that the Labor-Greens alliance had been “rejected” are dubious on face value, requiring us to overlook the fact that those two parties presently have over half the vote between them. Such claims further require that we conceive the result in purely negative terms, in which case we can equally say that over six in 10 voters “rejected” the Liberal Party. The alternative gambit has been to argue that the swing to the Liberals means the electorate has voted for “change”. On this logic, John Howard should have handed Kim Beazley the keys to the Lodge in 1998. Elections can only be determined by votes cast, not their proportions relative to some arbitrary point in the past.

The Liberals will certainly be able to boast the largest number of seats, which even accounting for the government’s longevity is a strong result in the hostile electoral environment of Canberra – particularly given the anticipated impact of public service cutbacks by conservative governments elsewhere. The key to this triumph was the tactical coup of winning a third seat in Brindabella, achieved through policy positioning, campaign resources and the candidacy of Zed Seselja.

It is a nicety of proportional representation systems that the party with the most seats be given the proverbial first chance to form a government. However, this does not amount to much in practical terms if the numbers are against that party – and is in any case a convention of systems where the formal appointment of the government is in the hands of a figurehead who might wish to keep removed from the partisan fray. This does not apply in the ACT, where the position of the Chief Minister is confirmed by the Assembly. Clearly most of those voting for the Greens would have done so in the expectation that they were voting against a Liberal government, and it seems safe to assume the Greens will keep this in mind during the negotiation process.

Final vote shares for the night:

		Labor		Liberal		Greens		Counted
Brindabella	35.9 (-0.5)	45.7 (+10.4)	8.2 (-5.4)	77.9%
Ginninderra	39.9 (-0.4)	33.4 (+5.3)	10.3 (-3.5)	77.6%
Molonglo	41.0 (+5.0)	36.0 (+4.5)	13.9 (-4.6)	68.3%
TOTAL		39.1 (+1.7)	38.0 (+6.4)	11.0 (-4.6)	73.8%

A purely impressionistic view of which might be that:

• The Liberals’ 6.4% gain was partly at the expense of Labor and partly from others;

• Labor compensated for these losses by absorbing much of a 4.6% drop in support for the Greens;

• A “Zed Seselja effect” helped the Liberals gain up a further 2-3% from Labor in Brindabella, balanced by a comparable loss in Molonglo;

• The Liberals garnered a further boost in Brindabella through a concentration of campaign resources and, perhaps, the recruitment of Val Jeffery (who polled 6.5% in 2008 with the Community Alliance);

• Labor gained in Molonglo in the absence of the Frank Pangallo ticket, which polled 4.8% last time.

Electorate by electorate:

Brindabella. The Liberals are left looking very smart in having targeted Brindabella, which has paid off with an extra seat at no cost elsewhere. Zed Seselja and Brendan Smyth are the clear winners of the first two seats, with the third remaining a toss-up between Andrew Wall (3.9%), Val Jeffery (3.7%) and Nicole Lawder (3.4%). Labor’s winners are incumbent Joy Burch and former incumbent Mick Gentleman. Losing her seat is Amanda Bresnan of the Greens.

Ginninderra. Chic Henry of the Motorists Party remains a hypothetical chance of winning the final seat, but it’s far more likely to be retained by Meredith Hunter of the Greens for a result of 2-2-1. Liberal incumbents Alistair Coe and Vicki Dunne will clearly retain their seats. Mary Porter is clearly re-elected for Labor, but mid-term arrival Chris Bourke (7.7%) is struggling to stay ahead of Yvette Berry (7.6%). This result will most likely be determined by the flow of Porter’s preferences. As usual, the competing tendencies within Porter’s preference flows will include a share who favour incumbents and a share who favour women.

Molonglo. Katy Gallagher has so dominated the Labor vote that the fate of the party’s third seat is hard to read, with Andrew Barr clearly well favoured enough to score the second. If Gallagher’s supporters continued with the logic of favouring high profile figures in the party, incumbent Simon Corbell stands a good chance of closing the 2.9% to 2.1% deficit against Meegan Fitzharris. However, Fitzharris is likely to gain a dividend from those Gallagher supporters who were favouring a woman candidate, and her evident success as a candidate in outpolling Corbell will spill over to at least some extent into Gallagher’s preferences. On the Liberal ticket, incumbent Jeremy Hanson topped the poll but his colleague Steve Doszpot was outpointed by the incoming Giulia Jones. To win the Liberals’ newly acquired third seat, Doszpot (who is on 5.4%) will need to stay ahead of fourth-placed Elizabeth Lee (4.7%) after preferences, and the Electoral Commission’s interim count based on the electronic voting results suggest this will be touch-and-go. The Greens face a game of musical chairs with two incumbents chasing one seat, in which Shane Rattenbury leads Caroline Le Couteur 5.7% to 5.3%.

Finally, determining votes cast for male and female candidates turns up some interesting patterns. A significant factor in Labor’s case is that Jon Stanhope has exited the field and been replaced as Chief Minister by a woman, who accordingly enjoyed a dramatic increase in her personal vote. Even so, the 22.3% “swing” to Labor women is highly noteworthy given the gender balance of the candidates was unchanged. There’s also a basis to argue that the Liberals erred in not preselecting more women, given that the five endorsed this time almost matched the result of the seven endorsed in 2008, and in particular the strong performance of Giulia Jones in Molonglo.

			Candidates	Votes
TOTAL
Male candidates		50 (-10)	58.3 (-7.3)
Female candidates	24 (-2)		41.7 (+7.3)
LABOR
Male candidates		10 (-)		36.7 (-22.3)
Female candidates	7 (-)		63.3 (+22.3)
LIBERAL
Male candidates		12 (+2)		77.9 (+1.9)
Female candidates	5 (-2)		22.1 (-1.9)

Live commentary

9.39pm. Labor pulls ahead of Liberal on the aggregate vote on what Antony believes to be the final count for the night.

9.05pm. And the second Labor member in Ginninderra, where Chris Bourke is second on 7.7% against 7.2% for Yvette Berry.

9.02pm. As I see it, all that’s in doubt now is who wins the third Liberal seat in Brindabella and the third Labor seat in Molonglo.

9.01pm. The Greens declining in Molonglo as well, where the picture is a fairly clear 3-3-1.

8.59pm. A 10.4% batch of the vote in Ginninderra has closed the gap between the Greens, down from 10.9% to 10.5%, and the Motorist Party, up from 7.2% to 7.5%.

8.57pm. Brindabella count now up to 60.3%, and I think you can put down your glasses: the Liberals vote has surged further to 46.2% and the Greens have fallen to 7.9%, confirming a result of three Liberal and two Labor. Joy Burch and Mick Gentleman elected for Labor; Zed Seselja and Brendan Smyth for Liberal; the final Liberal seat continues to have Andrew Wall leading Val Jeffery 4.1% to 3.7%.

8.43pm. Another 4.9% added in Ginninderra. Greens down slightly, fractionally improving the Motorists Party’s chances.

8.40pm. Another 6.8% in Brindabella further improves the Liberals position there.

8.33pm. Winner of third Liberal seat in Brindabella unclear: Andrew Wall on 4.0%, Val Jeffery on 3.7%, Nicole Lawder on 3.5%.

8.26pm. Liberal also declining in Ginninderra with 31.7% counted, although not enough to fundamentally change the situation. Motorist Party boilover not looking any likelier.

8.24pm. A big addition in Brindabella boosts the count to 35.9%. The swing against Labor is down from 1.4% to 0.5%; to Liberal down from 10.6% to 9.9%; against Greens little changed at 5.1%. The Liberal surplus over the third quota is down from 0.748 to 0.712, while the combined Labor and Greens surplus 0.616 to 0.664 (remembering there will be a lot of leakage there). Of Bullet Train (4.1%) and Motorist Party (3.9%) preferences, I can offer no insight.

8.16pm. Ginnninderra count up from 21.6% to 24.8%, but little change.

8.14pm. The Brindabella count is up from 21.7% to 26.5%, and in relative terms Labor has gained 0.5%, the Liberals have lost 0.5% and the Greens have lost 0.2%.

8.00pm. Kevin Bonham’s analysis of the first booths from Brindabella provide more encouragement for the Liberals. If so, a result of Liberal 8, Labor 7 and Greens 2 is firming up.

7.55pm. Booth results coming very slowly. Only a tiny increase in the count since the pre-polls were finalised.

7.34pm. Andrew Barr sounding bullish about booth results.

7.32pm. By no means likely that the Motorists Party will win a seat in Ginninderra, but one to keep an eye on.

7.24pm. That new batch that made no difference in Molonglo was substantial, upping the count by 7.6%.

7.23pm. Another 4% of the vote in Brindabella sees slight Liberal decline.

7.22pm. Antony has all pre-polls for Molonglo; the latest batch hasn’t changed the situation.

7.19pm. Interesting to note strong performances from women just noted.

7.13pm. Labor’s Meegan Fitzharris (second place) well ahead of Simon Corbell (fourth) in Molonglo. Liberal incumbent Steve Doszpot trailing Giulia Jones, also in Molonglo. Other incumbents untroubled in intra-party contests.

7.10pm. Counted: 15.5% in B, 19.5% in G, 11.7% in M.

7.03pm. So best indications are 3-3-1 in Molonglo, 2-2-1 in Ginninderra and 3-2 to the Liberals in Brindabella, for a total of Liberal 8, Labor 7 and Greens 2. However, a different trend on booth votes could change some of that.

7.01pm. Another batch sends Labor backwards in Ginninderra, strengthening likelihood of 2-2-1.

6.58pm. So the Liberals can hope for eight seats, if things keep going their way in Brindabella and Molonglo. The Greens are most probably looking at two.

6.55pm. Scratch what I said about Molonglo: much better for the Liberals than that. They’re on three quotas, and Antony is talking about 3-3-1.

6.54pm. Greens looking pretty good in Ginninderra: best bet there looks like another 2-2-1 result.

6.53pm. Giulia Jones has pulled ahead of Steve Doszpot for the second Liberal seat in Molonglo.

6.50pm. ABC website figures updated. Still early figures for Molonglo, but my guess is a status quo result of 3 Labor, 2 Liberal, 2 Greens. Well-informed Labor member John Hargreaves on the ABC though still thinks Labor could get a fourth at the expense of Caroline Le Couteur of the Greens.

6.44pm. My early guess is that Zed Seselja’s move to Brindabella has paid dividends then and might them a third seat (with Labor two and the Greens zero), but it’s still hard to see them building upon their two in Ginninderra and Molonglo. Very unclear how the Greens will go in Ginninderra or Molonglo though.

6.43pm. Antony’s discussing more up to date figures than on the ABC site, and the Liberals have gained further since the first batch.

6.41pm. Molonglo Greens: Shane Rattenbury only slightly ahead of Caroline Le Coteur, daylight third.

6.40pm. Antony has more numbers, particularly from Brindabella, and the Liberals appear to be doing very well there, and must be considered a shot at the third seat.

6.38pm. Molonglo Liberal: Jeremy Hanson here but Steve Doszpot struggling early, mixing it with Giulia Jones and Elizabeth Lee.

6.37pm. Molonglo Labor: Weak early result for Simon Corbell, in danger from Meegan Fitzharris. Katy Gallagher dominant, Andrew Barr second.

6.36pm. Ginninderra Liberal and Greens: Incumbents Coe and Dunne well clear, third unclear. Incumbent Meredith Hunter well ahead of Greens field.

6.35pm. Ginninderra Labor: Mary Porter and Chris Bourke clear in first and second, third still unclear.

6.35pm. Brindabella Liberal and Greens: Status quo, Seselja, Smyth and Bresnan looking for re-election. If a third Liberal, very unclear who.

6.34pm. Brindabella Labor: Joy Burch headed for easy win, Mick Gentleman well ahead for second seat, third seat if any toss-up between Karl Maftoum and Rebecca Cody.

6.33pm. So the very early indication are Brindabella: Liberal 2 and Labor 2, last seat toss-up between Liberal and Greens. Ginninderra: Labor 2, Liberal 2, Greens 1. Molonglo: Labor 3, Liberal 2, Greens 1, last seat anyone’s guess. Repeat: these are very early figures.

6.25pm. And here’s the first result, accounting for 1.7% of enrolled votes in Brindabella, 2.7% in Ginninderra and 4.8% in Molonglo. These point to a much higher “others” vote than the Patterson poll indicated, and slight increases in the vote for Labor, Liberal and the Greens.

6.22pm. Antony Green reports that 47,677 electronic pre-poll votes were cast, accounting for 18.6% of enrolled votes, and that these will be fed through to the media results feed over the coming hour. That should give us a very strong indication of the way things are headed, very early. Polling booth results however will not start coming through until after 7pm, owing to the ACT’s lack of small rural booths.

6pm. Polls have closed. Follow the results through the ABC and argue the toss here. Presumably the ABC’s live coverage featuring Antony Green will be broadcast on ABC News 24.

Patterson: Labor 44.5, Liberal 35.5, Greens 14.5 in ACT

The one and only public opinion poll of the Australian Capital Territory election campaign finds Labor headed for a comfortable-to-landslide victory, with three of the Greens’ four seats hanging in the balance.

Update: October 18

The Canberra Times today provides the first hard intelligence for the ACT election, with a poll that finds Labor in a commanding position and potentially headed for a parliamentary majority. Conducted from October 11 to 14 by Patterson Research Group from a sample of 1203, the results in aggregate (rounded to the nearest half a per cent) are 44.5% for Labor, compared with 37.4% at the 2008 election; 35.5% for the Liberals, compared with 31.6%; and 14.5% for the Greens, compared with 15.5% (but probably higher than most would have anticipated). The rise in the major party vote is reflected by a 5.5% rating for “others”, reversing a strong result of 15.4% last time.

Such figures suggests the Liberals will find themselves becalmed on six seats, with the three electorates instead producing contests between Labor and the Greens to determine the final seats. The worst case scenario for Labor would be a status quo result of seven seats, with the best being a majority of nine seats or even an unprecedented ten. The Greens on the other hand would be in for a very exciting election night, at best maintaining their existing four seats but at worst collapsing to one. The results for each electorate together with swings off the 2008 results are shown below. The sample for each is around 400, with a margin of error approaching 5%.

		Labor		Liberal		Greens		Others
Brindabella	43 (+6.5)	43 (+7.7)	9 (-4.6)	5 (-9.6)
Ginninderra	45 (+4.8)	36 (+8.2)	13 (-0.9)	6 (-12.1)
Molonglo	45 (+8.9)	30 (-1.5)	20 (+1.8)	5 (-9.2)
TOTAL 	        44.5 (+7.1)	35.5 (+3.9)	15.5 (-1.1)	15 (-9.9)

Part of the disparity in Liberal swings can be explained by the “others” vote last time. In Brindabella, Val Jeffery polled 6.3% as a candidate of the Community Alliance in 2008 and is now running for the Liberals, presumably bringing a large share of his vote over. There may have been a similar effect in Ginninderra resulting from radio announcer Mark Parton polling 6.3% as an independent in 2008 and vacating the field this time. The result is probably also a little awry with respect to Molonglo, but it still provides a strong basis for believing the Liberals will do no more than maintain their existing two seats per electorate. The table below illustrates the point by converting the result into quotas. In each case the Liberals are well short of a third quota despite their gains on vote share. With no serious independent challenges on the radar, contests would emerge to see which out of Labor and the Greens would emerge with the last candidate standing, to then override any remaining Liberal on the preferences of the other.

		Labor		Liberal		Greens		Others
Brindabella	2.6		2.6		0.5		0.3
Ginninderra	2.7		2.2		0.8		0.4
Molonglo	3.6		2.4		1.6		0.4

The Canberra Times also reported yesterday that the poll had found 54% favouring Katy Gallagher as Chief Minister against 26% for Zed Seselja.

Original post: October 16

With four days to go until polling day, I finally have a guide to the Australian Capital Territory’s three electorates in business. The campaign appears from my remove to have been very low-key, with no polling emerging to give the outside observer any entree on what’s likely to happen. John Warhurst of the Australian National University read the situation thus in the Canberra Times a fortnight ago:

Labor and the Greens should win a majority of seats in Molonglo (probably Labor three and Greens one) where demography and the spread of high-profile candidates favour Labor and the Greens over the Liberals. The Liberals’ best chance of winning three seats appears to be in Zed Seselja’s new electorate of Brindabella. If that happens then the election will be decided in Greens’ leader Meredith Hunter’s electorate of Ginninderra. This means that the two most probable results are either a new Liberal majority government (Liberal nine, Labor six and Greens two) or a continuing Labor minority government supported by the Greens (Labor seven, Greens two and Liberal eight). It is too close to call at the moment.

Australian Capital Territory election: October 20

Amid a backdrop of deep cuts to the public service by conservative governments elsewhere, the looming Australian Capital Territory election gives Labor a strong chance of ending a two-year run of successive state and territory election defeats.

Voters in the Australian Capital Territory go to the polls on October 20 to determine the fact of an 11-year-old Labor government headed by Katy Gallagher, who took over the reins when Jon Stanhope stepped aside in May last year. The electoral system for the 17-member chamber is the Hare-Clark model of proportional representation familiar from Tasmania, with the territory divided into three regions of which two (Brindabella and Ginninderra) return five members and a third (Molonglo) returns seven. As is the case for Tasmania and the Senate, this system usually delivers a substantial cross-bench, making majority government difficult to achieve. The present government came to office after the 2001 election and secured the chamber’s first and so far only parliamentary majority when it was re-elected in 2004, before reverting to minority status when the Greens achieved an electoral breakthrough in 2008.

Self-government for the ACT was established under the Hawke government in 1989, and the unpopularity of the move locally was indicated by an election result in which over 60% of voters opted for minor groupings who collectively returned eight members, including four who ran on a platform of abolishing self-government. The shifting sympathies of these members produced two changes of government during the first term: Labor’s Rosemary Follett held the reins from May to December 1989 and again after June 1991, with Trevor Kaine leading a Liberal administration in the interim. Three opponents of self-government held the balance of power after the 1992 election, and sustained Follett’s minority government throughout the following term.

The territory had consisted of a single 17-member electorate at the first two elections held under the “modified d’Hondt” system, but an overhaul of the electoral system in 1995 raised the bar for minor party candidates. The territory was broken down into its present three regions, considerably pushing up the quota for election. The introduction of Hare-Clark also entailed the “Robson rotation” system of rotating ballot paper order, which forces party candidates within each region into competition with their colleagues. The first election under the new system delivered seven seats to the Liberals, whose leader Kate Carnell was able to form a government with support from two independents. Carnell retained office after achieving a status quo result in 1998, before resigning in 2000 to head off a no-confidence motion resulting from an unfavourable auditor’s report into the redevelopment of Bruce Stadium. Her successor Gary Humphries led the government to defeat in 2001, and moved to the Senate a year later where he has remained ever since.

Labor came to office at the 2001 election after gaining two seats at the expense of Liberal-leaning independents, leaving them with eight seats to the Liberals’ seven and one each for the Greens and Democrats. New Chief Minister Jon Stanhope introduced four-year terms effective from the 2004 election, which was held one week after the federal election on October 9. The election saw Labor win majority government by gaining the requisite extra seat at the expense of the collapsing Democrats. The 2008 election saw the Greens’ representation grow from one to four on the back of a vote increase from 9.3% to 15.6%, reducing Labor from nine seats to seven and the Liberals from seven seats to six. The four Greens members, all of them new to parliament, declined an offer from the Liberals for a coalition government in which the Greens would take two cabinet positions including the deputy chief ministership, instead agreeing to support a Labor minority government on the basis that more of its agenda would be put into effect. This went against the advice of Bob Brown, who said his “counsel throughout this election was for the Greens to take ministries, to share government”.

Katy Gallagher came to the chief ministership following Jon Stanhope’s unforced departure in May 2011, having been anointed as his preferred successor. Gallagher entered parliament in 2001 after earlier working as an organiser for the Left faction Community and Public Sector Union. She served as Education Minister from December 2002 until April 2006, when she moved to health and assumed the deputy chief ministership in place of the retiring Ted Quinlan. Further indication of her future leader status came when she replaced Stanhope as Treasurer after the 2008 election. Her opposite number, Zed Seselja, has been leader of the Liberals since December 2007, at which time he was 31. Despite a mediocre showing for the Liberals at the 2008 election, he has survived the ensuing term without facing serious leadership speculation.

Published polling for the election is yet to emerge, but Peter Jean of the Canberra Times reported in August that Liberal internal polling had them hopeful of gains at the expense of a declining Greens, said to be in danger of losing 4% of the vote and as many as three of their four seats. Emma Macdonald of the Canberra Times reported a fortnight ago that a poll of 400 voters conducted by Qdos Research for the Australian Education Union found 28% support for Labor, 27% for the Liberals, and 10% for the Greens, with a full third of the sample undecided – indicating there was no follow-up question as to which way undecided respondents were leaning, as public pollsters conventionally do to shake them off the fence.

Profiles of the three regions will be posted over the coming weeks. If that’s too long to wait, Antony Green does his typically comprehensive job here. The charts below respectively show the parties’ seat and vote shares going back to the inception of self-government.