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Australian Capital Territory

The two territories have each been represented by two Senators since the 1975 election, following Whitlam government legislation that survived High Court challenges in 1975 and 1977. Whereas the state Senators serve six-year terms that are fixed but for the possibility of a double dissolution, the territory Senators' terms are tied to those of the House of Representatives. The formula for election is the same as for the states, but it has very different consequences given that two Senators are elected rather than six. The quota in either case is one divided by the number of seats up for election plus one, so a territory election quota is 33.3% rather than 14.3% at a half-Senate state election, or 7.7% at a double dissolution.

A party is thus guaranteed of a seat if it wins a third of the primary vote, which the major parties have only occasionally failed to manage, with preferences easily getting them over the line on each such occasion. Consequently, none of the territory Senate elections has produced a result other than one seat each for Labor and the main Coalition party. The most likely scenarios to disturb this would involve one or other major party winning both seats, in effect requiring two-thirds of the two-party preferred vote, or the Liberals losing their Australian Capital Territory seat to the Greens, a theoretical but still distant prospect.

Labor's seat was held from March 2015 to May 2018 by Katy Gallagher, who was the ACT's Chief Minister from 2011 to 2014, having been a member of the territory parliament since 2001. A member of the Left, she assumed the Senate vacancy resulting from the resignation of Kate Lundy, the member since 1996. She was shortly promoted to shadow cabinet in October 2015, in the mental health, housing and homelessness portfolios, and won further promotion to small business and financial services after the 2016 election.

Gallagher was then brought unstuck by the Section 44 parliamentary eligibility crisis. It was first suggested she might face difficulties with potential Ecudorean citizenship, her mother having been born in that country, but it was instead determined that the problem arose from her mother's British citizenship. As with other Section 44 vacancies, a recount was duly held and the position filled by the second candidate on the Labor ticket in 2016, David Smith. Smith will now contest the new lower house seat of Bean and Gallagher will seek a comeback to the Senate, her citizenship issues having since been resolved.

The second candidate on the Labor ticket is Nancy Waites, publisher of the bilingual French-English magazine, Canberra en fran├žais.

The Liberal seat has been held since the 2013 election by Zed Seselja, who had earlier served in the territory parliament from 2004, where he was Liberal leader from December 2007 to February 2013. Seselja is noted as a conservative, and was among those to resign from the front bench – in his case from a parliamentary secretary position he had held since the 2016 election – as part of the move against Malcolm Turnbull in August last year.

Suggestions that Seselja's conservatism, and in particular his role in Turnbull's downfall, might prove fatal for his electoral prospects in the markedly liberal national capital were encouraged by a union-commissioned poll conducted in January, which suggested the Liberal vote had slumped below 24%, and that Seselja had a 29% approval rating and a disapproval rating of 59%. If so, it could create an opening for the Greens, whose candidate is Penny Kyburz (left), an academic at the Australian National University's College of Engineering and Computer Science and a former policy adviser to Western Australian Senator Jordon Steele-John; or Anthony Pesec, a local businessman, former investment banker and renewable energy developer, who is among the independent candidates whose campaigns have received backing from Alex Turnbull, investment banker and son of the former Prime Minister.