Australian Capital Territory 2016

Electorates
There are five electorates which cover the Australian Capital Territory. Each of these electorates will elect five members of the new Legislative Assembly. Guides have been prepared for all five electorates. Click the links below to view each guide:

Electoral system
The ACT Legislative Assembly is elected using the Hare-Clark system, which is a version of the Single Transferable Vote. Hare-Clark is also used to elect the Tasmanian House of Assembly.

The basics of the counting system are similar to the system used to elect the Senate, and the upper houses of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Each voter has a single vote. There is a quota, and any candidate who polls more than a quota distributes their surplus to other candidates. Once all surpluses have been distributed, candidates are knocked out from the bottom until the number of candidates remaining equals the number of seats left to be filled.

The details of how this system is implemented make it quite different to the system used to elect the Senate. Firstly, there is no above-the-line voting. This means that voters can only vote for individual candidates, and thus must also mark preferences for individuals. Secondly, there is no such thing as a party order. In the Senate, the party nominates a first candidate, a second candidate, and so forth, and they appear on the ballot in that order. In the ACT, different ballots show different candidates at the top of their party ticket.

This second difference, called Robson Rotation, weakens the power of the parties and strengthens the power of individual candidates. Votes cast for the party without any regard for an individual candidates are randomised between the candidates, so the candidate who can poll the most personal votes will be in the best position. It’s not unheard of for a sitting MP of one party to be defeated by another candidate of the same party.

In the past, the ACT was covered by one seven-member electorate and two five-member electorates. As of this election, the ACT is covered by five five-member electorates, each of which will have a quota of approximately 16.7% to win a seat.

Redistribution
There were no electorates used for the first two ACT elections in 1989 and 1992.

In 1995, the new Hare-Clark system required electoral boundaries for the first time, and three electorates were created. The seven-member electorate of Molonglo covered central Canberra, Woden and Gungahlin. The five-member electorate of Brindabella covered Tuggeranong, and the five-member electorate of Ginninderra covered Belconnen.

There were minor redistributions in 2001, 2008 and 2012, but these electorates remained largely the same.

In 2014, the Legislative Assembly voted to expand its membership to 25, by creating five electorates, each represented by five members.

The subsequent redistribution kept the electorates of Brindabella and Ginninderra, although they shrunk in territory. Two new districts of Murrumbidgee (covering Weston Creek and Woden Valley) and Yerrabi (covering Gungahlin) were created. The central district of Molonglo was renamed Kurrajong, and contracted substantially to only cover the inner north, inner south and city centre of Canberra.

The following table shows my estimate of how the 2012 election votes would have been distributed between the five new seats.

Percentage Quotas
Electorate ALP LIB GRN Others ALP LIB GRN Others
Brindabella 35.3 47.3 7.4 10.1 2.12 2.84 0.45 0.60
Ginninderra 40.5 32.5 10.5 16.5 2.43 1.95 0.63 0.99
Kurrajong 40.7 33.3 16.7 9.4 2.44 2.00 1.00 0.56
Murrumbidgee 39.8 41.2 10.4 8.5 2.39 2.47 0.63 0.51
Yerrabi 38.2 39.9 8.7 13.1 2.29 2.39 0.52 0.79

For the purposes of this election guide, I consider Kurrajong to be the successor electorate to Molonglo, and Murrumbidgee and Yerrabi to be new electorates.

Political history

The ACT was granted self-government in 1989. An elected House of Assembly had previously existed from 1975 to 1986, but had only played an advisory role in ACT government.

The ACT Legislative Assembly was originally elected using party-list proportional representation in one ACT-wide electorate.

At the 1989 election, the ALP won five seats, the Liberal Party won four seats, and eight other seats were won by independent tickets: four seats to the Residents Rally, three seats to the No Self-Government Party, and one seat to the Abolish Self Government Coalition.

Following the election, the Labor Party formed a minority government led by Rosemary Follett. Six months later, the government was defeated, and Trevor Kaine led a minority Liberal government. Kaine governed until 1991, when a split in the Residents Rally led to Follett returning to power.

At the 1992 election, the ALP won eight seats, the Liberal Party won six, and three were won by independents. Follett’s minority Labor government governed for the entirety of the 1992-1995 term.

The electoral system was changed to the current system for the 1995 election. At that election the Liberal Party won seven seats, the ALP won six, the Greens won two, and two independents were elected. Kate Carnell formed a minority Liberal government with independent support. Carnell was re-elected in 1998, when one of the two Greens seats was lost to another conservative independent.

The ALP returned to power in 2001, when they formed a minority government led by Jon Stanhope. All three independents lost their seats, with one going to the Democrats and two going to Labor, putting Labor only one seat short of a majority.

Jon Stanhope won a second term in 2004, when Labor won a majority, with nine seats. The Liberal Party held seven seats and the Greens one.

At the last election in 2008 the ALP lost two seats and the Liberal Party lost one, all of which went to the Greens. The ALP and the Greens formed an agreement to support a minority Labor government. Stanhope led the government until 2011, when he was succeeded as Chief Minister by Katy Gallagher.

At the 2012 election, both major parties gained seats at the expense of the Greens. Labor and Liberal both found themselves on eight seats each, with only one Green, Shane Rattenbury, surviving. Labor and the Greens again formed a government, this time with Rattenbury taking on a ministry.

In 2014, Gallagher stepped down as chief minister and was succeeded by Andrew Barr. Gallagher was appointed to the Senate in early 2015.

Assessment
It is likely that Labor will form a government, probably with the support of some Greens MLAs. The Liberal Party did very well in 2012, and would be expected to struggle in increasing their vote further.

About the Author

Ben Raue is the founder and author of the Tally Room. If you like this post, please consider donating to support the Tally Room.