Senate – Australian Capital Territory – Australia 2019

Incumbent Senators

  • David Smith (Labor)1
  • Zed Seselja (Liberal)

1David Smith replaced Katy Gallagher [when?] following the High Court ruling that Katy Gallagher was ineligible to sit.

The Australian Capital Territory first elected Senators in 1975 at the election following the dismissal of the Whitlam government. At the first election, the Liberal Party and the ALP each won one seat each. The 1975 election was the only time that the Liberal Party outpolled the ALP. It is the only time the Liberals won over 40% (43.6%) and the only time the ALP won under 40% (37%). The first election also saw former Liberal Prime Minister and Victorian MP John Gorton poll over 11% as an independent.

At the first election, the Liberals elected John Knight while the ALP elected Susan Ryan. In the last three decades, these two parties have consistently split the two Senate seats between them, and in that time only six people, three Liberals and three Labor senators, have served in the ACT.

The 1983 election saw the ALP poll over 50% for the second and last time, reaching a record 55.3%. The same election was the first time that the Liberals ran Margaret Reid, who had taken office in 1981 after the death of John Knight. In 1988, Susan Ryan was succeeded by former ALP National Secretary Bob McMullan.

There have been a number of elections where minor parties have tried to break through and defeat the Liberal candidate. The first real shot came in 1990, when the Democrats polled 17.6% on primary votes, compared to 35.9% for the Liberals. Once you factor in preferences from the ALP, Nuclear Disarmament Party and the Greens, the Democrats get to over 29%, less than 4% away from winning the seat off the Liberals.

In 1993 the Democrats vote collapsed to 6.9%, although most of the vote went to the ALP and Greens, with the Liberal vote only rising slightly. In 1996 Bob McMullan moved into the House of Representatives and Kate Lundy was elected for the ALP. In 1998, the Democrats recovered to 16.7% and the Liberals fell below a quota on primary votes for the first time since 1984. This was partly due to the presence of One Nation, who polled almost 5%. Their preferences protected the Liberal candidate.

Reid resigned in 2003 and the Liberal Party chose former Chief Minister Gary Humphries to succeed her. In 2004, the Greens increased their vote from 5.3% to 16.4%, as the Democrats vote collapsed to 2.1%. While this was an impressive result for a minor party, a swing from the ALP to the Liberals made Humphries’ seat safe on a 37.9% primary vote.

In 2007, the Greens ran former MLA Kerrie Tucker for a second time in an attempt to defeat Humphries. She polled 21.5%. In 2010, the Greens made another attempt, running Lyn Hatfield-Dodds. She managed 22.9%, but failed to win the seat.

Liberal senator Gary Humphries was replaced at the head of the Liberal ticket in 2013 by Zed Seselja, who had led the party in the territory’s Legislative Assembly since 2007. At that year’s election, the Greens ran former GetUp national director Simon Sheikh, but Seselja retained the seat for the Liberal Party. The Greens and Labor collectively suffered a negative swing of over 10%, with most of that vote going to minor parties who had not previously run in the ACT, including the Sex Party, the Palmer United Party and Bullet Train For Australia.

Labor senator Kate Lundy stepped down in 2015, to be replaced by outgoing chief minister Katy Gallagher.

Gallagher was removed in 2018 when the High Court ruled that she had failed to clear section 44 of the constitution as she had not renounced her citizenship in time for nominations for the 2016 election. She was replaced by her running mate David Smith.

2016 result

Labor 96,66737.9+3.51.1383
Liberal 84,61533.2+0.10.9964
Greens 41,00616.1-3.20.4829
Sex Party10,0964.0+0.50.1189
Liberal Democrats7,4602.9+2.90.0878
Animal Justice4,2511.7+0.50.0501
Christian Democratic Party3,0871.2+1.20.0364
Sustainable Australia2,6781.1+0.70.0315
Rise Up Australia2,5231.0+0.40.0297
Secular Party1,3780.5+0.50.0162

No information.

It is very hard to see a result other than one Labor and one Liberal senator. The Greens continue to harbour ambitions to gain a seat here, but it would require a precipitous drop in the Liberal vote. It is also made harder by the change in the preference system which makes it harder to starve the Liberal Party of preferences.
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