ACT 2008 Archive


Where do the Greens go in the ACT?

With the final count resulting in the fourth Green, Caroline le Couteur, elected to the final seat in the ACT Legislative Assembly, the ACT’s local parliament now includes 7 Labor MLAs, 6 Liberal MLAs and 4 Greens MLAs. On top of that, the ACT Greens today announced that new Ginninderra MLA Meredith Hunter will take on the role of “Parliamentary Convenor” of the ACT Greens, which most media has taken as making her the de facto leader of the ACT Greens. The determination to not name Hunter as the party’s “leader” suggests a reluctance to embrace the concept, the party being dragged kicking and screaming into electing a leader. It also suggests that the party will embrace a minimalist model which does not give much power over the party outside Parliament and the other Greens MLAs, which isn’t surprising considering the Greens’ political history.

So where do the Greens go from here in determining the make-up of the next ACT Government? What options are on the table?

The biggest choice the Greens need to make are whether they will support a Labor government led by Jon Stanhope or a Liberal government led by Zed Seselja. The ALP has a larger presence in the Assembly, although both parties have sufficient MLAs to form a government with Greens support. Another factor supporting a decision to favour Labor is the position of most Greens voters. The pre-election Patterson poll indicated substantially higher levels of Greens voters preferring Mr Stanhope as Chief Minister. On the other hand, the Liberals have appeared to be an easier party to conduct negotiations with, with Labor beginning the negotiations by suggesting they would not move easily to work with the Liberals. The ALP’s history of minority government suggests a difficulty in cooperating with crossbenchers. Indeed, the Liberals have offered at least one ministry in a Liberal/Green government to the Greens, while Stanhope has suggested that he does not favour a model with both Labor and Greens ministers in a coalition government. On the other hand, the Liberal party room includes a number of very conservative MLAs, despite the Cabverra Liberals being considered one of the most progressive Liberal Parties in the country.

So what model could the Greens use as part of an alliance with Labor or Liberal? On all four previous occasions when the Greens have supported a government in Australia (twice in Tasmania and twice in the ACT, supporting Liberal and Labor equally), they have adopted the Confidence and Supply model. This involves the two parties negotiating an agreement that commits the crossbench party, in exchange for some policy commitments, to supporting the government’s budget and to vote with the government (or in some cases, abstain) in the case of any confidence motions which would bring down the government. The Greens would retain freedom to vote with or against the government on all other issues and would not take on any ministries. This model would give the Greens the freedom to oppose the government on an issue-by-issue basis, avoid needing to join a day-to-day governing partnership with a party with whom they have a poor relationship. It also allows the Greens to retain a separate identity and still campaign against the government at the next election. On the downside, it dramatically restricts the ability of the Greens to influence the policy direction of the ACT. While they would achieve some policy concessions and would have the balance of power in regards to legislation, they would not be able to demonstrate their ability to govern by holding a ministry.

On the other hand, the Greens could move towards a full coalition with Labor or the Liberals. This would involve the Greens taking on one or more ministries within a coalition cabinet consisting of ministers from two different parties. The two parties would agree to a common policy platform, made up of an amalgam of the two parties’ election platforms. It could involve the Greens taking on the Deputy Chief Minister position. On the plus side, Greens Ministers holding portfolios such as Transport or Education could have dramatically greater impacts on the ACT’s policy agenda than minor policy concessions given by a government in exchange for arms-length support. It would also give the Greens the first opportunity to demonstrate an ability to govern competently and move away from a constant crossbench/oppositional role.

On the downside, a full coalition would tie the Greens to every bad and/or unpopular decision made by the Labor or Liberal government. The Greens would also be permanently outvoted in cabinet and in any joint party room. History in New Zealand suggests that minor parties working in coalition with a major party suffer at the following election, while the major party partner tends to benefit from incumbency much more clearly.

There is a third alternative, namely that the Greens would take ministries outside of cabinet. This arrangement was used in the second Carnell government, for independent Health Minister Mike Moore, as well as in the last Labour government in New Zealand, which appointed New Zealand First leader Winston Peters as Foreign Minister and United Future leader Peter Dunne as Revenue Minister. In all these cases, these ministers were only bound to cabinet solidarity in their portfolios. This resulted in the spectacle of the NZ Foreign Minister criticising the New Zealand government’s decision to sign a free trade agreement with China. This would likely be much better for the Greens than a full coalition, although Labor would tend to see it as the worst of both worlds. It would give up ministries without gaining control over the Greens’ political agenda.

The final consideration is how many ministries the Greens would take if they were to take on ministerial portfolios. The current Labor government included 9 MLAs, 5 of whom were ministers. These proportions were reflected in the numbers of MLAs and Cabinet ministers in each of Labor’s factions. If this was reflected in any deal, a Labor-Green ministry would include 4 Labor ministers to represent the 7 Labor MLAs, and 2 Greens ministers to repreent the four Greens MLAs. A similar proportion would see the Greens have two ministries out of five in a Liberal-Green ministerial arrangement. Although I’m sure both Labor and Liberal would prefer a smaller Greens presence.


ACT results update

It seems that the ACT Electoral Commission is updating results every evening around this time (although I’m running on Wednesday night’s results. Each day they enter a certain number of booths worth of ballots into the computer, then they distribute the preferences for those booths, as well as all electronic votes (the vast majority of pre-polls, plus some election-day votes cast in the town centres of Gungahlin, Belconnen, Civic, Woden and Tuggeranong).

As of Monday night Caroline le Couteur was leading by 49 votes over her fellow Green Elena Kirschbaum at the key point in the count, when Elena was eliminated. Caroline then was 49 votes behind Liberal Jeremy Hanson for the last position.

As of Wednesday night, Elena is now 11 votes ahead of Caroline, and 101 votes behind Jeremy Hanson. Jeremy is also only 57 votes behind Liberal Giulia Jones, suggesting that she could be at just as much risk as Hanson.

So what does it tell us? First of all, it’s incredibly close either way. It appears that the split between Elena and Caroline could make the difference. It’s possible that Caroline performs better against Jeremy Hanson than Elena, meaning that if Elena leads over her the Greens chances could be slightly less.

Apart from electronic votes, all of which have been counted, votes have been counted in booths whose names begin in “A”, “B” or “C”, so obviously a lot is yet to be counted. But I’d point out that Campbell, where I scrutineered, was a very strong booth for Jeremy Hanson personally and a weak booth for the Greens generally. So it is better for the Greens if they are losing by 101 votes at this point.

Update: Antony Green in comments at Poll Bludger seems to have tonight’s result. Elena Kirschbaum has won the last spot on the latest count off Giulia Jones by 58 votes. This is gonna take forever.


ACT Election: the aftermath

So here’s where we are the day after the election.

Labor suffered a 9.3% swing against them, while the Liberals suffered a 3.7% swing and the Greens polled 15.8%, a 6.6% swing.

In Brindabella, Labor lost one of its three seats, resulting in two Labor, two Liberal and one Green. It appears that two sitting MLAs have been defeated by their own parties: Mick Gentlemen and Steve Pratt both came third, with a new candidate polling second.

In Ginninderra it appears that two Labor, two Liberal and one Green have been elected. The ABC website says that the second Liberal is at risk of losing to a third Labor, but I can’t see it. It really depends on the preference flows.

In Molonglo, it has become much more interesting. Three Labor (the three sitting Cabinet ministers), one Liberal (Zed) and one Green (Shane) have all been elected. The last two seats appear to be a contest between five people: Jeremy Hanson on 0.30, Giulia Jones on 0.21, Caroline le Couteur on 0.30, Elena Kirschbaum on 0.29, and Frank Pangallo on 0.31. A third sitting MLA has been defeated in Jacqui Burke, who was the fifth-polling Liberal.

First of all, it’s worth pointing out that one of the Liberals will win one of these seats, but either of them could lose. Also remember that Zed Seselja has 0.49 surplus, and 0.48 quotas cast for other Liberals. This should be enough to solidify the position of either Jeremy or Giulia, but would leave the other out in the cold. On the other hand, Shane Rattenbury polled 0.89 quotas. Considering the high vote for his fellow Greens, they should hold on long enough for Shane to be elected with preferences from other candidates, allowing most of the third Green’s preferences flow straight to the second Green. This would put either Caroline or Elena on almost 0.60 quotas. I find it difficult to see how the third Liberal could get above 0.5 quotas without non-Liberal preferences. It seems impossible that Pangallo, without fellow candidates preferencing him, can compete. Although his preferences could decide the race.

William Bowe at Poll Bludger has also pointed out that a lot of Gallagher voters may be feminists voting specifically for women. Considering that none of the other Labor women are in with a shot of winning, those votes could flow to the two Green women.

Overall, it could go any way. The two Green women are effectively tied in the race, which reflects the vast majority of Greens voters who cast a donkey vote down the Green ticket, evenly splitting their votes between the three candidates. This donkey vote also means that preferences should flow almost universally between the two women, assuming Rattenbury doesn’t use up many votes reaching quota.


Liveblogging in the Bush Capital

8:44pm – No great news. Appears fairly certain the breakdown will be 7-7-3. There might be some interesting races within each party for seats, but I don’t expect any more results tonight.

7:52pm – In other news, Greens have gained votes in all four NSW by-elections. Swings of about 2% in Port Macquarie and Cabramatta, with a swing of 3% in Ryde and a whopping 10% swing for Kristian Bolwell in Lakemba. Congrats Kristian on a big result.

7:50pm – Nothing much has been happening. Here in Campbell they have finished sorting ballots into each column and are now dividing them by individual candidate. The Greens vote is very evenly spread between the three candidates, although Shane is leading. I guess it shows that Greens voters don’t strongly personalise. We saw the same with Deb Foskey in 2004. They are yet to do any tallies. When they are done I will post them and head for the tally room. Meanwhile the Greens are hoving between 1.35 and 1.4 quotas in Molonglo. I’m still waiting for more figures before ruling out Caroline.

7:13pm – Greens vote picking up in Molonglo, now 1.42 quotas. Shane now on 0.71 with Caroline on 0.37 and Elena on 0.35. Interesting. It’s not unreasonable that one Caroline or Elena could beat Giulia or Jeremy Hanson for the last spot.

7:10pm – Just realised that my booth is the closest booth to Duntroone and ADFA. Apparently the booth workers got a lot of questions about “who are the army guys” (for those of you playing along at home, the answer is Mike Hettinger and Jeremy Hanson). Because if there’s one skill you want in an MLA, it’s the ability to kill a man.

7:01pm – Looking at the breakdowns by candidates, the only interesting cases are Liberals in danger in Molonglo and Ginninderra. In Ginninderra new Liberal candidate Alastair Coe is leading over sitting MLA Vicki Dunne, although both should win. In Molonglo, MLA Jacqui Burke, who filled a casual vacancy in 2001, lost in that election, then filled another casual vacancy in 2002 before being re-elected in 2004, is in serious danger of losing, currently polling fourth amongst the Liberal candidates.

6:52pm – Gallagher, regardless of Labor’s poor performance, remains the most prominent Labor candidate in Molonglo by far. It’s not surprising that the bulk of the Labor vote went to her.

Here’s another thought. The second and third Liberal are both on 0.29 while Caroline le Couteur of the Greens is on 0.36 quotas. She’ll last a long time and Rattenbury should be elected solely on Elena Kirschbaum’s votes. If she lasts and picks up some preferences from Labor and Liberal and a few from Elena, she could be in with a shot.

6:34pm – Now that the electronic pre-poll votes have been counted it’s gonna be a while before the count changes. Currently the ABC computer is predicting 7-7-3, which is reasonable. That sees even numbers of Labor and Liberal in every electorate and one Green in each. Also interesting is the raw votes. There has been a 11.1% swing against the ALP and a 1.8% swing against the Liberals. The Greens have gained 6% while the balance has gone to other parties/indies.

6:24pm – Pre-poll votes counted electronically, resulting in about 15% being counted already. Brindabella has Labor and Liberal both on just over 2 quotas (a large swing against Labor) with Greens on 0.84. Labor on 2.27 in Ginninderra with Liberal on 1.72 and Greens on 0.88. Molonglo has Labor and Liberal both under 3 quotas, with Greens on 1.35 quotas.

6:11pm – I’m in the room. No scrutineer for Labor here, interestingly.

5:55pm – I’m at Campbell Primary School, about to begin scrutineering for the Greens team in Molonglo. I’ll try and keep up with liveblogging. Poll Bludger will likely also be liveblogging both the ACT and NSW, while ABC Elections is the best place for official results.


Ginninderra stories

So I just got back to my house in Hackett in the Canberra inner north.

I spent the day travelling around the Ginninderra electorate visiting polling booth workers campaigning for Meredith Hunter, Greens candidate for Ginninderra.

First of all, the polls today continue the strong performance for the Greens. Again the Greens polled well in Brindabella and Ginninderra, sufficient to win a seat in both electorates. The 23% in Molonglo would again appear to be sufficient to elect a second Green along with Shane Rattenbury, although that relies on a strict preference flow within the Greens ticket, which isn’t that common in the ACT.

The other major development was the decline of the Liberal vote and the surge in popularity for Jon Stanhope in Ginninderra. This resulted in the poll predicting 3 Labor, 1 Green and 1 Liberal.

Despite this poll, I stand by my prediction of 7 Labor, 7 Liberal and 3 Greens, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it went the way the poll predicted, with 8 Labor, 5 Liberal and 4 Greens.

ACT elections ban all handing out of how-to-votes within 100 metres of polling booths. In effect this means that most voters are missed by a booth worker, with many driving into school carparks within the 100m perimeter. The effect of this is interesting, with campaigning being much more relaxed and sleepy, and generally quiet. Most people packed up hours before polls closed. It is also interestnig that most ACT voters appeared to have no trouble voting without a HTV, with very few going back out to pick up a piece of paper. It really has convinced me of the merits of banning all handing out of HTVs on election day, with a “how to vote” magazine handed out to voters with their ballot paper.

It was also fascinating seeing the interaction of different candidates from the same party. The Greens only campaigned for Meredith Hunter, but in addition to Hunter and the three sitting MLAs, Stanhope, Dunne, and Porter, there were a few others with a strong position: Alistair Coe and Jacqui Watts for the Liberals, and Adina Cirson on the left and David Peebles on the right.

Anyway, I’m running out of time before I need to leave. I’m scrutineering tonight and I’m going to be at Campbell Primary School, before going to the Tally Room and the Greens election night party. I’ll try and liveblog through the night. For now, here’s some images from today.

A bunch of different candidate corflutes.

A bunch of different candidate corflutes.

Every booth had these Liberal "How to vote? Drive in here". It was bizarre. No-one could tell they were Liberal posters, as opposed to Elections ACT posters. A lot of them were also in the wrong place, misleading voters. I saw one at the entrance to a petrol station across the road from the booth.

Every booth had these Liberal corflutes, totally bizarre and ineffective.


ACT 2008: Ginninderra and Brindabella

More election-eve coverage from Poll Bludger and Decomposing Trees.

Voters will go to the polls on Saturday in the Australian Capital Territory to elect their Legislative Assembly. I’ve already covered the race in Molonglo. Unfortunately due to the Canadian election I haven’t had time to fully preview all of the races being fought tomorrow, so I’ll cover them briefly here.

I’ll be scrutineering tomorrow night in Campbell in the ACT electorate of Molonglo for the Greens. I’ll take my laptop with internet there and hopefully I’ll be able to put some updates in.

The ACT election tomorrow will almost certainly result in Jon Stanhope’s Labor government deprived of its majority. It also looks likely that the Greens will gain ground and will likely hold the balance of power, which suggests that Stanhope will be much more likely to form the next government, over Liberal leader Zed Seselja. The chances of a Labor government supported by Greens was boosted with today’s Canberra Times Patterson poll. When asked who they would prefer as Chief Minister, Greens supporters backed Stanhope over Seselja with 52% for Stanhope and 20% for Seselja.

Ginninderra covers the north-west suburbs of Canberra, centred on the major suburb of Belconnen. Prior to the 2004 election, when three Labor MLAs and two Liberals were elected, there had always been one crossbench MLA, with the seat changing hands at every election. Greens MLA Lucy Horodny was elected in 1995. She retired in 1998 and Greens candidate Shane Rattenbury failed to hold the seat, which went to conservative Dave Rugendyke, elected on Paul Osborne’s ticket. Rattenbury was narrowly beaten by Democrat Ros Dundas in 2001. In 2004, Greens candidate Meredith Hunter again came close, but missed out.

A large number of votes in Ginninderra are up for grabs this time. Highly popular former Liberal leader Bill Stefaniak will not be standing again after being appointed to a tribunal by the ALP government. Wayne Berry, the current Speaker and the most left-wing of the sitting ALP MLAs, is also retiring. Some of his vote will likely flow to the Greens simply by his retirement, outside of any broader swing. The top polling candidate in Ginninderra in 2004 was Chief Minister Jon Stanhope, who polled over two quotas. While Stanhope will be re-elected, he will provide less assistance to his fellow Labor MLAs. It looks likely that the three MLAs running for re-election will be re-elected, along with Meredith Hunter and one of the new Liberals.

Prediction: 2 Labor, 2 Liberal, 1 Greens

Brindabella covers the southern suburbs, centring on Tuggeranong and including the rural south of the ACT. The first Hare-Clark election in 1995 saw two Labor, two Liberals and independent Paul Osborne elected. A similar result was repeated in 1998. In 2001 and 2004 Labor won three seats and two Liberals. The Greens have never come close to winning here, with 0.4 quotas in 2004.

With Labor’s popularity dropping, the recent Patterson poll put the Greens on an incredible 18%. While that seems high for the Greens, it does suggest that the Greens are on track to win the seat. Greens candidate Amanda Bresnan is definitely going to struggle in comparison to Hunter and Rattenbury, but will have a strong shot.

Prediction: ALP 2, Liberal 2, Greens 1

Total prediction: ALP 7, Liberal 6, Greens 3, Richard Mulcahy 1

Postscript: as a light-hearted conclusion to the campaign, RiotACT has been getting candidates to prove their abilities by playing three hours of Sim City. While no sitting MLAs participated, a number of new Labor and Liberal candidates competed. Greens Ginninderra candidate James Higgins, as well as Shane Rattenbury, both competed as well, trying to put their policies into practice. I’ve posted the YouTube videos showing Shane and James’ performances. You can look at all the other competitors here.


ACT 2008 – Molonglo

An overview of the candidates can be found at Poll Bludger.

The race for Molonglo has always been the most interesting in the ACT. Unlike Brindabella and Ginninderra, the central Canberra seat elects seven MLAs. The ALP and Liberals each won three seats in 2004, with the other seat going to Deb Foskey of the Greens.

The recent Patterson poll gave 2.6 quotas to the ALP, 2.3 quotas to the Liberals, 1.8 quotas to the Greens and 1.3 quotas to Others. The three Labor MLAs are all cabinet ministers. Deputy Chief Minister Katy Gallagher (pictured) and fellow minister Simon Corbell should be elected safely, while Andrew Barr, who filled a casual vacancy by countback during the last term, would be most likely to be in danger if the ALP struggles to win a third seat. The most interesting of the other candidates would be Mike Hettinger. After just missing out on winning in 2004 and then losing a countback to Barr more recently, Hettinger has been running on a platform of “green Labor”. In response to his “maverick” campaign, the ALP has frozen his campaign funds this week. He could prove an upset if a large surplus for the Greens’ Shane Rattenbury leaks away from the Greens.

Richard Mulcahy, who was the highest-polling Liberal in 2004, was expelled from the Liberals in 2007 and is running as an independent. The other two MLAs, leader Zed Seselja and Jacqui Burke, should be safely re-elected. The latest poll suggests that will be all the Liberals gain, but if one was to win, it could be any of the remaining five Liberal candidates.

Greens candidate Shane Rattenbury should be safely elected. If the Patterson poll is to be believed, the Greens may poll as high as 23%, above a quota of 12.5%. Yet it will be very difficult for either Elena Kirschbaum or Caroline Le Couteur to win. The Greens have not been conducting a campaign for either of them, and in the intensely personalised ACT campaign, a large surplus for Rattenbury could well scatter to many different candidates.

Former Liberal MLA Richard Mulcahy would have to be a strong contender to be elected as an independent, after polling first for the Liberals in 2004. The only other contender is Frank Pangallo. His campaign seems hamstrung by the fact that Pangallo’s sole experience is as Mayor of Queanbeyan. His outsider status, and his attitude of treating the ACT Legislative Assembly as a glorified local council (which is not an unusual opinion) may hurt him in his quest to be elected.

My prediction: Seselja, Gallagher, Rattenbury, Corbell, Mulcahy, Burke, Barr, for a total of 3 ALP, 2 Liberal, 1 Greens, 1 Independent.

Others to watch: Mike Hettinger, Caroline Le Couteur, Frank Pangallo and Liberal candidate Gary Kent.