Australian Capital Territory 2012

Electoral system
The ACT Legislative Assembly is elected using the Hare Clark system of proportional representation. 17 members are elected representing three multi-member electorates: two electing five MLAs each, and one electing seven MLAs. The three electorates are:
  • Brindabella – Tuggeranong and southern ACT. Elected 2 Labor, 2 Liberal, 1 Greens in 2008.
  • Ginninderra – Belconnen and parts of Gungahlin. Elected 2 Labor, 2 Liberal, 1 Greens in 2008.
  • Molonglo – Inner North, Inner South, and most of Gungahlin, Weston Creek and Woden Valley. Elected 3 Labor, 2 Liberal, 2 Greens in 2008.

2008 election
In 2008, Jon Stanhope’s Labor government was seeking a third term, after a term as a minority government from 2001-2004 and then a second term as the ACT’s first majority government. At the 2004 election, the ALP had won nine seats, the Liberal Party seven, and the Greens one.

In 2008, the ALP lost two seats and the Liberal Party lost one, with all three seats gained by the Greens. The Greens won a seat in Brindabella for the first time, and won a seat in Ginninderra for the first time since the 1995 election. The Greens had held one seat in Molonglo at every election since 1995, but managed to win two seats in a shock result.

Download a Google Earth maps showing changes to ACT boundaries since 1995.

The three ACT electorates have remained largely the same since the 1995 election. Minor redistributions took place at the 2001 and 2008 elections.

Since 1995, the biggest change had taken place in the Gungahlin district at the northern end of Canberra. Its population grew, and electoral boundaries required the district to be split between Molonglo and Ginninderra.

A further redistribution was required for the 2012 election. A large number of submissions urged that boundaries be changed to bring Gungahlin into a single electorate.

The draft boundaries proposed a radical change: moving the remainder of Gungahlin and parts of the inner North from Molonglo to Ginninderra, and subsequently making Ginninderra a seven-member electorate and Molonglo a five-member electorate. This would have significantly changed the potential election results: the Greens would not be able to win two seats in a seven-member Ginninderra electorate.

The radical change is largely a consequence of the asymmetrical electoral structure: if all of the electorates were the same size and elected the same number of MLAs, such radical changes wouldn’t be necessary. Both the Greens and the ALP have previously supported an increase in numbers: either to have three 7-member electorates, or five 5-member electorates.

The second draft reversed most of the changes, resulting in very minor changes to boundaries. No changes were made to Brindabella. The Gungahlin suburbs of Crace and Palmerston were transferred from Molonglo to Ginninderra. The new district of Molonglo Valley was transferred from Ginninderra to Molonglo. Molonglo Valley currently has no voters, but it is expected to grow significantly in the near future.

Electoral boundaries for ACT elections. 2012 boundaries in blue, 2008 boundaries in green. Booths show which party won the booth at the 2008 election.

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.

Political situation
No public polling has been conducted to assess the position of the parties in the lead up to the ACT election.

The general trend around Australia has been towards defeats for Labor governments: in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. This, along with low levels of support for the federal Labor government, could indicate that Labor will be suffering a swing towards the Liberals.

On the other hand, Canberra has traditionally been very strong for the Labor Party. The Liberal Party has never won more than seven seats in the Assembly.

At the moment the ALP holds seven seats, the Greens hold four seats and the Liberal Party holds fix seats.

Assuming that Labor and the Greens will form a government to support a Labor government (although the relationship may vary), the Greens and Labor would need to lose three seats to the Liberal Party or other candidates for the centre-left to lose a majority in the Assembly.

A relatively small swing could see either a Labor or Greens seat in Molonglo lost to the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party would need a bigger swing (perhaps around 8%) to win an extra seat in Brindabella. The Liberal Party’s leader, Zed Seselja, has switched from Molonglo to Brindabella, and they are hoping his vote will pull across a third Liberal candidate. Ginninderra would be the hardest for the Liberals to make a gain in. The Liberal Party polled much less than two quotas last time, so would probably require a swing of around 16% to win a third seat.

It is also possible that a seat could be won by a minor party or an independent, and that would influence how a minority government would be formed. It is difficult to predict this until more candidate announcements are made.




  1. It’s also worth pointing out that since 2008, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly has been a Green.

  2. There was a leaked ALP poll for the electorates of Gininderra and Brindabella reported in the Canberra Times last Saturday. Full figures were not reported, nor the size of the sample, but the figures suggested that there had been a small swing to the Liberal Party in Brindabella, with the Greens on 14% and a small swing to the ALP in Gininderra with the Greens on 17%. Outcome on those figures would be unlikely to result in any change to the status quo in terms of seats.

    Interesting that they apparently did not poll Molonglo.

  3. I should have noted in my comment above the usual caveat about leaked party polling. The lack of polling of Molonglo is indeed curious. The most you can conclude from the numbers for the other seats is that they reflect the pattern of voting at the last election reasonably and suggest that the election is going to be a really local affair.

  4. Perhaps – though I would have expected a poll might show the Greens losing their second seat to the Liberals and the ALP retaining three seats. If the ALp were to lose one of their three seats in Molongolo that suggests the Greens could hold their second seat and the ALP loss would be to the Liberals. That would be interesting.

  5. Maybe you are right – but even if Labor held its seats, a loss of a Green seat to the Liberal Party in Molonglo would bring the Liberals one seat closer to government.

  6. A crucial election for progressives. Everything must be done to stop the Liberals from getting their bigoted hands on the ACT and I mean ‘everything’!

  7. The Liberal Party is helping things along – their leader will have difficulty running a strong campaign on competent management given recent findings on his inability to manage his own office

  8. Somehow I expect the ACT to go against the trend towards the Liberals elsewhere.
    Politically speaking, Canberra is perhaps a ‘latte left” city, and I doubt that conservatism goes down well here, especially while Tony Abbott is the Federal Liberal Leader.
    At this stage, I’m inclined to go with the status quo. At worst, I think that the Greens might lose a seat to one of the major parties. If there’s a left-leaning Independent candidate of note, I’d watch for him or her. I doubt that the Liberals’ tactics against Independents elsewhere, ever since Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor chose to prop up the Gillard Government, will work here.

  9. A Bullet Train party has been registered to run on a platform of getting a very fast train to Sydney. (Personally I’d be happy with just a slightly faster Countrylink service)

  10. Interesting to see what’ll happen with the minor parties. Especially the Marion Le Social Justice Party- its being hyped up a bit, but due to a lack of publicity, I can’t see it going much places. I must admit, I do feel very sorry for both the Pirate Party and the ACT Democrats- they came so close to registration, and missed out by only a few members.

  11. Canberra Times poll gives the Greens a chance to hold on to four seats. Given the MOE for a 400 person per electorate poll the result could be anything between 1 and 4 seats.

  12. I think Labor will retain government here – the ACT is a strong left-wing bastion. Although not as left wing as Washington DC in the US, it is still very hard for the Liberals to win here, especially given the proportional representation system used in the ACT.

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