Senate – Australian Capital Territory – Australia 2013

Incumbent Senators

  • Gary Humphries (LIB)
  • Kate Lundy (ALP)

History
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.

Vote for each party at each ACT Senate election, 1975-2010. Click to view interactive chart.
Vote for each party at each ACT Senate election, 1975-2010. Click to view interactive chart.

2010 result

GroupVotes%SwingQuota
Labor93,63940.84+0.001.2252
Liberal76,46333.35-0.851.0005
The Greens52,54622.92+1.450.6875
Australian Democrats4,0571.77-0.070.0531
Others2,5671.120.0336

Labor candidate Kate Lundy easily reached quota on primary votes. While the total Liberal vote exceeded a quota, some of these votes were primary votes for the second Liberal candidate, and it required a few rounds of counting before Humphries passed a quota.

At the final count, the candidates remaining were:

  • Humphries (LIB) – 1.0008 quotas
  • Greens candidates – 0.6966
  • Mathews (ALP) – 0.2143
  • Democrats candidates – 0.0530
  • Glynn (IND) – 0.0350

Adding up votes for the Greens, Democrats and Labor candidates gives a figure of 0.9639 quotas. This suggests a swing of just over .03 quotas (or 1.33%) from right to left would give the seat to the Greens.

Candidates

  • A – Marcus Fillinger – Animal Justice
  • B – Steven Bailey – Katter’s Australian Party
  • C – Simon Sheikh – Australian Greens
  • D – Mark O’Connor – Stable Population Party
  • E – Chris Bucknell – Bullet Train For Australia
  • F – Paul Cubitt – Drug Law Reform
  • G – Deborah Avery – Sex Party
  • H – Irwin Ross – Rise Up Australia
  • I – Philip Nitschke – Voluntary Euthanasia Party
  • J – Wayne Slattery – Palmer United Party
  • K – Zed SeseljaLiberal
  • L – Kate Lundy – Australian Labor Party
  • M – Anthony Sernie – Australian Independents
  • Ungrouped
    • Emmanuel Ezekiel-Hart

Assessment
The ACT Senate seat has long been a key target for the Greens. The higher quota makes it much more of a difficult task, but the Greens have always done particularly strongly in the ACT.

The Greens need to win votes off the Liberal Party to win. Labor’s surplus flows to the Greens as preferences, so winning votes off Labor doesn’t help.

The current political environment suggests the Liberal Party should be strengthening their position across the country. The Liberals (led by Seselja) gained ground at the ACT election last October, and the Greens lost a lot of ground.

On the other hand, the Humphries-Seselja was a very messy fight, and Tony Abbott’s agenda may not go down well in Canberra. Simon Sheikh is a strong candidate, and could produce a result that bucks the national trend.

12 COMMENTS

  1. The swing to Seselja was strongest in the southern part of the Canberra seat in the Tuggeranong area – the Liberals made very little impression in Belconnen. The relevance of the Territory election for the Senate campaign is hard to predict.

    The pre-selection fight was messy and may impact on the actual capacity of on the ground campaigning by the Liberal Party.

  2. Looking at current circumstances, I could see the Greens getting the second seat, here. Labor is making some gains against the Liberals, but some of their policies are going to push some people towards the Greens at the same time (for instance, the PNG “solution”).

    I think we might find that it’s incredibly close – less than 0.02 quotas in it, that’s my prediction. And if the election were held today, I think we’d see the Greens ahead, but it’s early days yet.

  3. Zed to poll under a quoto but get over the line. The further the debate lurches to the right, the more the small l liberals are likely to protest green

  4. SHould be noted that only 4 groups ran here so other then the two major parties, the democrats and greens were the only protest party. This will be difficult for the greens to win now but will hav to wait until after senate deals are locked in

  5. If Zed polls under a quota by any reasonable amount he will be gone. There will be very few votes to come back to him from anywhere else.

    The real issue is whether the Liberal Senate vote drops to any extent as a result of Gary Humphries losing pre-selection and Zed’s almost immediate departure from Territory politics once the Liberals didn’t make it into government. I don’t think there are enough discontented Liberal voters to open the door to elect a Green senator but I intend to support the effort to get that seat.

  6. Just had a look at the updated Senate list of declared candidates – PUP and Katter look like the only groups that might take votes off the Liberals – but the candidates are not high profile and don’t seem likely to make much of an impact.

  7. Greens seem to be doing well with volunteers and doing much more door knocking than previous elections, putting lots of effort in Tuggeranong Valley and Gunghalin – their weakest areas

  8. At this stage Sheikh looks like he’s too far behind.
    Seselja is only a few thousand votes short of the quota, so Sheikh needs everybody else’s preferences to make it – virtually impossible if you ask me.

  9. Hi Warren – if you run the percentages of the ALP, LIB and GRN vote through the ABC Senate calculator, then it looks to me that Seselja will lose. This is because everyone is preferencing against him (except for the Rise Up Australia and Animal Justice Party + Stable Pop Party has a split ticket).

    I think the only way for Seselja to win is to get enough votes from postals etc to get him over the line. In the ACT I don’t think Rise Up Australia will amount to much. Before the election it was pretty well understood that the Libs need to get to the quota pretty much on their own. With a messy preselection even some Lib voters may have voted below the line to preference ahead of Seselja (eg putting his running mate #1, but then putting Zed behind Sheik).

    This is mighty close.

  10. Hi MCBAL, I didn’t say it wasn’t close. I just thought Seselja was close enough to the quota to get there. I saw a piece by Angela Shanahan in the OZ about the Seselja-Sheikh battle – it said Seselja probably should’ve won last year’s ACT election because voters were very unhappy with the Labor government but he came up short, and suddenly he quit the ACT Parliament to run against Humphries for Senate preselection, which was messy and caused much resentment. If those things had been working against Seselja, his Senate vote probably should’ve been lower than it is (at the moment), but because it’s not, I think he’ll get over the line.

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