Senate – Australian Capital Territory – Election 2010

Incumbent Senators

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

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%, by far the best result for a minor party in the ACT. With every party preferencing the Greens above the Liberals, Tucker would have gotten over 32% on preferences, if preferences were distributed. However, Humphries still maintained a primary vote quota with 34.2%. Considering that every other party bar one issued a ticket putting Tucker ahead of Humphries, it appears that a swing away from the Liberal Party of less than 1% would have seen Humphries defeated.

Primary vote for each party.
Primary vote for each party.

2007 result

The Greens48,38421.47+5.110.6442
What Women Want1,4060.62+0.620.0187
Climate Change Coalition1,3230.59+0.590.0176
Nuclear Disarmament Party4460.20+0.200.0059

Both major parties held their seats with a quota on primary votes. The ALP, Democrats, What Women Want, Climate Change Coalition and Nuclear Disarmament Party all preferenced the Greens ahead of the Liberals, with only the LDP preferencing the Liberals. If you assume all preferences went to the Greens (although 17% of voters voted below the line, so this assumption may not be correct), the Greens end up with 32.46% after the first ALP candidate was elected. This means a swing of less than 1% from the Liberal Party to any other party would have been sufficient to cost the Greens the seat, although this could be slightly larger when you consider below the line voting.

ALP Senator Kate Lundy is running for re-election. I have no information on Gary Humphries, although I would expect him to run again. The Greens have preselected Lin Hatfield-Dodds, former head of ACOSS. The Democrats are standing Darren Churchill.

Political situation
Assuming that preference flows between parties do not change radically, a swing of about 1% from the Liberal Party to the ALP or Greens would be sufficient to give the seat to the Greens on ALP and minor party preferences.


  1. This has become a fun Senate race. Fingers crossed that the Greens preselect a good candidate. This might be one to watch for the Greens.

  2. The LDP preferenced Humphries ahead of Tucker, but that doesn’t substantially change the equation (although I guess now that they’ve had their name change to ‘Liberal Democrats’ approved, they may attract substantially more votes next year).

  3. A swing of about 1% ‘right to left’ is at least a realistic possibility. And with the almost certain gain of 1 senator in QLD to the ALP would leave the Greens with the balance of power.

    A question for ACT locals – does the Greens enhanced representation and conduct since (whatever that is) in the ACT administration have any likely bearing – one way or the other – on peoples preparedness to vote for them in the senate?

  4. Yes, the results in the Legislative Assembly will definitely have an effect in the Senate race next year. For the past year the Greens have locally become the de-facto ‘opposition’ in the legislative assembly meaning they have overtaken the Liberals in media attention. This will be a great boost to the party as suddenly people have not only become interested in us but have also be given a taste of what we are like when in a power position in parliament. Given the great job the MLA’s have done, this can only be a good thing.

  5. Indeed, a serious candidate, and one potentially very well suited to the ACT electorate. I wonder, though, how a candidate such as Hatfield Dodds would go in another state (say Queensland?). [Thinking aloud] she sounds like a great candidate for Greens voters, but will she break new ground? At least the CDP and Family First (and the Exclusive Brethren) will have a hard time attacking her as anti-christian, as they are wont to do to Greens!

  6. Hatfield-Dodds will shift public perception as to the range of issues Greens are interested and associated with. Her church affiliations might make it easier to eat away at the Liberals vote which is where she needs to get votes from to have a chance of winning.

    Gary Humphries the Liberal Senator has been working very hard to hit the media on any issue he can over the past couple of months.Senator Lundy has barely been visible in public – that safe ALP Senate seat has been a freed ride.

  7. If the Whitlam Government had introduced 3 ACT Senators instead of 2, then the 1975 election would likely have produced 2 Lib, 1 ALP with `77 borderline but ALP winning 1980-1993, probably Democrats from 1996-2001 and Greens 2004 onward.

  8. Actually the ALP would have won 1977 unless Democrat preferences were substantially against them.

  9. Gorton would have been a chance if he managed to stay ahead of the ALP surplus on preferences from the minor candidates. Who was Ian Black who got 6.4%?

  10. As Greens support human rights (such as for aboriginals, workers, refugees & gays), a renewable environment and want to see our troops safely home, I hope the Greens grab that second senate seat.

  11. Its great to be able to vote for such a community-minded person! Julia Gillard is very weak on Industrial Relations. Ask her what she did about Kristine Clement’s treatment by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, when she was industrial relations minister. She is very weak on national security. Ask her what she is covering up! Ask Senator Humphries, who knows all about the case what he did. Before you say “So what!”, it could happen to you! Honset hardworking are not required under the Liberal and Labor regimes. Every member of my family and friends have also been targetted. Mr Colin Dunstan was stalked by a public servant for several years and just won some well deserved compensation. The Tax Department is the real culprit in the letter bomb incident. Like Mr Dunstan, one member of my family has been assaulted, bullied and stalked for 17 years now and another has been persistently stalked by female public servants, especially following the birth of his children, in order to wreck his family. More recently, both have been subjected to blackmail. This is a serious industrial relations issue. It’s all related to Kristine Clement’s employment at the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Statistician Pink was involved and this is recorded in Hansard. Where is the law? Where is Gillard? Where is Humphries? Sack ’em! Vote Green!

  12. Not nice of the ACT Democrats. A bit jealous of our 5 Senators and 22(?) State and Territory MP’s. Are the Democrats preferencing the Liberals in any other States in the Senate?
    Let’s face it, when the Democrats preferenced Family First at a recent Federal election, that was the final straw for me with them!
    So a vote in the ACT senate election is a vote for Abbott and perhaps his ultra-conservative, ‘out of control ‘ offsiders beginning to regress social progressive policies that have taken so long to achieve. Strange that the Democrats have totally sold out to the ultra-right! Very distasteful indeed!
    I think the ACT Greens will soon get word around about that!

  13. Brenton, the only unusual decision made by the Dems has been to preference the ALP ahead of the Greens in SA.

  14. Wishful thinking by you politically correct public servants. Humphries will retain his quota not because of Democrat preferences, but because the Greens are not a major player, the government has performed poorly across the board and there are many, many real issues out there that outweigh Canberra-centric navel gazing

  15. Politically correct public servants, that’s a new one. Fact is, the Greens are a major player, I’ll give Lin Hattfield Dobs a 50/50 chance. The ALP will probably lose a couple of % but they’ll retain the quota no worries, if the Liberals lose something like 2% they’ll have to rely on preferences from the Democrats, which I would be surprised if they got over 1%. I’m not sure how the independent is preferencing but I think it’s probably a safe bet he won’t get a whole heap either. Labor is preferencing the Greens so it’ll be close, no doubt, but I wouldn’t rule out a Green win until the votes are counted.

  16. The independent is some random guy living in the ungrouped column, so I don’t imagine he gets to register a group voting ticket (unless the ACT works differently for some reason). From a quick look over his website he doesn’t seem too nuts, but certainly won’t get much of a vote.

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