19 April 2016

Dual elections make for double trouble

| Greg Cornwell
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While the national media is arguing about an early Federal election and the pros and cons of an accompanying double dissolution, local political groups are taking a much more focused approach because unlike the rest of Australia, the ACT faces two elections this year.

The wisdom of establishing a fixed four year term to expire about 15 October for the ACT Assembly was made with the best of intentions. For too long Australian parliaments with loose electoral terms had played the advantage with the government of the day often going early to the poll while conditions were more favourable than suggested for the future.

Unfortunately this bid to make our local government responsible through to its full term did not consider its Federal counterpart – a situation further complicated by an unfixed three year term by the Commonwealth parliament.

Inevitably the two elections would clash, hence the dilemma in 2016.

Election campaigns cost a lot of money and two in the one year will challenge the bank accounts of even the large Parties and their donors. The smaller groups and the independents also will struggle, probably to the extent of not contesting one or the other of the elections.

Should the Federal election run early it is possible it will drain more than funds from Party supporters. Pamphlet dropping in suburban letterboxes, shopping centre candidate support, public rallies and manning pre-poll and polling booths on election day itself.
All will challenge the faithful, especially as most of the exercise, save manning booths within 100 metres on election day, will need to be repeated for the later Assembly poll.

A greater complication will arise if the Federal election is held about on time, i.e. September/October, because the ACT Electoral Office confirm the Assembly election would be moved from 15 October to 3 December if the Commonwealth’s was the same day. There is enough voter apathy now without irritating people into polling twice over a six week period.

Worse could happen however, because no such move would occur if the two elections were within say a week of each other. Consecutive elections on near weekends doesn’t bear thinking about with candidates all trying to differentiate themselves not only on Party policies but whether or not they are Federal or Assembly aspirants.

There is nothing that can be done to avoid difficulties this dual election year, however the 9th Assembly might consider repealing its fixed four year term restriction for future clashing polls because I cannot see the Commonwealth being so accommodating.

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