UPDATED Election 2020: Labor back for sixth term but Green surge surprises

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Andrew Barr and Anthony Toms

An emotional Andrew Barr hugs his husband Anthony Toms after he declared victory on behalf of ACT Labor. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

19 October: 11.00 am What just happened in the ACT election? It’s the morning after and Genevieve Jacobs is with Professor John Warhurst to dissect the ACT election results.

18 October: 10.20 pm ACT Labor has been returned for a record sixth term and the Greens are celebrating a boost to their numbers in the Assembly after voters firmly rebuffed the Canberra Liberals’ case for a change of government.

The writing was on the wall early as Elections ACT crunched the massive 70 per cent pre-poll vote to reveal a swing of 3.6 per cent against the Liberals, who even lost their third member in the now-former stronghold of Ginninderra.

The Liberals polled 33.1 per cent, Labor’s vote barely shifted at 38.4 per cent but the Greens were buoyed by a swing to them of the same magnitude as the Liberal losses.

It will mean the Greens, who polled 14 per cent, will field at least three and possibly six members in the next Assembly and will have claims for another minister to join leader Shane Rattenbury.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr made his victory speech from the Belconnen Labor Club at about 9.40 pm, saying he would sit down with Mr Rattenbury in coming days to put a government together but he stressed it would be a Labor-led government.

Mr Barr called the victory a humbling experience, particularly in such an extraordinary year, and thanked the party and his family.

”We’ve got through it because we’ve applied progressive values to our government decisions and because we’ve applied compassion and we haven’t left people behind,” he said.

Mr Barr said he felt for the Canberra Liberals and their losses.

”We know what that feels like and that’s challenging. I want to acknowledge that a democracy only works if you have a strong opposition,” he said.

Andrew Barr

Andrew Barr makes his acceptance speech at the 2020 election. Photo: Region Media.

Mr Barr said the party’s decision to stick to a positive campaign message had been vindicated.

”Now, four years ago, in this very spot, I stood here and said that Canberrans had voted for light rail. Well, friends, they’ve done it again! And I think Labor’s resurgence on the south side tonight is testimony to just that.”

Mr Barr highlighted climate change and how Labor had handled the pandemic as resonating with voters.

”One very clear message from this campaign is that Canberrans have voted for real action on climate change,” he said.

”They voted for this city to continue to lead our nation in implementing good public policy that creates jobs, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and reduces cost of living. They voted for us to lead on progressive reforms and to pull the rest of Australia with us.

”They voted for a government who will always stand up for Canberra and one that will listen to expert advice when it comes to handling this pandemic.”

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe made his concession speech about 9:00 pm, wishing Mr Barr and his team and his husband, Anthony, all the best for the future.

He praised a professional and positive campaign and thanked all his team who worked so hard to win government.

He held out hope that the Liberal numbers can improve as preferences continue to be distributed.

Mr Coe, who campaigned relentlessly on the cost of living, again warned that Canberra was becoming a two-paced society.

“And it is incumbent upon the next government of the ACT to do much more to support those in this city who can’t afford rent, can’t afford to buy a home, are living in poverty or are doing it tough,’’ he said.

But Mr Coe made no mention of whether he would stay on as leader.

Mr Rattenbury firmly put inequality and climate change on the agenda for the coming Assembly.

”Through this campaign we have said now is not a time to snap back to the old normal. It has been a hard year for so many Canberrans. We don’t want to go back to the way it was. We want to deal with the climate crisis that sits there in the background. We must deal with the growing inequality in our society and we must deal with issues of housing affordability in this city,” he said.

In Brindabella, where 80 per cent of the vote has been counted, Labor is polling at 41 per cent with a swing of 7.4 per cent, and the Greens 10 per cent with swing of 5.8 per cent. The Liberals, with a primary vote of 38 per cent, are down 3.9 per cent.

Liberal Andrew Wall has fallen, and his spot will likely go to Labor’s Taimus Werner-Gibbings, with Green Johnathon Davis still a chance.

Liberal frontbencher Mark Parton is back, but he was one of the first very early in the night to concede that the opposition was facing an uphill battle to take government.

In Murrumbidgee, with 80 per cent of the vote counted, the swing against the Liberals is almost more than 8 per cent. The swing to Labor is 2.3 per cent and the Greens 1.2 per cent.

But sitting Labor member Bec Cody appears to have lost her seat to Labor colleague Marissa Paterson.

The Greens’ Emma Davidson will succeed Caroline Le Couteur, taking the fifth spot.

Independent and former president of the Woden Valley Community Council Fiona Carrick polled well but fell short.

In Kurrajong, with 77 per cent of the vote counted, the Greens, as expected, have polled strongly at nearly 24 per cent with a 5 per cent swing.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has easily been returned, as has Greens leader Shane Rattenbury, with colleague Rebecca Vassarotti likely to join him in the Assembly by nudging out Liberal frontbencher Candice Burch.

In Ginninderra, the Belco Party has taken votes off the Canberra Liberals, which are polling at only 26 per cent with more than 70 per cent of the vote counted.

Labor’s vote is down marginally but it is polling at 40.6 per cent.

The Greens are polling at almost 13 per cent, and Jo Clay is still an outside chance of winning through.

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe’s seat Yerrabi is the only seat where there is any Liberal joy, with a swing of 4.7 per cent and a primary vote of 40.5 per cent. But James Milligan will make way for colleague Leanne Castley.

Labor suffered a shock swing of more than 9 per cent, in a seat where there have been major investments such as light rail and new schools. It has so far managed just 34.7 per cent of the vote, and lost Deepak-Raj Gupta.

But the Greens are polling at 10 per cent, enjoying 3.3 per cent swing, and it appears Andrew Braddock will also be elected.

Retiring Liberal frontbencher Vicki Dunne said the party was in for a time of assessment and reassessment.

”There will have to be some soul-searching about whether the campaign was good enough. It is clear it wasn’t good enough. I’m surprised at some of the very good campaigners that are seen to not be doing well,” she said.

Former leader Jeremy Hanson easily retained his seat. He blamed the loss on COVID-19 and voters wanting to stick with incumbent governments.

”I don’t think that there is a satisfaction out there with the government, but there is a lot of nervousness about COVID,” he said.

Mr Rattenbury said the electorate started to see there was not much behind the Liberal slogans.

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HiddenDragon7:08 pm 18 Oct 20

Last night’s result is ultimately not about who was leading the Liberals, what policies they had, or how those policies were presented and defended – they would never be the first choice of the majority of Canberrans because it is now as clear as it can be, that this is a one-party town and the real choice is between the Labor wing and the Greens wing of that party.

This is now one of the longest unbroken stretches of government in modern Australian history, and unlike other long runs, it has been achieved without a gerrymander which has seen the two-party preferred will of the majority denied by the electoral system.

So far as it goes, that’s absolutely fine, it’s how democracy is meant to work – but there is much more significance to this result. First, any person or business who was hanging on, thinking that this time, there might be a different result, should now face reality and if they have the option to move elsewhere, plan to do so – the answer will be just the same in 2024. The NSW government revenues stand to benefit from this, as do adjoining councils.

The second, and probably more significant result, is that the federal parties could now be in no doubt that there is nothing to be gained from giving Canberra anything more than token attention for political purposes. In a world of severely constrained federal budgets, with many less affluent parts of the country suffering economically, Canberrans shouldn’t be counting on big dollops of federal cash for light rail extensions or anything else, and don’t be surprised to hear more talk of decentralisation, and maybe devolution, from both sides federally.

Except the ALP didn’t improve their position, so it can’t be claimed that they were really “winners” relatively.

It seems there was plenty of people willing to vote elsewhere but the Liberals are themselves totally unelectable through their leader and woeful messaging.

The Greens ended up gaining the benefit of those who couldn’t bring themselves to vote Liberal.

Ultimately, it is exactly about who was leading the Liberals and their messaging. To ignore it, only ensures it will be repeated.

I don’t mind Labor or Liberal, the more centrist politics, however, some of the Greens agendas are of concern, such as the inconveniencing of traffic, the radical lowering of speed limits in Canberra City (Civic) and Northbourne Avenue to 40km/h, discriminatory oppressive identity politics that contradict inclusiveness and minority empowerment, and open border immigration politics that contradict their sustainable environmentalism. The socialism is a great shift from the original environmentalism of The Greens that stemmed from the Tasmanian logging protests. I’d be just as critical if it were an opposite extreme party like One Nation where particularly anti-LGBT+ issues are also of concern.

I believe centrism, moderateness and balance is the best way forward.

George Watling12:58 pm 18 Oct 20

Wow five more years of disrespectful and environmentally destructive urban infill. There will be nothing left of garden city. There will just be a few isolated pockets woodland and grasslands left amongst a sea of high density housing. Nature needs street trees and gardens to survive in a city. That’s why Canberra has such wonderful wildlife.

Good morning to everyone and an especially good morning to Josh Manuatu, continuing to add to his stellar CV, spearheading a campaign that actually saw them lose ground to the biggest ‘its time’ election this century.

@ Tom Adam are you seriously thinking anything will change with more greens at the table lol what a laugh.
They conned labour into the light rail costing millions and of note that’s about it. The load of rubbish the greens push for 100% renewable power yet power prices haven’t gone down a cent. Greens have been vocal in the last 4 years, in fact you would think Rattenbury was the chief minister for how many time’s he was on tv talking rubbish.

Oh, great, another 4 years of the greens holding Labor over a barrel and billions of dollars wasted on virtue signalling. Maybe by the end of it the rusted on Labor voters won’t be able to afford to live here. With any luck…

Stephen Saunders7:03 am 18 Oct 20

A deserved win. I’d like nothing more than a potent opposition, but Coe is lacking, his program was facile. Like, “one million trees” and more buses to the over-funded god schools. Sophisticated stuff, eh?

ACT is in the middle of a 20-year program to wind down transfer duties and wind up land rates. Instead of commending this to the nation, Canberra Libs promise “lower rates + higher services”. Yawn.

For the first time ever I voted Labor/Greens and put the Libs last. Coe’s performance during the same sex marriage debate was appalling. The newspaper articles written by him, his appearances on Sky News and other conservative media as well as joining with the Australian Christian Lobby urging people to vote No. When I disagreed with him on Facebook and Twitter he blocked me.

I’m not surprised the Libs are trying to blame COVID-19 for their loss. Looking for a convenient scapegoat and failing to see the forest for the trees. They are desperately trying to ignore the elephant in the room. That having a leader who was patently out of touch with the electorate and not only went against but actively angered the 72% of Canberrans who voted Yes for same sex marriage was political suicide.

The Liberals will never come within a bull’s roar of government while they have the right wing faction in charge and calling the shots. We don’t want them, we don’t need them and we sure as hell won’t ever vote for them.

It was amazing to see the active denialiasm of the exact probelm that you have outlined John. They can’t see that a move to a more moderate grounding, in line with the community they are trying to get to vote them in, might see them make significant ground.

The current labour government was probably at its lowest ebb overall since coming to power 2 decades ago, yet still will get returned comfortably.

russianafroman10:38 pm 17 Oct 20

Congratulations to Labor for their win.

I don’t know what it will take for the ACT Liberals to understand ACT Voters.

As I’ve said before, if you can’t get someone like me (whose complained about many policies and things Barr has done) to vote Liberal then you have no chance of winning over the Canberrans who sit in the ‘centre’ of Left and Right politics.

I still wish we had some effective Independents to vote for. Noting Fiona Carrick it my electorate gave it a great shot.

Alastair Coe as leader. Did anyone really think they had a chance?

Absolutely useless.

Oh what a surprise mark Parton giving himself a pat on the back and focusing on himself and the work “his teams” done lol
Hope he is the next leader and gets a reality check at the next election as leader. Me me me Parton lol

The Libs won’t be happy. Coe to go? Parton to lead?

If they have any brains, they’ll go for Elizabeth Lee. But Parton up front putting his hat in the ring, suprise suprise.

russianafroman10:38 pm 17 Oct 20

Either Parton or Lee they’re saying

Parton, guarantee another loss, so full of himself and critical of the liberal campaign straight away knifing the leader on election night. Thinks he knows everything.

Capital Retro8:20 am 18 Oct 20

Libs need someone younger than Parton like Andrew Wall. He is their only hope.

Capital Retro,
Andrew Wall isn’t going to retain his seat, so if he’s their only hope, they are in trouble.

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