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Handicapping the field for Election 2012

By johnboy - 30 December 2011 14

legislative assembly

So as 2011 comes to an end we look forward to the prospect of an ACT election in October next year.

Our once every four years, all or nothing, chance to have some sort of say in how we’re governed, where we get presented a smorgasbord of candidates most Canberrans have little to no idea about.

Let’s have another look at how things turned out last time around in 2008:

    Brindabella

    Brendan Smyth – Canberra Liberals
    Steve Doszpot – Canberra Liberals
    Amanda Bresnan – The Greens
    John Hargreaves – Australian Labor Party
    Joy Burch – Australian Labor Party

    Ginninderra

    Jon Stanhope – Australian Labor Party
    Meredith Hunter – The Greens
    Alistair Coe – Canberra Liberals
    Mary Porter – Australian Labor Party
    Vicki Dunne – Canberra Liberal

    Molonglo

    Zed Seselja – Canberra Liberals
    Katy Gallagher – Australian Labor Party
    Shane Rattenbury – The Greens
    Andrew Barr – Australian Labor Party
    Jeremy Hanson – Canberra Liberals
    Simon Corbell – Australian Labor Party
    Caroline Le Couteur – The Greens

So in the five seat electorates of Ginninderra and Brindabella you get two each from the major parties and then a fight for the fifth seat, last time around the Greens swept these final seats.

In the seven seat mega electorate of Molonglo things are trickier.

Labor took three, the Liberals two and the Greens scraped in by the skin of their teeth to get a second seat.

The 2008 election can be broadly summarised thusly; an electorate tired of the long running Stanhope Government were not impressed by the Liberal campaign and flocked to the Greens, taking that party from one seat to four.

The Liberal campaign was so very bad that across the ACT they polled 31.5% compared with 34.8% in 2004!

To put this in perspective Labor was so on the nose that their vote had collapsed from 46.8% in 2004 to 37.4% in 2008.

Yet the Liberals still went backwards.

With a lack of appealing alternatives Liberal Leader Zed Seselja clung to his position. In a party brimming with talent he would have walked the plank.

So what’s changed in the last three years?


The Greens

My gut feeling is a hell of a lot of people who voted Green for the first time in 2008 will not have been thrilled by the results of that vote.

While the Greens have championed a lot of worthy causes these have not resonated out in the McDonalds and licenced club belt.

On the other hand the plastic bag ban and rising electricity prices have really ticked off a lot of people. The Greens do want to change the way people live and a lot of Canberrans are pretty happy with things just the way they are.

(Having said that if 70% of the population loathed them and 30% voted for them the Greens would be thrilled, they don’t have to play major party politics, yet.)

Also hurting the Greens is a perception, which the Liberals will ruthlessly exploit, that a vote for the Greens is a vote for the continuation of a tired Labor Government.

A wildcard for the Greens is if Bob Brown resigns from the Senate in the next year (we haven’t heard of any plans, but he’s not getting any younger). There’s real potential post-Brown for the party to tear itself apart like the Democrats did.

Labor

The departure of Jon Stanhope this year is a huge change in the landscape. The population was getting tired of his government but had significant respect for him personally.

His replacement as Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher, has a grab bag of good intentions. But she’s shown little sign of the competent execution and staff work in her office to turn good intentions into good outcomes.

Where Stanhope would inform the public of plans for grand crusades (however unwilling the people of the ACT might have been to embark on them) Gallagher gives us fluff from the rearview mirror and motherhood statements.

After years of poor administration of the Territory the sharks are in the water, as evidenced by an enormous PCB treatment facility setting up in Mitchell and burning down.

How many other disasters waiting to happen are breeding out there as word gets around Australia’s unscrupulous operators of our lax regulatory environment?

(The Canberra Times brought another song in this key just a few days ago with NSW bouncers flocking through our certification system.)

My tip for 2012 is that there are going to be quite a few more nasty scandals coming to light. It’s just natural for Governments in their third terms. Chickens come home to roost. But the ACT Government is particularly crippled by the talent drain to the Commonwealth Public Service.


Liberals

With Labor going nowhere and the Greens in likely decline is this the Liberals big chance?

They’ve been hammering away on family issues for three years now which is pretty much where there are Labor votes to be shaken loose.

Historically though they’ve only formed government with the aid of minor parties (largely elected by a public who didn’t know what they stood for).

Their real period of electoral success was under Kate Carnell who brought a very moderate form of Liberalism to the table, with big lashings of social progress that even Labor was too conservative to have a go at.

It’s hard to see anyone in the current crop of Liberals bringing anything so brave or exciting to the table.

Zed Seselja’s office too often parrots either Tony Abbott or the Property Council, neither of which resonate particularly well with Canberra voters.

The Liberals can win the primary vote in Canberra (but not necessarily form Government) if they can present themselves as the Liberal Party of Malcolm Turnbull and Kate Carnell, not the party of Tony Abbott and Nick Minchin.

I’m not sure they want to win badly enough to make that change.

Earlier in this term there was some suggestion that the Liberals Jeremy Hanson could challenge Zed Seselja for the leadership and transform the party.

But Zed appears to have shored up his position inside the party, and with 10 months to go it’s probably too late for a leadership change.


Independents

Historically independents have done well in the ACT but there’s a lot of wariness out there as the plain speaking celebrity candidate has had a tendency to turn out to be nutty hyper-conservative once into the chamber.

The right independent willing to spend the next year working hard for it could give things a shake, especially in Molonglo.

But at the moment there’s no-one in the field.


So here’s the nub of it. A tired and listless government, a crossbench seemingly devoted to unpopular initiatives, and an opposition unwilling to give the electorate what it wants.

Something has to break. On election day 17 candidates will be elected, and a Government will be formed soon after.

But if nothing does break, if the scales remain untipped then expect the Liberals to pick up one seat in Molonglo and the Greens to return Labor to Government for another four years.

I think something’s going to break though, at which point all bets are off.

Regardless of who wins the people of Canberra deserve parties they can get enthusiastic about, rather than holding our noses in the ballot box, and numbering from the bottom the candidates we hate the most.

What’s Your opinion?


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14 Responses to
Handicapping the field for Election 2012
welkin31 9:59 am 09 Jan 12

We have the ACT Centenary due in 2013 – if I read vehicle number plates correctly.
As this years election looms – would I be unrealistic to expect to see various aspects of the upcoming Centenary used as an excuse for our ministers for “getting themselves on TV” to be reporting on progress towards these great 2013 events ?
Pity anybody prominent visiting Canberra this year – how would you avoid being dragged up to the bleakness of the Aboretum to be filmed planting a tree ?

Ryoma 8:37 am 02 Jan 12

I would like to vote for the party which can look at (and then take action upon) a bigger issue.

How do we make the ACT Government financially self-sufficient? It appears we depend heavily upon property sales, but what do we do (long-term) when we run out of land to sell? As luck would have it, that may be around the time (I’m guessing 20 years from now) that our community needs the most funding for aged care/mental health services, at the same time as the working population most desperately needs tax relief in order for them to actually help to pay for their parents’ care needs.

What are our options then? One is to dramatically lift the taxes on everything else the ACT Government touches – not a great idea, there’s nothing to stop people moving across the border, and still working here, but not paying any tax.

Another is to dramatically lower taxes on much of what we do, but that may require less services to be offered – or (and I’m not sure how this would work) for the private sector to offer such services instead. On the plus side, it may well attract a lot more by way of private business, but may well exacerbate congestion and housing issues.

Could we apply some sort of local sales/consumption tax like the Canadian provinces do? Again, I’m not sure how it would be administered, and we may find it doesn’t raise as much as we’d like as expenditure leaked over the border and (especially) over the Web.

The cynic in me likes the idea of charging the Feds until they howl in pain for land, use of roads, power, anything we can nail them for. The catch with that, of course, is that “them” is “us” to a degree.

But I do think a serious conversation needs to be had with the Federal Government to actually outline why we have an issue here. Given that NSW and Victoria have recently joined heads to advance various issues ahead of the turtle called COAG, could the ACT join in there as a quid-pro-pro for having some interstate muscle behind us?

As for the election, I’m a great believer in the pendulum swinging as being healthy for democracy in general. It forces all public servants to pull their socks up (at least for a while!), helps to shine light on any corruption occurring, and does often provide for a change in direction. Whether it’s time or not, I am not sure on either a personal or a broader level.

And as always – most of our pollies (at all levels) do their best, much of the time. Some may not be as charismatic as we like, or be overly competent. Some of them we may not like as people, or we may disagree strongly with their ideas or policies. But it remains easier to stand on the sidelines and carp, than to get involved one way or another 🙂

welkin31 8:11 am 01 Jan 12

I have been reading contributions with interest and thought it might help ACT voters to reprise the 2008 result.
2008 ACT Election Result – for those game to look
http://www.abc.net.au/elections/act/2008/

Antony Green shows how Labor tweaking of Electoral Laws helps them and the Greens.
March 28, 2008
Independents to be disadvantaged by ACT electoral changes
http://blogs.abc.net.au/antonygreen/2008/03/independents-to.html
These tweaks worked brilliantly at the election if you compare percentages of votes won with percentage of seats won in the assembly.
Party—-% votes–% seats
Labor——37.4—-41.2
Liberals—31.6—-35.3
Greens—–15.6—-23.5
Others—–15.4—–0
I just wonder if the 15.4 percent of “Others” will use their votes better in 2012 – because they were utterly wasted in 2008.

chewy14 2:08 pm 31 Dec 11

My prediction is that it will be 7 – 7 – 3.
And we will end up with four more years of inept government and minority interests.
Yay for us.

rugbyskier 11:50 am 31 Dec 11

Classified said :

Canberra’s a Labor town.

The same could have been said for Newcastle until the last state election. But when you have a venal, corrupt and incompetent government in office too long the electorate can speak loudly. There are now Liberal members for Newcastle, Charlestown, Swansea, Port Stephens and Maitland. Labor holds only two of the ten seats in the Hunter.

bikhet 11:48 am 31 Dec 11

Thumper said :

caf said :

But Zed appears to have shored up his position inside the party, and with 10 months to go it’s probably too late for a leadership change.

Bob Hawke became Opposition Leader a mere 25 days before the election, and look how that turned out. (I’ll allow that it was a different era, though).

Bob had a tad more charisma than Zed.

Oh yes, different era as well 🙂

Bob also had good name recognition before becoming a pollie. In the ACT Liberal Party there’s Zed and ???

nobody said :

I believe the major ideological gaps between the parties are narrowing, and most people want economic freedom, a social safety net, and environmental sustainability. I think the party that will gain most in 2012 will be the one that gets this 3-way balance right between free trade with fair regulation, improving social inclusion and providing social support when needed, while saving whats left of our environment.

Nice thought, but I doubt it will happen. I query your point about “free trade’ though. It could be seen as a synonym for economic freedom, but within Australia we already have free trade in the sense in which it’s commonly used.

miz 10:36 am 31 Dec 11

An astute summary, Johnboy. I was one of those voters who had previously voted Labor but could not bring myself to do do last election, and went for CAP and Greens.

While the ACT is known to be fairly safe Labor, the Libs could easily take it if they distinguished themselves by looking after the struggling yet aspirational mortgage and rental belt instead of being so pro-developer (like the incumbents) and focusing on the municipal things that p— people off.

nobody 9:27 am 31 Dec 11

I believe the major ideological gaps between the parties are narrowing, and most people want economic freedom, a social safety net, and environmental sustainability. I think the party that will gain most in 2012 will be the one that gets this 3-way balance right between free trade with fair regulation, improving social inclusion and providing social support when needed, while saving whats left of our environment.

Thumper 11:37 pm 30 Dec 11

caf said :

But Zed appears to have shored up his position inside the party, and with 10 months to go it’s probably too late for a leadership change.

Bob Hawke became Opposition Leader a mere 25 days before the election, and look how that turned out. (I’ll allow that it was a different era, though).

Bob had a tad more charisma than Zed.

Oh yes, different era as well 🙂

Classified 5:32 pm 30 Dec 11

Canberra’s a Labor town.

caf 4:56 pm 30 Dec 11

But Zed appears to have shored up his position inside the party, and with 10 months to go it’s probably too late for a leadership change.

Bob Hawke became Opposition Leader a mere 25 days before the election, and look how that turned out. (I’ll allow that it was a different era, though).

NoImRight 3:43 pm 30 Dec 11

If it didnt happen within 6 months of the election it just didnt happen. I doubt much history will come into it for most people. The only random is if some startling new plan is announced by someone (anyone please!) or if something goes horribly wrong soonish.

Thumper 3:25 pm 30 Dec 11

As said it before, but the ACT will have an ALP government forever.

There is simply no way that the tories can form government.

And I’m not sure that they want to.

Spectra 2:18 pm 30 Dec 11

[i]I think something’s going to break though, at which point all bets are off.[/i]

My guess is that nothing’s going to break. For all the individual events (PCB fires, bridges falling down etc) there’s really been nothing that’s got a big chunk of the populous worked up. And with the GDE debacle finally behind them (one of the few things that was affecting a significant number of people) all Labor has to do is keep its mouth shut and occasionally remind us they’re not the Abbott-loving Libs.

Of course, as the saying goes, a week is a long time and they’ve got months to screw it up. Way too soon to start putting money on anything.

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