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Redistribution to force Leigh office move

By Charlotte Harper - 24 November 2015 24

Andrew Leigh

Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh will have to move offices at a potential cost to taxpayers of $500,000 after the augmented Electoral Commission ignored ACT Labor’s plea that they factor its position into planned electoral boundary changes.

The commission announced this afternoon that its planned changes to electoral boundaries would go ahead as part of a redistribution between the seats of Canberra and Fraser despite ACT Labor’s objections.

Mr Leigh’s electorate office at 8/1 Torrens Street, Braddon is currently within the boundaries of Fraser but will fall within the seat of Canberra rather than to Fenner (as Fraser will be known from next year) under the redistribution confirmed by the augmented Electoral Commission today.

The current Member for Fraser told RiotACT that despite being sad to see some of the former suburbs of Fraser go, he was looking forward to continuing to represent Canberra’s northside under the new boundaries.

“However, it is a shame the electoral commission did not take account the concerns ACT Labor raised about the cost of moving the Fraser/Fenner electorate office. A small change in the proposed boundaries could have avoided a significant cost to the taxpayer,” Mr Leigh said.

The redistribution changes will take effect from January 28, 2016 so that if an election is called before then, Canberrans will vote in Fraser or Canberra with their existing boundaries, but in the case of an election called on or after January 28, the new boundaries and electorate name will stand.

Mr Leigh will refer to himself as the Member for Fenner from the time the redistribution formally takes effect.

Having only learnt of the augmented Electoral Commission’s ruling this afternoon, Mr Leigh’s office has yet to make a decision about when the move will take place or where they will move to.

ACT Labor cited recent office moves in other electorates to make their point in their official objection to the planned change:

• Cathy McGowan $383,254 (2014)
• Natasha Griggs $428,159 (2013)
• Patrick Secker $505,338 (2012)
• Mike Kelly $526,737 (2012)
• Michelle Rowland $323,704 (2010)

Their objection added that in addition to the financial cost, moving the office would “entail some inconvenience to community members who have become familiar with its location, and know where to find the office of the Member for Fraser if they need to drop in for assistance”.

We asked a spokesperson for the electoral commission whether this forced Mr Leigh to move.

“That decision will be up to him,” he said.

The commission’s official response to ACT Labor’s objection and proposed alternative boundaries was this:

Noting that the adoption of alternative proposals could result in similar community of interests concerns, and in some cases would be outside the numerical requirements of the Electoral Act, the augmented Electoral Commission concluded that:

• the Redistribution Committee’s proposal was sound,
• any alternatives proposed or other adjustments necessary to accommodate these changes within the requirements of the Electoral Act would not result in an improved outcome, and
for the above reasons, the Redistribution Committee’s proposal should stand unchanged.

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24 Responses to
Redistribution to force Leigh office move
JC 12:29 am 27 Nov 15

HenryBG said :

I’m sorry – why does the taxpayer pay for this office move?
The taxpayer has never paid for me to move my office – why are the under-employed pollies treated differently?

Because it is not his or the Labor parties personal office, it is the Parliamentary office of the Member for Fraser. Hence why of boundaries move and this office ends up in the electorate of Canberra it will need to move.

But are you seriously suggesting that MP’s should not have offices or that said offices should be paid for by them or their party?

HenryBG 6:07 pm 26 Nov 15

I’m sorry – why does the taxpayer pay for this office move?
The taxpayer has never paid for me to move my office – why are the under-employed pollies treated differently?

MERC600 2:10 pm 26 Nov 15

Well as long as the Feds are picking up the bill, I’m all for it. Will mean some good business for our local trades type people. Lets see if we can blow it out a little with some marble and perhaps oak paneling, and a jacuzzi would be a must.

HenryBaits 7:22 pm 25 Nov 15

Andrew isn’t actually worried about the cost to the taxpayer. He’s worried about the perception. If Andrew wants to save money for the tax payer he could start by driving himself around Canberra instead of being chauffeured around in a publically funded limousine. I understand MPs who live outside of the ACT being driven in comcars but there’s really no excuse for ACT politicians to use them. Other than that, why are Canberra’s polies so boring?

Charlotte Harper 2:06 pm 25 Nov 15

ABC election analyst Antony Green reckons the change will have minimal political impact: “The estimated new margin for Canberra rises from 7.0% to an estimated 7.4%, while Fenner/Fraser remains unchanged at 12.6%” (

Garfield 11:06 am 25 Nov 15

With Fraser being a safer Labor seat than Canberra, I was wondering if they were objecting because the redistribution narrowed the margin in Canberra, but after looking it up I don’t think that’s the case. In 2013 Campbell returned a higher Liberal first preference vote than Labor, but Labor was still slightly ahead on 2PP. Braddon however was very strongly Labor with 72% of the 2PP vote and Turner even more so with 77%.

I think the redistribution strengthens Labor’s hold on Canberra, and narrows the margin in Fenner, but it will still be safer than Canberra. For anyone hoping that Canberra would change hands, or at least become marginal, so that the major parties pay more attention to it, this redistribution makes it less likely.

Charlotte Harper 10:47 am 25 Nov 15

See Paul Costigan’s comment which suggests Mr Leigh wanted to be in Gungahlin when he was first elected but had no choice but to take over his predecessor’s old office. I am following that up today with Mr Leigh.

Charlotte Harper 10:45 am 25 Nov 15

There is a sitting member in the seat of Canberra, Gai Brodtmann, and she already has an office. Also any new member for Fenner would need an office if Mr Leigh changed electorates. It looks like we’re all going to be paying for this one.

Charlotte Harper 10:41 am 25 Nov 15

I’ll put that to him today. Of course his views may have changed since then, it’s a long while back.

miz 7:16 am 25 Nov 15

Just a tad disrespectful for the previous person the electorate was named after . . . Jim Fraser was a long time representative of the ACT. I guess this means any electorate named after someone with a common surname could be ditched.,_Australian_Capital_Territory

Paul Costigan 5:53 am 25 Nov 15

Andrew Leigh took over that office space from the former member, Bob McMullan.

One of Andrew Leigh’s early statements was about his disappointment that he wanted to move to the office to Gunghalin but was blocked by the Labor party because of costs.

He was definitely in favour of moving the office – so his disappointment will be very economic – he has now got what he wished for.

gazket 9:01 pm 24 Nov 15

why doesn’t he just change electorate ? He still the same party and saves us $500k .

chewy14 8:32 pm 24 Nov 15

How about he sets up his office in the middle of the electorate where it should have been in the first place?

And don’t give us the ridiculous excuse of the “inconvenience” to the community, this is clearly about the hassle of Leigh having to move his office away from the Inner North.

Charlotte Harper 6:57 pm 24 Nov 15

That’s not what his office told me today nor what ACT Labor wrote in their submission to the augmented Electoral Commission.

TuggLife 6:48 pm 24 Nov 15

The Canberra Times reported in August that Dr Leigh had his request to move his office from Braddon rejected after he was elected in 2010, so he would be in favour of a potential move, no forcing required, no?

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