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.
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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.