ACT Election Update
17 October 2016
Labor is set to retain government for a fifth term in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) following the weekend’s Legislative Assembly election, with a projected swing of 0.2 per cent toward the Party.
As at Monday morning, 81.8% per cent of the votes have been counted and Labor leads with 12 seats, followed by the Liberals with 10 and the Greens with 2 seats. The remaining seat of Brindabella currently remains in doubt, with the vote count continuing today.
In August 2014, the ACT Legislative Assembly voted to increase the number of Members in the Legislative Assembly from 17 to 25, with Saturday’s election being the first to be held with the expanded 25 seat Legislative Assembly. Five members each are now elected to all five electorates – Brindabella, Ginninderra, Kurrajong, Murrumbidgee and Yerrabi – with a minimum of 13 seats needed to form a majority government.
Labor Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury have both been re-elected as Members for Kurrajong. Subject to the outcome of the Brindabella count, it is possible that this term will be a continuation of a Labor-Greens coalition government that first formed at the 2012 election, when Labor was unable to form a majority in its own right. Chief Minister Barr said “I can confirm that Shane Rattenbury and I will work together to form a new progressive government in the ACT. We don’t yet know the final makeup of the Assembly, and these negotiations will continue into the next week”. On Sunday, Chief Minister Barr endorsed Member for Ginninderra Yvette Berry to continue as his Deputy Leader.
Based on current counting, Mr Rattenbury will be joined by second Greens Member in the Legislative Assembly Caroline le Couteur. The Liberals, currently down two seats on 10 to Labor’s 12, have suffered a projected swing of 2.6 per cent against the Party. According to Elections ACT, the minor parties and Independents enjoyed a projected swing of 3.2 per cent in their favour.
Liberal Leader Jeremy Hanson delivered a speech at 9:30pm on Saturday night in which he conceded defeat, telling his supporters “…it is very difficult for us to form government and we have to acknowledge that from here, it is unlikely that we will do so”. Discussions over the future direction of the Liberals in the ACT can be expected over the coming weeks.
Chief Minister Barr and Mr Rattenbury will now spend the coming days negotiating conditions of the incoming Labor-Greens Government. Speaking to The Canberra Times today, Mr Rattenbury said that he will be speaking to Labor about ways to deliver the Greens’ agenda, adding that government measures to address housing affordability, reducing the dominance of poker machines, further spending on public transport and creating an anti-corruption commission were priorities for the Greens. Another potential issue is whether Ms le Couteur, the new Greens Member for Murrumbidgee, will be given a Ministry in a Labor-Greens Government. At present, Chief Minister Barr has not publicly revealed any of Labor’s terms for a coalition with the Greens other than to say, “We will focus on delivering the agenda that we took to the election”. Both Labor and the Greens have enthusiastically supported the construction of a light rail public transport system in Canberra, so this project will proceed under a Labor-Greens Government. Labor and the Greens are also in agreement on a goal to have the ACT powered 100 per cent by renewable energy sources by 2020.
The primary issue of this election was the proposed construction of a light rail public transport system in Canberra, which was introduced by the Labor-Greens Coalition during their previous term of Government. The business case for the project was approved by the Government in September 2014, with the contract awarded to the Canberra Metro consortium (Pacific Partnerships, Mitsubishi Corporation, John Holland, CAF, DB International, Aberdeen Asset Management, Leighton Contractors and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi) earlier this year. The Liberals campaigned strongly against the light rail project in the lead up to Saturday’s election, promising to cancel the contract should it form government. In his victory speech on Saturday night however, Chief Minister Barr said, “…tonight we can confidently say that Canberra has voted for light rail”.
Other prominent issues in this election campaign were Labor’s commitment to having the ACT powered 100 per cent by renewable energy sources by 2020, and the Liberals’ proposed $403 million expansion of the Canberra Hospital.