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Federal Election 2013

Jun 22, 2013

Seat of the week: Canberra

Labor lost its grip on the electorate covering the south of the national capital amid the wreckage of the Whitlam and Keating governments, but there have been few suggestions it will go that way again this time.

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The electorate of Canberra covers the southern half of the national capital together with the bulk of the Australian Capital Territory’s thinly populated remainder, with northern Canberra accommodated by the seat of Fraser. Both seats were created when the territory was first divided into two electorates in 1974. The Australian Capital Territory had been a single electorate since the expansion of parliament in 1949, but its member only obtained full voting rights in 1968. A third electorate of Namadgi was created for the 1996 election, accommodating Tuggeranong and its surrounds in Canberra’s far south and pushing the Canberra electorate north of the lake to include the city’s centre and inner north. However, the previous order was reinstated when the seat entitlement to slipped back to two at the 1998 election, in large part due to Howard government cutbacks to the federal public service. The two ACT electorates presently have enrolment of around 130,000 voters each, compared with a national average of around 96,000.

The Australian Capital Territory electorate was won by an independent at its first election in 1949, but was held by Labor after 1951. Kep Enderby came to the seat at a 1970 by-election and carried over to Canberra in 1974, serving as Lionel Murphy’s successor as Attorney-General in 1975. He was then dumped by a 10.4% swing to the Liberals at the December 1975 election, and for the next two terms the seat was held for the Liberals by John Haslem. The seat’s natural Labor inclination finally reasserted itself in 1980 with the election of Ros Kelly, who served in the Hawke-Keating ministries from 1987 until she fell victim to the still notorious “sports rorts” affair in 1994. Kelly’s indulgent departure from parliament a year later was followed by a disastrous by-election result for Labor, with Liberal candidate Brendan Smyth gaining the seat off a 16.2% swing.

Smyth unsuccessfully contested the new seat of Namadgi at the 1996 election, and Canberra was won easily for Labor by Bob McMullan, who had served the ACT as a Senator since 1988. The reassertion of the old boundaries in 1998 caused McMullan to move to Fraser, the Labor margin in the redrawn Canberra being 5.1% lower than the one he secured in 1996. Canberra went to Annette Ellis, who had entered parliament as the member for Namadgi in 1996, while Fraser MP Steve Darvagel agreed to go quietly after a brief parliamentary career which began when he succeeded John Langmore at a by-election in February 1997. Ellis added 7.2% to an existing 2.3% margin at the 1998 election, and held the seat safely thereafter.

In February 2010, both Ellis and McMullan announced they would not contest the election due later that year. Large fields of preselection contestants emerged for both seats, with the front-runner in Canberra initially thought to be Michael Cooney, chief-of-staff to ACT Education Minister Andrew Barr and a former adviser to opposition leaders Mark Latham and Kim Beazley. However, Cooney shortly withdrew amid suggestions Kevin Rudd was ready to use national executive intervention to block him. The eventual winner was Gai Brodtmann, a former DFAT public servant who had established a local communications consultancy with her husband, senior ABC reporter Chris Uhlmann. Together with Andrew Leigh’s win in Fraser, Brodtmann’s win was seen as a rebuff to local factional powerbrokers who had pursued a deal in which the Left would support Mary Wood, adviser to Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek and member of the Centre Coalition (Right), and the Right would back the Nick Martin, the party’s assistant national secretary and a member of the Left, in Fraser. However, Brodtmann was able to build a cross-factional support base of sufficient breadth to prevail over Wood by 123 votes to 109.

The Liberal candidate for the coming election is Tom Sefton, a Commonwealth public servant who has served in Afghanistan as a commando officer. Sefton polled a respectable 4.2% as a candidate for Molonglo at the October 2012 Australian Capital Territory election.

William Bowe — Editor of The Poll Bludger

William Bowe

Editor of The Poll Bludger

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, is one of the most heavily trafficked forums for online discussion of Australian politics, and joined the Crikey stable in 2008.

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1,897 thoughts on “Seat of the week: Canberra

  1. Psephos

    [Will the ALP have to pay people to work on polling booths?]

    My observation is that the ALP is getting a surge of volunteers, members and donations. That’s not necessarily a good sign, of course – the same thing happened in 1975. But it does suggest there will be no shortage of booth-workers.

  2. womble

    Wonder how people would react if Labor booted Rudd out of the party??? – would definitely stop any future leadership speculation 🙂

  3. confessions


    I have never hated anyone in my life.

    I’m sorry, but you just don’t seem to understand what this is all about. Go back to my comment earlier about ‘so the party changes leaders, and now what?’

    I’m yet to hear a convincing or plausible outcome from the leadership change now crowd.

  4. Compact Crank

    Zoomster – really?

    Well she’s won so maybe the ALP should take note.

  5. confessions


    They are the govt. Just how regular and often do you want to see changes in who is Prime Minister?

  6. Psephos

    Are we getting a Newspoll tonight or not? I want to go to bed, I have to get up at 5am.

  7. Compact Crank

    Psephos – congratulations.

  8. This little black duck


    Do not pass go. Do not collect 200.

  9. guytaur

    @Colvinius: For those wondering about my uncle Stanley Bruce, something I wrote a while ago: http://t.co/4GnUS4iJdb cc @SimonThomsen

  10. davidwh

    Around 10.30 if JamesJ comes through or around 11 otherwise. Patience.

  11. This little black duck


    Not worth the wait.

  12. Centre

    If we’re getting a Newspoll tonight I’m staying up, this could be huge! 😐

  13. ShowsOn

    [An election date has already been announced.]
    BIG DEAL! There is nothing stopping the election being called for a new date!
    [What narrative (for want of a better word) can possibly be used to justify a leadership change other than poor polling?]
    Err, what about not many people like Julia Gillard? That’s a pretty good reason!
    [In which case, this makes my point for me: desperation and clinging to the last vestiges of a possible election win.]
    Are you really so delusional that you think Gillard has ANY chance of winning?

    Get out more mate!

  14. womble

    Paul Murray said in the news at 11pm – I guess we’ll have to see if insiders beat them to it

  15. guytaur


    I am giving till 11 then will vein the late crowd

  16. zoidlord


    heh Getting all giggly on a poll for Politics ? 😛

  17. briefly

    confessions….I think this week will be critical in Australian political history. While I have no inside knowledge about what may unfold, I believe that caucus must assert itself. Labor has generally been on the right side of history throughout its long life and has been able to reinvent itself. Let’s hope they can keep it that way.

  18. castle

    You need to get out more shows

    Just because carlton and Hadley don’t like Gillard doesn’t mean she is unpopular

    Have you watched the ABC show yet?

  19. Centre

    I’m sure that many here who want Rudd to take the leadership back don’t dislike Gillard, they want to be competitive at the election.

  20. zoomster


    same in Indi. Never seen the branches so active…and that’s without a candidate.

  21. Kirky


    In your opinion, why is Julia unliked in the electorate?

  22. gloryconsequence

    [Just because carlton and Hadley don’t like Gillard doesn’t mean she is unpopular]

    She’s unpopular because a large majority think she’s unpopular.

  23. This little black duck

    Everyone lathering up in excitement?

  24. ShowsOn

    [Just because carlton and Hadley don’t like Gillard doesn’t mean she is unpopular

    Have you watched the ABC show yet?]
    Grow up mate. Carlton complained to the ABC about how he was depicted in that show.

  25. briefly



    An election date has already been announced. What narrative (for want of a better word) can possibly be used to justify a leadership change other than poor polling? In which case, this makes my point for me: desperation and clinging to the last vestiges of a possible election win.

    It won’t work.]

    Then we must reconcile ourselves to defeat.

  26. guytaur


    Not if the party unites behind PMJG to extent MSM cannot write anymore fiction about leadership

  27. confessions


    We’ll see what the week brings. Ultimately, the govt needs unity, otherwise it doesn’t have a chance in hell of being competitive.

    I rather suspect R*dd knows this, and so will continue the destabilisation right up until the election if need be.

  28. zoomster


    before Sophie, the Libs up here were so flush with volunteers they used to open offices during the campaign in even quite small towns.

    Now they don’t do any.

    She’s reduced the 2PP majority here to record lows, so I don’t think she has anything to teach anyone.

    (And since she dipped her toe into the waters of local politics, the Minister for Local Government has had to call for an investigation into her local council…)

  29. gloryconsequence

    [Then we must reconcile ourselves to defeat.]

    I’m already suffering from TAPMPS (Tony Abbott Prime Minister Preparedness Syndrome)

  30. Centre


    Shows On did outline some very valid points of why Gillard is unliked in the electorate the last time you asked him the same question 😆

    In my opinion the two main reasons are:

    1. The carbon tax lie.

    2. She is seen as the one who knifed Rudd.

  31. briefly

    This little black duck

    Everyone lathering up in excitement?]

    Not me.

  32. davidwh

    Not really Ducky it may even be tomorrow night.

  33. confessions

    [Everyone lathering up in excitement?]

    There’s some notable unhingement, but otherwise the rest of us are having a courteous discussion.

  34. davidwh

    It’s been a strange three years.

  35. zoidlord


    If Rudd becomes PM next week, then that should solve alot of disunity.

    Not saying I support Rudd coming in, but I have open mind.

    Policies at risk you know.

  36. confessions

    [Three years ago this hour:
    http://australianpolitics.com/2010/06/23/rudd-calls-leadership-ballot.html ]

    And it was all a lie. He never had any intention of following through with a proper ballot.

    Hence the first stage in cultivating his media mythology as the vanguished victim.

  37. guytaur


    Yes a government getting things done. Media reporting in such a way it seems the voters know nothing about it.

  38. geoffrey

    not much to do that a little flutter

    i’ll go 27% primary, 41 TPF, kevin +12

  39. Centre

    [Three years ago this hour:]


    And now they must go back (restore the mistake made 3 years ago) 😎

    Back to the future 😛

  40. briefly



    Not if the party unites behind PMJG to extent MSM cannot write anymore fiction about leadership
    Posted Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 10:27 pm | Permalink


    We’ll see what the week brings. Ultimately, the govt needs unity, otherwise it doesn’t have a chance in hell of being competitive.

    I rather suspect R*dd knows this, and so will continue the destabilisation right up until the election if need be.]

    These two positions are correct and yet and demonstrate the inherent dysfunction of the current situation.

    Caucus should act to restore order, focus, unity and to leadership to the Government. This is its duty.

  41. confessions

    [If Rudd becomes PM next week, then that should solve alot of disunity.]

    No, it will make it worse. All those Cabinet and front bench resignations will simply fuel more leadershit focus from the media.

  42. ShowsOn


    Not if the party unites behind PMJG to extent MSM cannot write anymore fiction about leadership]
    You’ve got serious issues mate. Most people don’t like Julia Gillard and won’t vote Labor if it is lead by her.

    You spend WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY too much time in your own insulated bubble of circle jerkery. You’ve got to get out more and talk to people in the real world.

  43. geoffrey

    well done Psephos – on the hour. isn’t it great to be alive in such historical times. congratulations on your site – good to put a face to a pseudonym. mine is still under warps KR

    Posted Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 10:30 pm | PERMALINK
    Three years ago this hour:

  44. Centre

    Geoffrey if Kevin is + 12 he MUST be reinstalled as leader.

    No questions asked – DONE!

  45. This little black duck

    Don’t you lot have a skerrick of humour amongst the lot of you?

  46. geoffrey


    back to the future

    like that

  47. Compact Crank

    I see Bob Ellis thinks Martin O’Shannessy should be jailed.

    He’s married to my cousin.

    She’d have Ellis’s balls for ear rings before the fat c$&t could get off the couch.

  48. geoffrey

    little black duck

    quack quack

  49. castle

    I will explain tomorrow to you the relevance of the ABC show and the Carlton article

    Glory nailed it I don’t know why you don’t see it

  50. guytaur


    I know what revolving leaders does. NSW revolving leaders proved it.
    Making Rudd PM again will be seen not as righting a wrong, but an admission of defeat.

    FYI PMJG is the most popular leader of the major parties. Howard was not liked but he still won elections.

  51. geoffrey

    mind you gambling is not my sport — but its intuitive like politics.

    still amazed one man can have such effect for three long years (irony). deserves to be noticed (not ironic)

  52. Kirky


    She knifed Rudd as you say and yet he was prepared to stand for the Leadership in 2010, that says everything. He had lost support of his own party and now for the past three years he has been in the background undermining the current leader for what he perceives in his own mind was a wrong.

    Seriously, do people actually believe this man to be a saviour. For gods sake support the PM who has the backing of her party, has delivered policy in the most difficult climate of minority government, has seen no scandals of any note and yet we still have an economy growing and the envy of the world.

  53. bemused


    As for questions closer to earth, I’d like to join the chorus in welcoming back Bemused. He is in sparkling form, I see.

    Thanks alias, but I think you are either exaggerating or taking the mickey out of me. 😉

    I had a good laugh a few days ago when you were accused of being me.

    I do agree with most of what you write but you are wrong on 457 visas.

  54. Centre

    [back to the future]

    [like that]

    Michael J Fox and that nutty professor 😀

  55. guytaur

    @daveyk317: The MSM has spent 5 years trying to prevent Aussies having this list: http://t.co/pYMC9ynR8J

  56. Kirky

    Sorry, should have read “wasn’t prepared to stand”

  57. jaundiced view


    The polling doesn’t support your contention as to how the loss of the Gillard cabal and the Ruddsteration would be seen by voters.

  58. ShowsOn


    I know what revolving leaders does. NSW revolving leaders proved it.]
    Going back to Rudd would not be the same for these reasons:
    1) It would be going back to a leader
    2) It would only be the second leadership change in 3 years.
    3) Many people still think Rudd should be leader and don’t understand how / why Gillard became leader in the first place
    4) Rudd is far more popular than Gillard so most people COULDN”T CARE LESS that Labor changed its leader because they would’ve changed it to a much more popular person!

    Have a look at the Liberals! They had 4 leaders between 2007 and 2010 election, but they almost won the 2010 election! Do you think voters cared that Abbott was their 4th leader in 3.5 years?

    [Making Rudd PM again will be seen not as righting a wrong, but an admission of defeat.]
    That’s absolute bullshit. You simply don’t understand how unpopular Gillard is. Your problem is you just talk to yourself instead of getting out and talking to people in the real world. It is as if you are repeating the same crap over and over again in order to convince yourself of something!

    [FYI PMJG is the most popular leader of the major parties.]
    Not true! Abbott is now more popular than Gillard.
    [Howard was not liked but he still won elections.]
    This is idiotic! Even at the 2007 election Howard was much more popular than Gillard is now! And Howard never suffered a 2.5 year stretch of polling as bad as Gillard has endured during this term. Howard’s polls only started to tank after WorkChoices came in, but he still remained reasonably competitive until Rudd became leader, it was only for about the last 10 months that Howard and the Coalition really started to suffer in the polls, but for a lot of that period Howard was actually more popular than his party!

  59. guytaur


    Of course not. The polling shows the past not future

  60. confessions

    Sky’s are clear now, and super moon is out. Except the moon is now too far in the sky to determine its superdom. 🙁

  61. guytaur


    Morgan is with trend and contradicts Neilsen

  62. Kinkajou

    so another shelved newspoil?

  63. Kinkajou

    tomorrow will do – or next week or whenever

  64. mexicanbeemer

    Apparently it will be released after 11

    What ever happened to Ghost

  65. Silky38

    NSW revolving leaders and Rudd v Gillard is not the same thing. As shows said, Many people will see it as the restoration of the guy they voted for as PM in the first place. It will be greeted as a good things if we are lucky enough for the change to take place.

  66. mimhoff

    It’s just too fascinating!

    Nobody who has seen the results can look away for long enough to pass them on!

  67. Centre

    [The polling shows the past not future]


    Do you know how absurd that above statement is?


    People who are going to vote on Sept 14 are telling pollsters that they do NOT like Gillard and are going to vote for Abbott.

    Hell, the stupidity and delusion here holds no bounds!

  68. morpheus

    “TONY Abbott has opened his biggest lead ever over Julia Gillard as preferred prime minister as Labor’s primary vote fell below 30 per cent for the first time in a year.

    With parliament entering its final sitting week before the election, the Opposition Leader now leads the Prime Minister by 12 percentage points after trailing by 30 points as the preferred prime minister when Ms Gillard became leader in June 2010.

    Ms Gillard’s support as preferred prime minister dropped from 35 to 33 in the latest Newspoll survey, conducted exclusively for The Australian on the weekend.

    Labor’s primary vote dropped below 30 per cent – by just one point to 29 per cent – for the first time since July last year when the carbon tax was implemented.”

  69. gloryconsequence

    I have no doubt some people have been parking their vote with the Coalition or Undecided, but with the possibility of Rudd coming back (“I voted for him”) will vote Labor.

    I doubt it’s enough to win but it won’t be a wipeout.

    It’s all futile anyway unless he actually challenges.

  70. William Bowe

    Abbott 45, Gillard 33.

  71. guytaur


    Many excuses were made to justify those leadership changes in NSW.

    None of them worked. Same as you lot talking restoration. Its just what you think not what voters think. The most common I have heard is voters wanting Rudd back so they can vote him out.

    Anyway it does not matter its all fantasy because caucus is sticking with PMJG

  72. guytaur

    “@GhostWhoVotes: #Newspoll 2 Party Preferred: ALP 43 (+1) L/NP 57 (-1) #auspol”

  73. markjs

    GhostWhoVotes @GhostWhoVotes
    #Newspoll 2 Party Preferred: ALP 43 (+1) L/NP 57 (-1) #auspol

  74. Psephos

    OK, 57/43, about as expected. Good night.

  75. mexicanbeemer


    Yes for some reason people think that there will be a great change in community feeling within three months in spite of over two years of bad polling.

    Its time for some to bring out the German and some bull butter

  76. mimhoff

    Er, what? They’re leading with the preferred PM numbers?

    Could the regular numbers be even more fascinating, perhaps!

  77. guytaur

    “@GhostWhoVotes: #Newspoll Primary Votes: ALP 29 (-1) L/NP 45 (-4) GRN 9 (0) #auspol”

  78. gloryconsequence


  79. jaundiced view

    “@TroyBramston: #Newspoll Primary: ALP 29 L/NP 45 GRN 9
    2PP: ALP 43 L/NP 57
    PPM: Gillard 33 Abbott 45
    Details @australian http://t.co/aBGnruk2nB”

  80. gloryconsequence

    LNP -4?

  81. ShowsOn


    Morgan is with trend and contradicts Neilsen]
    Which Morgan!? Morgan Face to Face is a load of crap that shouldn’t be trusted. It has something like a 3 or 4% skew to Labor.

    You are so delusional that you think it makes sense to just pick the best poll for Labor and ignore the rest!

    GROW UP, this is childish nonsense!

  82. guytaur

    “@GhostWhoVotes: #Newspoll Preferred PM: Gillard 33 (-2) Abbott 45 (+2) #auspol”

  83. gloryconsequence

    Soft LNPers waiting for a Rudd return?

  84. mexicanbeemer

    So a shocking poll with one percent movement towards the Government.

  85. guytaur

    No surprise over leader rating Leadership speculation does that.

  86. davidwh

    Newspoll more often than not comes up with unexpected results 🙂

  87. jaundiced view

    Yes, this is as expected alright. Ever since June 2010. Still, it’s internal control of the party that matters, as we’ve been told. Not mere election wins.

  88. ShowsOn


    Preffered PM Gillard 33 (-2) Abbott 45 (+2)

  89. guytaur


    Given the all out leadership narrative of the MSM this fortnight I am surprised it is as high as it is.

  90. mimhoff

    Where did all the LNP votes go? Palmer?

    17% of the electorate in “Others”.

  91. Silky38

    The widening continues.

  92. briefly

    According to Nielsen, JG receives primary support from 24% of male voters. If Newspoll is consistent with Nielsen in this respect, then primary support among female voters for JG has fallen to about 33.5%.

    How much worse do the polls need to be before caucus addresses the matter of the leadership?

    [Labor’s primary vote dropped below 30 per cent – by just one point to 29 per cent – for the first time since July last year when the carbon tax was implemented.”]

  93. Carey Moore

    If it’s true that Rudd or whoever is waiting to see if this poll is terrible for Labor before acting, then that result will do it.

    If nobody challenges over the next week or two, then it’s clear nobody wants to be stuck with the role and Gillard will be leader on September 14.

  94. matt31

    During the February 2012 challenge, several Ministers in the Gillard camp launched scathing and unprecedented attacks against Rudd, frankly no worse than any the MSM or Coalition will launch. They have not moved the general view that people continue to tell pollsters that they prefer to Rudd to any of the alternatives from both parties. So I do not buy this idea that Rudd’s popularity would immediately collapse under pressure from the MSM and Coalition.

  95. Rosemour or Less

    Is it he narrowing yet?

  96. Rosemour or Less

    ‘Where did all the LNP votes go? Palmer?

    17% of the electorate in “Others”.’

    Many of whom are just waiting patiently for Rudd to get his old job back so they don’t have to vote for Abbott.

  97. bemused


    Nice to see you back on deck..and at a most “interesting  time

    Did you follow te debates on PB while in exile ?
    Good Luck

    Thanks deblonay, it’s good to be back.

    Yes, I did my best to keep up and have been enjoying watching the unhinging by the Gillard cultists.

    I don’t always agree with your posts 100% but they are always interesting. A pity you were lost to the ALP.