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Federal Election 2016

May 25, 2014

Seat of the week: Canberra

The Liberals once won the seat covering the southern half of the national capital at a by-election during the terminal phase of the Keating government, but they wouldn't be holding their breath waiting for it to happen again.


Red and blue numbers respectively indicate two-party majorities for Labor and Liberal. Click for larger image. Map boundaries courtesy of Ben Raue at The Tally Room.

The electorate of Canberra covers the southern half of the national capital together with the bulk of the Australian Capital Territory’s undeveloped 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, which pushed the Canberra electorate north of Lake Burley Griffin to include the city’s centre and inner north. However, the previous order was reinstated when the seat entitlement 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 enrolments of around 140,000 voters each, compared with a national average of around 105,000.

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, succeeding Lionel Murphy as Attorney-General upon his appointment to the High Court in early 1975. Enderby 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 easily won for Labor by Bob McMullan, who had served the ACT as a Senator since 1988. The reassertion of the old boundaries in 1998 prompted McMullan to move to Fraser, the Labor margin in the redrawn Canberra being 5.1% lower than the one he had secured on the short-lived boundaries 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 that 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, since which time the seat has returned fairly consistent results with Labor margins ranging from a low of 7.0% in 2013 to a high of 11.8% in 2007.

Both Ellis and McMullan announced they would not seek another term six months out from the August 2010 election. Large fields of preselection contestants emerged for the two 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 preselection was seen as a rebuff to local factional powerbrokers who had pursued a deal in which the Left was to support Mary Wood, adviser to Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek and member of the Centre Coalition (Right), which the Right was to reciprocate in Fraser by backing Nick Martin, the party’s assistant national secretary and a member of the Left. However, Brodtmann was able to build a cross-factional support base of sufficient breadth to prevail over Wood by 123 votes to 109. Following the 2013 election defeat she was promoted to shadow parliamentary secretary in the defence portfolio.


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1,955 thoughts on “Seat of the week: Canberra

  1. mari

    My old electorate from long ago

  2. BK

    Good morning Dawn Patrollers.

    More revelations on Chris Hartcher and a sniff of a shady quid pro quo.
    More budget pain for the “oldies” many of whom will not yet know of its impact on them.
    The Speaker breaks another impartiality convention. Their hubris knows no bounds. Burke may have some fun with this during the upcoming sitting.
    I’m sick of all this influence peddling regardless of which side is involved.
    What can one say about this other than it is a sort of cowardly action. Essentially he has put the fix in to eliminate the chances of authors whose views do not align with his.
    More heartless cost shifting attempt by Abbott and Co.
    Christine Milne tell the Great Negotiator to sod off.
    And it’s not Just Milne that the Great Negotiator will have to contend with.

  3. frednk

    Possum not that impressed with Paul Williams risk taking:
    ‘PAUL WILLIAMS: Look I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that I think the Labor Party will win that seat’ http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2014/s4011310.htm

    Possum Comitatus ‏@Pollytics 7h

    Look, I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that tomorrow is Sunday

  4. frednk

    What the oldies can’t get their around is the Liberal party from the past has gone:

    Malcolm Fraser ‏@MalcolmFraser12 9h

    Using any facilities in Parliament House for Party fund raisers wrong, sense of responsibility degraded.

    Speaker Bronwyn Bishop under fire for hosting Liberal fundraisers, Unique interpretation of role, untenable.

  5. Oakeshott Country

    News from Dublin (irish times)
    The progressive count in local elections (1/3 counted)
    Sinn Fein. 36%
    Fianna Fail 22 %
    Fine Gail 12%
    Labour 3%
    All others (mainly socialists and independents) 27%

    Fine Gail and Labour were elected in a landslide 2 years ago on a policy of austerity, taxes and service cuts to fix the budget emergency. This has been overwhelmingly rejected but the votes have gone to extremists. The 3 establishment parties have a combined 37% of the vote.

  6. sprocket_

    Posted Sunday, May 25, 2014 at 1:00 am | PERMALINK

    The “Budget Bills” have 3 elements

    1) Appropriation Bills ie legislative authority to spend money, the spending of which has already been legislated ie “Supply”. These won’t be blocked.

    2) Bills to create new taxes or change existing ones eg the deficit levy or the co-payments. These are about legislating what the government can do to grab our $s. These are not “Supply” and can be certainly blocked. Some will be blocked/amended.

    3) Bills to create new programs / alter old ones eg Direct Action, or PPL. These also are not “Supply” and can be blocked. Some will be blocked/amended.

    From the last thread.

    This is true, but there are also Disallowable Instruments. These are ministerial directions made subject to existing legislation, but can be disallowed by either chamber by majority vote. Typically, the need to “lie on the table” for 15 days before they come into force (unless successfully challenged)

    Given the breadth of the cuts in this Budget, I’m sure a few DIs will be amongst them eg changing the entitlement rate for something from $x to $x-n.

    We also have the circus which is Senate Estimates and Senate Select Inquiries to look forward to.

  7. sprocket_

    Looks like Milne is smelling the breeze, with this insight into PeopleSkills Tony. If he is going to rely on trusted henchmen like Abetz, Pyne and Brandis to get things through the Senate – well good luck.

    [The Prime Minister’s hopes for easy passage of his signature budget measures rest with a party leader he has met just once since the election – and left her completely cold.
    Greens leader Christine Milne said she met Tony Abbott in his office late last year and was unimpressed with the result. She claimed Mr Abbott did not live up to his statements on protecting Tasmanian wilderness.

    Senator Milne said she had not met government Senate leader Eric Abetz or any Coalition senators. ”None, as in zero,” she said, adding there would be ”little point”.
    She said Mr Abbott ”does not have the skills” to negotiate with the minor parties and she did not trust him, making it difficult to discuss his policies.

    The fraught relationship between the party leaders will become more significant in the weeks ahead.]

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/greens-leader-christine-milne-rules-out-senate-deals-with-tony-abbott-20140524-38vj8.html#ixzz32fk42Ubk

  8. Socrates

    Morning all. You have to give it to the Iranians, they know how to get tough on corporate crime.

    Quite a few fraudsters were hung in 18th century England too. Sort of puts into perspective all those comments of Adam Smith about the invisible hand and why the market worked so well.

  9. Socrates

    BK thanks for the links. Reading through all the stories about the budget impact on older voters, you have to wonder if the Liberals thought they either would not notice, not understand, or believe anything they said and vote for them anyway. It is still hard to believe that the alibs thought Australia would swallow tea party policies without question.

    That being said, the contrast in reactions between young and old is marked. Both have been hit. The young are out protesting. The old are still buying The Australian.

  10. Fran Barlow


    There was a steam punk movie a couple of years back along the same lines (the name eludes me just now) in which the petty fraudster is made the master if the derelict local post office in orser to break the power of the local criminal communications czar.

  11. Fran Barlow


    There was a steam punk movie a couple of years back along the same lines (the name eludes me just now) in which the petty fraudster is made the master if the derelict local post office in orser to break the power of the local criminal communications czar.

  12. Peter Murphy

    Fran: there’s a book with the same plot: “Going Postal” by Terry Pratchett. Was it made into a telemovie or similar?

  13. lizzie

    Return to Victorian-style hospitals to fight superbugs, experts urge
    Modern wards must be redesigned to prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

    [A group of senior scientists – including Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, and Professor Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust – told the Royal Society last week that the planet faced the prospect of people dying from routine infections because effective antibiotics no longer existed.

    Changes to be made to hospital wards should, they said, include greater distances between beds, lower bed occupancy rates, improved staff-patient ratios and large, openable windows.

    “We are talking about returning hospital wards to the type we had 100 years ago,” said microbiologist Professor Kevin Kerr, of Hull York Medical School.

    The crucial point of such “old school” measures is to buy time, added fellow microbiologist Professor Mark Fielder, of Kingston University in Surrey]


  14. Socrates

    Fran and Sprocket

    I am curious about your views on the Greens. There are some aspects of the budget e.g. Fuel levy indexation, that I could imagine them passing. But surely the bulk of new spending and revenue measures would be anathema to them? Do you think the Libs have any real chance of negotiating support from the Greens in return for some environmental or other measure?

  15. guytaur

    Good Morning

    Fran is that the Terry Pratchett Going Postal?

  16. lizzie

    Hard to read on a bicycle, isn’t it…

    [Maxine Beneba Clarke, a young author of Afro-Caribbean descent, privately gave Mr Abbott a copy of her acclaimed short-story collection, Foreign Soil, with a petition signed by hundreds of writers that calls for more arts funding. He thanked her but said he didn’t get much time to read.]

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/tony-abbott-chooses-conservatives-to-judge-the-prime-ministers-literary-awards-20140524-zrn0m.html#ixzz32fpzC8Fy

  17. Socrates

    Fran and Peter

    Thanks for the movie/book sugestions, though I haven’t seen either. They used tax law to convict Al Capone. I. Start to wonder how many corporate criminals now could be convicted by application of criminal law. The separation of enforcement of corporate and civil laws is a regrettable thing. Crime is crime, especially when it harms other people.

  18. guytaur


    Not addressed to me but thought I would stick my nose in. The starting point with the Greens is the same as as that of conservatives Windsor and Oakeshott.

    They chose Labor for very good reasons. Those reasons are still there. Senator Milne has told us those reasons have not changed.

    This is why I have some real hopes about PUP. Palmer is not dumb. He will have noted Windsor and Oakeshott’s decision, as well as Katter expressing regret.

    The Canberra Press Gallery has been asleep but are now waking up to the reality of the Abbott reality of the nickname “people skills”

  19. zoomster


    [Do you think the Libs have any real chance of negotiating support from the Greens in return for some environmental or other measure?]

    The article linked to above has Milne ruling out horse trading. My understanding is that that’s consistent with Green practice.

  20. Bushfire Bill

    Good God… Gerard Henderson to be on the Prime Minister’s Literary Award judging panel.


    “How can you write a book about your three years as a sex slave in a Dubai harem without once mentioning Doc Evatt or even the Split of 1955?”

  21. Bushfire Bill

    “Gerard… Chapter 23.”

    Smart move.

  22. Socrates


    I share a similar view but I was curious to see what the Greens thought. I can’t see much in it for them, with the alibs already having trashed almost all the measures the Greens negotiated with Gillard.

    BTW amusing to Nick DiBagman is suing Fairfax just like Hockey. Is this Craig Thompson MkIII?

    He is accusing Fairfax of reporting the news, a serious crime in Liberal land.

  23. zoomster


    from the article —

    [Senator Milne said that despite her opposition to the Abbott government’s budget philosophy, the Greens would probably help two Coalition policies become law – paid parental leave and the re-indexation of the petrol tax.

    Senator Milne said the Greens were considering supporting the Coalition’s proposals to tighten the means-testing of family payments from income levels of $150,000 down to $100,000, but they needed to see more details. However, she is opposed to other Coalition budget policies – university fee deregulation, GP payments, pension and Newstart cuts, the Direct Action plan.

    And unlike the deals that led to the Greens-Labor alliance in the last Parliament, Senator Milne said she would not entertain ”horse trading” with Mr Abbott.]

    I would take issue with the start of the last sentence. The agreement with Labor wasn’t ‘horse trading’. Negotiating changes/amendments to Bills isn’t either.

    ‘Horse trading’ is where you agree to measures you otherwise would oppose to get things you do support up.

    I don’t think that happened in the last Parliament.

    You’d think any journalist commenting on political matters would get their vocabulary right (I’m still narky about Indi being described as a ‘bellwether seat’)

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/greens-leader-christine-milne-rules-out-senate-deals-with-tony-abbott-20140524-38vj8.html#ixzz32ftGXj00

  24. Fran Barlow

    This offensive article


    Is doing the rounds of twitter. Apparently it was wrongly bylined by the Telecrap as by Sam Maiden, when in reality it was by Miranda Devine.

    Sadly, I took a swing at Ms Maiden based on it, for which I’ve now apologised, but I thought I’d save others here from duplicating my error.

    It did sound a lot more like Miranda “hang the Greens” Devine. I should have twigged. You just can’t trust the Telecrap.

  25. guytaur

    AMA President on 24 now

  26. victoria

    Morning all

    Napthine here in Vic intimated that the Vic govt would have to find the money somehow because pensioners rely on these concessions to make ends meet. I am not sure of the average amount pensioners stand to lose on a yearly basis, but would hazard a guess that it would be anywhere upwards of $400 pa. Which is a fair amount if you are receiving the basic pension.

    The odious Michaela Cash on Sky agenda yesterday insisted that there would be no changes to the pension in this budget. Funny how she omitted this aspect. Even worse, the Labor counterpart on the program (Thistlewaite) i believe it was, said nothing about this.

    [Pensioners and seniors facing a $450 million cut in Commonwealth funding for concessions they rely on to meet living costs will meet NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance this week to discuss its impact.
    According to a NSW Treasury analysis, $732 million in public transport concessions, $323 million in council rates discounts, $643 million in water bill exemptions, $881 million in electricity rebates and $1.2 billion in fee exemptions for driver’s licences, tests and mobility parking schemes were to have been paid out to pensioners over the next four years.
    But the scheme is threatened by the Abbott government’s decision to cancel its joint funding commitment, which will mean NSW loses $107 million in payments from July 1, and $450 million by 2017.]

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/nsw-pensioners-and-seniors-to-fight-tony-abbotts-federal-budget-cuts-20140524-38vkh.html#ixzz32fuG74I1

  27. lizzie

    Libs will scream that this is unfair criticism, but surely this isn’t charity work: “she has worked part-time at a local Sydney childcare centre and, along with Tony, raised their three daughters”.

    [But Mrs Abbott’s spokeswoman on Saturday night outlined a range of charity and community events the first lady had attended in recent months.

    She said Mrs Abbott had a long history of community involvement and supported organisations including the Royal Blind Society and Girl Guides.

    “This community involvement has been part of her life as she has worked part-time at a local Sydney childcare centre and, along with Tony, raised their three daughters,” she said.]

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/tim-mathieson-takes-aim-at-margie-abbott-over-charity-work-20140525-zrnd1.html#ixzz32fvSgYNi

  28. Fran Barlow


    [I am curious about your views on the Greens. There are some aspects of the budget e.g. Fuel levy indexation, that I could imagine them passing. But surely the bulk of new spending and revenue measures would be anathema to them? Do you think the Libs have any real chance of negotiating support from the Greens in return for some environmental or other measure?]

    In practice, no. We are probably going to use the notional possibility of cutting a deal in order to embarrass the regime, but in practice they won’t agree to anything we would want in return. The fuel levy indexation matter will be tied to public transport hypothecation or similar and Abbott won’t wear that. Were I in charge of negotiations, you can well imagine what they’d be like.


    I’m not in charge of course, but I daresay Milne and the leadership team will make them an offer they must refuse.

  29. Fran Barlow

    Yes, thanks Peter and Scott. I was thinking of Going Postal.

  30. guytaur

    “@InsidersABC: Almost time for #insiders! Join @frankellyabc as she interviews @SenatorWong. @jonathanvswan @JacquelineMaley @farrm51 on the panel. 9am.”

  31. victoria

    Oh and anofher thing the odious Cash said, was that if Labor voted to repeal the carbon tax, pensioners would save $550 pa. Of course, the compensation Pensioners currently receive was not mentioned by her or that hopeless Labor MP. It is about time that Labor put forward MPs who can mount a counter argument, i am not impressed so far by some that appear on these programs.

  32. Socrates


    Thanks, that makes sense. You could always just say that the transport projects (Tony’s dodgy toll tunnels) can be funded after they have been shown to pass the full IA assessment process. No chance.


    Thanks, I follow the logic in what you say, it makes no political sense to me for the Greens to support this dumb, mean budget. But I still am interested in the opinions of the Greens themselves. I still wish Labor and the Greens would learn to play nicely together, at least till Abbott is gone.

    Have a good day all.

  33. zoomster

    [..and supported organisations including the Royal Blind Society and Girl Guides.]

    So she donated some money to charity and bought a few biscuits?

  34. confessions

    Morning all.

    Looks like a sensible Insiders panel and guest today.

  35. confessions

    [Senator Milne said that despite her opposition to the Abbott government’s budget philosophy, the Greens would probably help two Coalition policies become law – paid parental leave and the re-indexation of the petrol tax.]

    I thought the GReens had come to their senses on PPL and would be opposing Abbott’s regressive policy?

  36. guytaur

    @GMegalogenis: Rest of the world wants what Australia has: social cohesion, growth, AAA credit rating. But the Oz crankytariat declares war on equity. Hm.

  37. lizzie


    I wonder, who is Margie’s spokeswoman.

  38. Fran Barlow

    It is times like this Socrates that I really wish I were in charge of budget negotiations for The Greens …

    Gosh it would be fun.


  39. Tom Hawkins

    [So she donated some money to charity and bought a few biscuits?]

    She could have donated $59,000 to charity and still come out ahead.

  40. victoria


    I am going to give insiders a go today

  41. Boerwar

    Abbott reckons we are on fire. That must be why he is pissing on us.

  42. victoria



  43. confessions

    BBishop should resign as Speaker. Not only is she the worst Speaker we’ve seen in many years, but this latest fundraising thing just makes her position untenable.

  44. victoria



  45. Boerwar

    Jonathon Swan, Katherine Maley and Malcolm Farr. The panel looks quite different.


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