PRESELECTION time within political parties is in full flight. With the Federal and ACT elections due in roughly a year, candidates are jostling for their chance at representation.
For the Federal election, the main contest in the ACT will be to win the middle ground in the Senate. For the ACT Assembly, the door is wide open for the October election – and recently opened even further with the announcement that MLA Mary Porter will not run for a further term.
Porter has been a long-term Labor member who was certainly a shoe-in were she to have stood again in her electorate of Ginninderra. And deservedly so!
The electorate of Ginninderra provides a good case study. Having Porter stepping down leaves serving Labor members Yvette Berry and Chris Bourke likely, with the chance for a third member for Labor in that electorate. Other candidates have already been announced, including Kim Fischer, whose advocacy has played a key role in sending the Department of Immigration back to the drawing boards to ensure planning in Canberra is more orderly.
An opinion piece in “The Canberra Times” will have assisted in lifting her profile in the electorate. It is part of the reason that there is now a mandate for consideration of local impacts if a move affects more than 10 per cent of the employment in a local area. This is simply good grassroots politics focusing on the local area.
Even with 25 seats available in the next Assembly, there will still be considerable arm wrestling to secure a place on the ticket.
In the ACT Hare-Clark voting system there is no priority order on the ticket. Liberal or Labor Party voters who simply vote for the party by numbering one to five effectively have their vote evenly distributed amongst candidates.
When voters prioritise, a candidate gets a serious advantage. This is why community profile is so important. Reaching out to the people and building a personal profile through such methods as door knocking, media, social media and community involvement are key to success.
Federally, the voting system in the Senate still favours the order parties prefer and the preference deals that they have done. A joint parliamentary committee has recommended sensible changes but legislation has not yet been enacted. There is still time.
With Labor’s Katy Gallagher certain of re-election, the Greens have just announced their key candidate to challenge incumbent Liberal Senator, Zed Seselja, for the ACT’s second Senate seat. With a background well understood in Canberra as an economist with experience in UN humanitarian work, the Greens have chosen a sensible candidate in Christina Hobbs.
The challenge for Hobbs will be to win the middle ground. The new leader, Richard di Natale, just might provide her with the opportunity.
The new face of the Greens is timely. With the advent of a whole new Malcolm Turnbull atmosphere (discarding the fire and brimstone of Tony Abbott) is a more thoughtful and engaging dialogue. This fits neatly with the parallel new face of the Greens that seem much about negotiating for sensible solutions.
The task for Hobbs is to frame Seselja as part of the discredited, ultra-conservative Abbott camp. Photos and footage of Seselja standing, smiling next to Tony Abbott abound.
As the Greens’ Leader identified, it is his conservative views on climate change, same-sex marriage and racial discrimination laws that make him vulnerable in Canberra. However, a Senate seat for the Greens in the ACT is still a big ask.
While it’s appropriate for the Greens to run candidates in the House of Representatives, neither Andrew Leigh nor Gai Brodtmann are really vulnerable to challenge from either the Liberals or Green candidates, Carly Anne Saeedi and Patricia Cahill respectively.
Our democracy works on people putting their hands up and their contribution should be acknowledged – whether they have a small chance to be elected or not. And while a year to the polls may seem a long time to go, for new candidates the coming year will pass quickly. It will be one of the most interesting and memorable of their lives.