Progressives do well in ACT elections
By James Basle
CANBERRA — One week after the February 18 ACT elections, it is still uncertain who will govern. Either Liberal or Labor form a minority government.
The final make-up of the ACT Legislative Assembly is also uncertain. It seems likely, however, that the Liberals will have seven seats, Labor six, the Greens two, Michael Moore Independents one and the last seat going to ex-Canberra Raider Paul Osborne.
The Liberals achieved an 11% swing, polling 41% of the primary vote, with 89% of the votes counted. The Labor Party got 32% of the primary vote.
Labor did so poorly because of public disenchantment with continued cuts to health and social services. Increases in hospital waiting lists and a lowering of the quality of health care played a major role in Labor's defeat.
The Liberals' campaign centred on their leader Kate Carnell and economic management. They tried to present a "softer" face even though their promises included a $30 million cut to the administrative costs of the health system and a $27 million cut to the Action bus service. The Labor government had cut $13 million from the same bus service.
The cumulative vote of the Greens, Moore Independents, Democrats and Democratic Socialists was 20%, across all three electorates. The Greens did particularly well, scoring 9% of the primary vote, definitely picking up one seat and almost certainly gaining a second.
The Greens' successes can be attributed to an organised grassroots campaign, publicising both environmental and social justice issues like education and health, and the prominence of the anti-woodchipping campaigns. The loggers' blockade of Parliament House occurred about two weeks before the elections.
The referendum to entrench the principles of the proportional representation (Hare Clark) voting system won with 65% of votes.