The ACT Legislative Assembly chamber. Photo: Karleen Minney
The final decision on whether the ACT Legislative Assembly should have more politicians may be made by rank-and-file members of the Liberal Party.
Senior ACT Liberals appear to be leaning towards agreeing that the assembly should be enlarged from 17 to 25 members at the 2016 election.
There are concerns within the party that maintaining the current system might hurt the opposition and help the Greens.
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But the ACT Liberal leadership has decided to let branch members help decide the party's position at a special meeting in March.
The Labor caucus and Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury want the number of positions in the assembly to be increased.
A change to the size of the legislature would require the agreements of at least two-thirds of the 17 MLAs; this means that change is impossible without the consent of the Labor and the Liberal parliamentary parties, which both have eight MLAs.
In a letter sent on Monday, Canberra Liberals president Peter Collins told party members he wanted to involve them in the decision.
"As president of the Canberra Liberals, I am determined to give every member an opportunity to contribute to this important discussion,'' Mr Collins said.
The most likely agreement to be reached would be for the territory to be divided into five electorates, with each electing five MLAs.
A discussion paper accompanying the letter warns Liberals that maintaining the status quo could involve risks to the party at the next election.
Under the Hare-Clark voting system, the central electorate of Molonglo is represented by seven MLAs. The northern electorate of Ginninderra and Brindabella in the south both have five MLAs.
The Liberal discussion paper warned that it was possible that an electoral redistribution would result in Ginninderra becoming the seven-member electorate, while Molonglo was shrunk to a five-member district.
Voters in an enlarged Ginninderra, which took in parts of the inner-north, could be expected to elect a Greens MLA. A smaller Molonglo would also probably elect a Green. This could result in the loss of a Liberal seat.
"Regardless of whether the assembly seeks to take action on increasing the size of the assembly, the current boundaries may change significantly, perhaps to the Liberal Party's detriment, if
Ginninderra becomes a seven-member electorate,'' the Liberal discussion paper said.
"All party members should consider this issue carefully and with the broad interests of the party and territory in mind.''
The discussion paper also noted that enlarging the assembly would be expensive and could prove unpopular with some voters. An increase in the number of electorates would decrease the number of electors, suburbs and geographic areas of individual electorates.
"This would increase the emphasis on campaigning on local issues as a local issue affecting one or two suburbs would now represent a greater share of the electorate than under larger electorates,'' the discussion paper said.
Liberal Party members will consider options for the future of the assembly before voting on the issue at a council meeting on March 5.
The internal discussions kicked off as Liberal leader Jeremy Hanson announced a minor portfolio shuffle. New MLA Nicole Lawder takes on the shadow family and community services, housing and environment portfolios.
Andrew Wall gains the corrections portfolio and Giulia Jones adds mental health to her women and multicultural affairs policy responsibilities.