ACT News

Australian Electoral Commission confirms seat redistribution in Canberra

The Australian Electoral Commission has officially confirmed a redistribution of ACT electorates and the renaming of a seat after Australian scientist Professor Frank Fenner.

The redistribution was first proposed in September and will see almost 10,200 voters in Canberra's north transferred into the electorate held by Labor's Gai Brodtmann.

Recognised: Professor Frank Fenner, who died in 2010.
Recognised: Professor Frank Fenner, who died in 2010. 

The former seat of Fraser held by Labor's Andrew Leigh was named in 1974 after former federal Labor Party MP for the ACT, James Fraser, who died in office.

The four-person redistribution commission decided to retire the name in order to provide the option of renaming a Victorian electoral division after former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, who died in March last year.

The commission also considered achievements of Jim Fraser were already recognised in Canberra with a suburb named in his honour and his inclusion in the ACT honour walk.

The changes were announced in the Commonwealth Government Notices Gazette and prompted by expected population and enrolment growth during the next four years.

The redistribution was required under Commonwealth electoral rules because more than seven years had passed since the previous redistribution.

Voters in the suburbs of Acton, Black Mountain, Campbell, the city, Reid, and Russell will now move electorates, along with parts of Barton, Braddon, Parkes, Pialligo, Turner, the Molonglo Valley and Majura district.

According to the commission, residents affected by the redistribution will be automatically moved with no action required.

The changes also make Canberra the electorate with the largest population in the country. The committee was required to create electorates with between 121,330 and 148,293 electors.

Professor Fenner, who died in 2010, is known worldwide for his landmark work helping to eradicate smallpox, fighting malaria in Papua New Guinea and controlling Australia's rabbit plague.

He had a long association with the Australian National University, although the campus will remain in the seat of Canberra.

The renaming of Canberra's northern seat has proved controversial, with many high-profile Canberrans voicing their objections in recent months.

Former chief minister Jon Stanhope told the electoral commission he was "unequivocally opposed to the proposal" and believed Professor Fenner would be "spinning in his grave".

"The proposal, however, to recognise him in a way that traduces the recognition of another great Australian and someone close to the hearts of Canberrans is, I think, quite odious," he said in a submission after the proposal was unveiled in September.

"I have no doubt that Frank Fenner would, as I am, have been absolutely appalled by this proposal."

The former chief minister's attempt to learn more about the commission's decision was derailed after documents released under freedom of information were almost entirely blocked out.

ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young has welcomed the move to recognise Professor Fenner, adding to praise from the Fenner family and community and academic leaders.

"This honour will place ANU and its outstanding research strengths at the heart of the Canberra community, and demonstrate the university's ties with Canberra," he said when the proposal was announced.

Dr Leigh, who will be forced to move his electoral office in Braddon because of the redistribution, has previously said it would be an honour to represent an electorate named after Professor Fenner.

"At the same time, I would be sad to see the loss of an electorate named after Jim Fraser, who helped build our city in the post-war decades," he said after the announcement. 

- with Tom McIlroy and Ross Peake