ACT News


Labor to consider electoral offices

Legislative Assembly members may be allocated offices in their electorates if the government adopts one of the recommendations from an internal Labor review of the party's performance in the ACT election campaign last year.

In an unusual move, the ACT Labor Party has publicly released a 125-page report into the campaign in the lead-up to the October poll.

Labor and the Liberals each won eight positions in the 17-seat Legislative Assembly and the final spot went to Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury, who entered a coalition with the ALP. The internal report acknowledged that Labor had been out-campaigned in the southern electorate of Brindabella, where the Liberals won three of the five seats.

''Our candidates all worked hard but the reality is the Brindabella Liberal candidates, their other MLAs, staff and their supporters from across Canberra and interstate, campaigned harder and spent more time and money on Brindabella than the Liberals have ever done before, and this targeted effort had a proportional electoral effect,'' the report said. It called called for Labor to put in place continuing community engagement and campaigning capacity in the Tuggeranong Valley and said the Assembly should consider establishing electorate offices around the ACT.

Unlike their state and Northern Territory colleagues, ACT Assembly members are only allocated office space inside the Legislative Assembly building in Civic Square.

''Incumbent ministers and MLAs have a distinct disadvantage when it comes to electorate-based constituent communications due to the location of their offices in the Assembly building,'' the report said..


''Serious consideration needs to be given to MLAs having offices and/or staff located in their electorates rather than in the Assembly building, to ensure better community accessibility and awareness of local issues.''

It also said the party needed to be better equipped to respond effectively to negative campaigning by the Liberal Party.

It raised concerns about alleged breaches of electoral rules by Liberal campaigners, such as the use of oversized signs close to polling stations on election day. ''We should expect similar behaviour in 2016,'' the report said.

''Some regulations should be amended to ensure better compliance through policing and penalties, or perhaps abolished if they are unenforceable,'' it said.

Other issues looked at included the use of social media to engage with voters and endorsing early selection of candidates before elections.

ACT Labor branch secretary Elias Hallaj said the party had decided to release the report so that it could be open and honest about its policies and community campaigning. Mr Hallaj said the Liberal Party's traditional reliance on the success of third-party independents to win extra support in the Assembly had not paid off last year.

He said former ACT opposition leader Zed Seselja's decision to run for the Senate instead of the southern federal electorate of Canberra demonstrated that the Liberals were not necessarily as popular in the city's south as some claimed.

The report called for further investigations into the electoral impact of minor parties in the ACT.

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