Jon Stanhope appalled by ACT federal seat renamed from Fraser to Fenner

Jon Stanhope appalled by ACT federal seat renamed from Fraser to Fenner

The late Professor Frank Fenner would be "spinning in his grave" over his name being used for an ACT federal electorate, thereby displacing the name of a Canberra identity, former chief minister Jon Stanhope believes.

"I am unequivocally opposed to this proposal," he told the Electoral Commission about the proposal for the northern seat of Fraser to be named Fenner to honour of the famous Australian scientist.

Professor Frank Fenner, who died in 2010.

Professor Frank Fenner, who died in 2010.

The seat had been named in 1974 after former federal Labor Party MP for the ACT, James Fraser.

Mr Stanhope said he had greatest respect for Professor Fenner.


"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.

"I am also gravely concerned at the appalling lack of due process and transparency by the Electoral Commission in this instance."

On Tuesday the commission confirmed the name change for the territory's northern seat.

The name Fraser has been "retired" to allow a Victorian electorate to be named after former prime minister Malcolm Fraser.

The newly-named seat is held by Labor's Andrew Leigh, who has previously expressed concern at the $500,00 cost to relocate his electorate office out of Braddon, which becomes part of the Canberra electorate.

About 10,200 voters in Canberra's north will move into this electorate which retains its name and is held by Labor's Gai Brodtmann.

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

The changes will come into force at the next election, ahead of population and enrolment growth over the next four years.The commission rejected objections to the proposed name for the northern electoral division.

"[The commission] noted the achievements of James Fraser, after whom the electoral division has been named since 1974, are reflected in the naming of an ACT suburb in his honour and his inclusion in the ACT Honour Walk and determined it is not appropriate to co-name the electoral division," the commission said in a statement.

Mr Stanhope said in his submission he could not believe the late Professor Fenner would have countenanced the prospect of being recognised at the expense of Mr Fraser.

"In my mind, knowing Frank Fenner as I did, I see him spinning in his grave at the prospect that his recognition is at the expense of, and replaces that of, another most worthy Canberran who has been appropriately recognised for 40 years through the electorate of Fraser," he said.

"I am a reasonably close observer of public affairs in the ACT and while I was aware of the redistribution process, at no stage did I see any reference to or attempt to involve residents in the consideration which the redistribution committee was giving to a change of name of the electorate.

"I am genuinely surprised at the arrogance of the committee and its disrespect to the people of Canberra and most particularly those within the electorate of Fraser."

Professor Fenner, who died in 2010, is known around the world 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 university is home to the Fenner Building, the Fenner School of Environment and Society, and Fenner Hall.

Ross Peake is a senior reporter for The Canberra Times