For the first time in decades, Canberrans will vote in three federal electorates.
This last happened in 1996, when the seat of Namadgi was created. (Labor won it, along with the other two, despite a big swing to John Howard's Liberals.)
Namadgi lasted just one term before it was abolished due to the ACT's then-sluggish population growth.
But Canberra has bounced back, bigger than ever, growing faster than most of the rest of the country. We're regaining a third voice in the House, and population projections suggest we'll keep it for many years.
So what will our city look like when it's split three ways? Can the Greens wrest the "inner-city" seat of Canberra from Labor, as they did in Melbourne? Will the Liberals pull off a coup in their stronghold in the south, the new seat of Bean?
Following the votes
The short answer is no. Canberra is a red city and is set to stay that way.
When the electoral commission redraws electoral boundaries, its staff stay deliberately blind to how their changes affect political fortunes. The commission asks the community, and political parties, for their views, but doesn't analyse whether a new border favours one group over another.
It does, however, publish all the data we need to do exactly that. The detail is almost creepy.
We know, for example, that the two suburban blocks encased by Marshall Street and Spafford Crescent in Farrer were home to 191 voters in 2016, and 167 will likely live there this election. We know 50.9 per cent of these people voted at Farrer Primary School, 12.3 per cent lodged prepoll votes at Woden, one voted at the Canberra Hospital, and so on. And we know how the votes flowed at each of these places.
Once we compute all these variables, a la the ABC's Antony Green, we can project accurately how the residents in almost 1000 small areas in Canberra vote, and hence how the three new seats would fall (on the basis of 2016 voting behaviour, anyway).
It looks pretty good for Labor. Here's why.
The blue-green lake
The commission decided to split Canberra into three zones: north, central and south. When it asked what people thought of its three-way split, the Canberra Liberals "strongly objected", and with good reason (self-interest).
The Liberals had a very different proposal. They wanted a large southern electorate stretching all the way up to Lake Burley Griffin, with Weston Creek hived off to a Belconnen-centred seat, and Narrabundah (the "hippy bit" of the inner south) cast off to the northern seat.
Instead, the commission threw the Liberals' best-performing areas (the wealthy inner south) into the same electorate as the Greens' best-performing areas (the wealthy-but-lefty inner north).
The Greens outpolled the Liberals in just six booths - every one of them in the People's Republic of the Inner North.
Canberrans often jibe about, and exaggerate, the differences between northsiders and southsiders. But the contrasts are very real when it comes to politics.
In 2016, the Liberals outpolled Labor in just one in five voting booths in the ACT. And while many people believe Tuggeranong and Woden are Liberal strongholds (or "Zed-land", as the region is sometimes called), more than half of the Liberals' winning booths were in what is now the central electorate (places such as Red Hill, Yarralumla, Griffith, Barton and Garran).
The Greens are even more concentrated. They outpolled the Liberals in just six booths - every one of them in the People's Republic of the Inner North (Turner, North Ainslie, Downer, Lyneham, Watson and Braddon).
So while the commission's redistribution made sense geographically, it also snuffed out any reasonable hope the two non-Labor parties had of winning a lower-house seat.
Marginally different margins
After calculating the probable flow of (2016) votes in each of Canberra's small areas, the city has been left with three very similar electorates, all safe Labor.
Andrew Leigh's margin in Fenner is 12.8 per cent, Labor candidate Alicia Payne's notional margin in Canberra is also 12.8 per cent, and former Labor senator David Smith's notional margin is 8.9 per cent in Bean. With a swing against the unpopular Coalition government expected, what's now safe may become very safe after the election.
Tasmania-based electoral analyst Dr Kevin Bonham agrees: there will be no genuine contests in the ACT.
"There isn't any sign or any reason for a swing to the Coalition anywhere this election, apart from particular seats with particular issues," he says.
While the Green votes is now concentrated in one ACT seat (Canberra), and the party is expending a lot of effort promoting candidate Tim Hollo, Bonham says "it's a big ask for them".
As for the future? "If there's some sort of demographic change and the kind of gradual intensification in the inner cities that you've seen in parts of the big capitals like Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, then yeah."
The Liberals may have a whiff of a chance in the long term in Bean, where the margin is slightly more marginal, but not this time.
"The problem for the Coalition at this election is they are having to defend so many of their own seats. So many of their own seats are losable ... It's rather hard to know which ones are in trouble, he says.
"It's going to be difficult to throw resources at seats where they are basically tilting at windmills, but maybe in the future."
Which leaves the Senate battle - the Greens' attempt to knock off Liberal senator Zed Seselja - as the only prospect of change. Yet even that is highly unlikely, especially with new rules that allow voters to exhaust their Senate preferences.
"The new system makes it somewhat harder than the older one, because you can't organise for everyone to preference him last and get the 100 per cent flows you would have got previously," Bonham says.
"You're looking at over 7 per cent swing from the Liberals to the Greens to make it happen. One possibility is if an independent really gets going. That would be interesting, but they'd have to get going to the extent that they got ahead of the Greens, so they would need a huge vote ...
"You need to get the Liberal vote way below the [33 per cent] quota before they come into any risk of losing it, because of the way preferences don't flow all that strongly. Preferences tend to spray about and scatter, and Labor preferences aren't as strong for the Greens as you may think."
So, the probable verdict on May 19? We'll still be a Labor town, maybe even more so than before, but with a slightly louder voice in the House of Representatives. Plus ca change ...
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