The ACT is one step closer to an expanded Legislative Assembly after the Canberra Liberals endorsed a plan for a 25-member chamber chosen by voters in five electorates. Wednesday night's Liberal divisional council meeting at the National Press Club saw rank and file members vote to endorse the expansion, joining the Labor government in its support.
There is no indication when the proposal will come before the current Legislative Assembly, where the government and opposition are expected to combine to meet the required two-thirds support.
Five member electorates favour the major parties, likely delivering two seats to each and providing a chance at winning a third seat. The move would likely increase electoral pressure on the ACT Greens.
The decision comes after a review chaired by electoral commissioner Phillip Green recommended the increase to 25 members at the next election as a transitional change, then 35 at the following election when the population is expected to top 410,000.
Mr Green's team recommended both changes be put in place before the next election, so the increase to 35 would happen automatically without the need for another vote. Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson have both indicated support only for the initial expansion to 25 MLAs in the current plan. Mr Hanson welcomed the decision and said he would now ''work with the Chief Minister to bring about an expansion''.
"An expansion will enhance representation and acknowledges an increase in the ACT population since self government. It will also resolve issues relating to the size of the ministry,'' Mr Hanson said.
Mr Green's expert review group preferred seven member electorates to five, which are more proportional - meaning a closer alignment between the percentage of the vote for each party and the percentage of seats they end up with.
The review found ''significant, broad and strong'' community support for increasing the size of the Assembly, with submissions in favour by nearly two to one.
It also points out that the ACT has fewer politicians than any other jurisdiction. Without local council representation, the ACT has one member to 15,130 voters, more than three times the number of voters per politician of any other jurisdiction except Tasmania.
The report also found the 17 members face a heavy workload, with the five ministers having to cover four to six portfolio areas each, and the committees stretched to deal with their workloads.
The public accounts committee charged with scrutinising government and performance had just three members and could be expected to struggle, it said, concluding that the small size of the Assembly was a ''significant risk to good government'' in the territory.
Greens minister Shane Rattenbury said his party would compete strongly in whatever landscape exists before the 2016 election. ''We're very focused on making the case for a system that allows for good diversity of representation in the Assembly, and obviously having greater numbers within an electorate improves the chances of that,'' he said.
''The Greens can perform in whatever electoral environment arises and certainly we saw that, historically, in Tasmania where the two major parties got together to reduce the number in the Tasmanian Parliament to try and remove the Greens.''
He said the party believed strongly that communities and population centres in the ACT should not be divided by electorate.
In March, Federal Parliament formally handed the ACT Legislative Assembly power to increase the number of MLAs.
The former legislation required the Assembly to have 17 members.