The ACT is likely to retain its third federal electorate under a bill introduced in the Senate by the government with the main purpose of guaranteeing two seats in the Northern Territory.
The Northern Territory was set to be reduced to just a single electorate under a determination by the Electoral Commission based on its dropping population.
Critics said the move would leave the territory, and its largely Indigenous population, under-represented, and Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy introduced a private member's bill that would create a guarantee of two seats for the NT.
Earlier this week a parliamentary committee recommended that both the ACT and NT should be guaranteed two seats, but using a method that would likely result in the ACT losing its third seat, which was only re-introduced prior to the 2019 election.
Instead, the government has adopted a different method, referred to as the "harmonic mean" for determining how many federal seats the NT and ACT would be allocated, meaning the third ACT seat is set to stay.
"Based on current population statistics, this would result in the NT continuing to be eligible for two seats when the next determination occurs ahead of the 2025 election and the ACT likewise retaining its current allocation of three seats," Senator Anne Ruston said when introducing the bill on Wednesday.
"Where a territory with a fast growing population is approaching four or more seats, it will revert to the same rounding rule as the States from that point."
Instead of guaranteeing the NT two seats, the bill means a territory with one seat would only need 1.33 of a quota to gain a second seat, and a territory with two seats would need 2.4 of a quota to gain a third seat.
"These amendments provide a fairer mechanism to allocate seats in the House of Representatives for smaller jurisdictions, and makes securing representation for the territories far more achievable on a permanent basis," Senator Ruston said.
Election analyst and author of the PollBludger blog William Bowe said the government had come to a neat solution to the problem, especially for the NT.
"You could have ended up with one NT seat with 150,000 people compared to 100,000 for every other seat, and it happens to be the most Indigenous seat in the country. That would have been awful, it may have been untenable," he said.
Mr Bowe said the government didn't need to automatically include the ACT in its bill, but it was interesting that it had been.
"I'm impressed they are saving Labor seats left, right and centre, and surprised."
All five MPs representing electorates in the NT and ACT are from the Labor party.
"I wouldn't be amazed if the government has second thoughts at some point," he said.
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