2020 ACT election: A seat-by-seat analysis of each electorate’s importance | The Canberra Times


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Area: Woden Valley, Weston Creek, Molonglo Valley. Who holds the seat: Labor (2), Liberal (2), Green (1). One of two seats most political observers believe will decide the 2020 ACT election. The retirement of popular Greens crossbencher Caroline Le Couteur, and a redistribution which moved Liberal strongholds Deakin and Yarralumla into Murrumbidgee, has put Alistair Coe’s team in poll position to snare a prized third seat in the electorate. And the Liberals will almost certainly need that seat if they want to end 19 years in Opposition. The candidate most likely to thwart the Liberals’ hopes is Emma Davidson, Le Couteur’s replacement at the top of the Greens’ Murrumbidgee ticket. It might not be the election-defining issue that it was in 2016, but light rail will still be front of mind for Murrumbidgee voters when they head to the ballot box in the next three weeks. Labor is steadfastly committed to bring the tram over the lake to Woden, and the project’s chief advocate – Transport Minister Chris Steel – also happens to be a local member. As Tertiary Education Minister, Steel is also charged with the overseeing the $300 million Woden CIT campus, a project Labor believes will transform the district’s town centre. The Labor government’s plan for a carpark – albeit a temporary one – near Cooleman Court in Weston has sparked a community backlash, with the Liberals and Greens backing a grassroots campaign to save the precious green space. The major parties are also split on the future of the Curtin horse paddocks. The Liberals have pledged to “unpick” the deal which saw the territory-owned paddocks surrendered to the National Capital Authority for future use as an embassy precinct. The Barr government has insisted it was powerless to stop the Commonwealth seizing the block, and has no plans to try and wrench it back if it wins re-election. Ginninderra Area: All the suburbs in the district of Belconnen, except for Giralang and Kaleen. Who holds the seat: Labor (3), Liberal (2). On paper, Ginninderra could be one of the most interesting, and possibly most difficult to predict, electorates at this year’s election. The joker in the pack is the Belco Party, founded by former Liberal leader Bill Stefaniak. Running on the slogan “keep the bastards honest”, the party – which has a host of ex-Liberals on their ticket, including Stefaniak, Alan Tutt and Vijay Dubey – genuinely believe they can win seat in the next ACT Legislative Assembly, most likely at the expense of a Labor MLA. While winning a seat might be a stretch, Belco Bill’s team will be a factor, primarily through the votes they pinch from the major parties and preferences they send back. Labor has senior two ministers, Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry and Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay, and a popular local member Tara Cheyne, on their ticket. The retirement of Vicki Dunne leaves the Liberals with just one incumbent contesting the Belconnen-based seat, the low-profile backbencher Elizabeth Kikkert. It might be the ACT’s most populous district but Belconnen has developed somewhat of a reputation as a forgotten corner of Canberra, denied the same love and attention the ACT government has given to other parts of the city. The Belco Party certainly sees it that way. High-rise apartment blocks – including Canberra’s two tallest towers – continue to redefine Belconnen town centre. The flurry of construction activity has brought investment, jobs and new residents to the region, but also created tension among sections of the community. The planned expansion of Kippax Fair shopping centre, which would come at the expense of part of Holt playing fields, has highlighted concerns about a shortage of green space. Job opportunities during and after the COVID-19 crisis also looms a critical issue. Postcodes in Belconnen and west Belconnen had the highest number of people claiming JobSeeker payments as the coronavirus pandemic struck Australia. Area: Inner north, all inner south suburbs (except Yarralumla and Deakin). Who holds the seat: Labor (2), Liberal (2), Green (1). Kurrajong doesn’t look to have much of a contest, with the seat likely to look much the same after the election as it does now. The electorate has some of the most high-profile candidates. Chief Minister Andrew Barr holds a seat in the electorate, as does Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith who has been boosted during the coronavirus pandemic. On the Liberal side, it’s got the popular Elizabeth Lee who has been tipped as a future leader in the party. Home to Canberra’s quinoa belt, it is the seat that has held the balance of power for the past three terms thanks to ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury. In 2016, the Greens received 19 per cent of the votes in Kurrajong – almost double that of any other electorate. This election, the Greens hope to snare another seat in Kurrajong through candidate Rebecca Vassarotti. Planning and development is going to be front of mind for many voters heading to the polls in Kurrajong. Canberra’s inner suburbs have been targeted as part of the Labor government’s urban infill strategy, which would see 70 per cent of new housing over the coming decades be built in existing suburbs. For Kurrajong that has meant apartments, apartments and more apartments. Perhaps the most two contentious developments in the election are located on either side of the lake. In the north, it’s a redevelopment of West Basin. This came after a controversial land swap between the ACT government and the National Capital Authority earlier this year paved the way for the redevelopment of the basin. It’s a deal a Liberal government has pledged to reverse. But a Labor government would push ahead with plans for a precinct with parks, public spaces and housing. South of the lake, one of the most contentious development proposals is the Fyshwick recycling plant. However, plans for the site appear to be dead in the water after both Labor and the Liberals announced they would block a proposal from the site’s proponent, Capital Recycling Solutions. Area: All of Gungahlin, plus Kaleen, Hall and Giralang. Who holds the seat: Labor (3), Liberal (2). The Gungahlin-based seat of Yerrabi is poised to be the key battleground in the ACT election. Assuming the Liberals are able to snare a third member in Murrumbidgee off the Greens and they hang onto all other seats, the election could very well come down to Gungahlin. The Liberals would need a sizeable swing to take the fifth member – or a few thousand extra primary votes. But a few factors could help the party get there. Labor’s most popular local candidate – Meegan Fitzharris – stepped down last year. She was one of the party’s best-performing MLAs at the last election, with only Chief Minister Barr winning a higher percentage of an electorate’s vote. It leaves the party with three relatively low-profile candidates – backbenchers Michael Pettersson and Deepak Raj-Gupta, and Minister Suzanne Orr. Opposition Leader Alistair Coe is also based in Yerrabi. His popularity and name recognition could help the party snare the final spot in the seat, and the election, from Labor. Gungahlin is a rapidly growing region, with a young population and a hub for families. Congestion and a lack of green space in the relatively new suburbs are both key issues. There is also ongoing debate about high-rise development in the region, with Geocon plans to expand a 12-storey apartment block recently rejected. There is also ongoing discussion about the state of the town centre and how it can be revitalised. Gungahlin has been one of the main beneficiaries from light rail stage one. But whether Labor gets the same boost from the project as it did last election is yet to be seen. Area: All of Tuggeranong (except for parts of Kambah east of Drakeford Drive). Who holds the seat: Liberals (3), Labor (2). The Tuggeranong-based seat of Brindabella is a stronghold for the Canberra Liberals, being the only electorate where the party won a majority of seats. The area also had the highest vote for the Liberals at the federal election in 2019. Labor’s candidates are spearheaded by their two current members in the assembly, Police and Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman and Speaker Joy Burch. The Liberals are headed up by the party’s deputy leader Nicole Lawder, along with Mark Parton and Andrew Wall. While the Greens are running three candidates in the seat, Brindabella saw the party’s lowest primary vote of any electorate at the 2016 poll. Tuggeranong residents have often felt they have been forgotten by the ACT Assembly as the city expands out to the north in Gungahlin and to the west in the Molonglo Valley. While residents on the northside have been the beneficiaries of a new light rail, those to Canberra’s far south have argued transport options in the area have been limited. That was further compounded in 2019 following controversial changes to Canberra’s bus network, with many services being axed in the area. A former nappy valley area, Tuggeranong’s now ageing population has led to health and access to health services being a key issue during the election. A decline of school enrolments in Tuggeranong in recent years has also regularly been brought up as a key issue. Upgrades around the Tuggeranong town centre, which many have called tired, is also an issue leading up to the election, with many new developments now sprouting up in the area.

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