Australia’s wealthy to benefit most from next round of Coalition tax cuts | Australian Greens

Income tax cut packages since 2017 will cost the budget $325bn by the end of the decade, with high-income earners capturing 58% of the benefit.

That is the result of a Parliamentary Budget Office analysis prepared for the Greens, released on Saturday ahead of a speech by Adam Bandt vowing to use the balance of power to force a future Labor government to repeal the next round of cuts.

In a speech to the Greens national conference, Bandt will also inflame tensions within Labor by noting that backbencher Joel Fitzgibbon has called on his party to allow stage-three cuts for middle- and high-income earners to stand.

In June 2019, Labor reluctantly passed the third stage of tax cuts, which will flatten tax brackets so that income between $45,000 and $200,000 is taxed at the rate of 30%.

Labor is yet to decide whether to contest the next election on a promise of repealing the cuts, which would free up $130bn for other spending but open it up to Coalition attacks that Labor is the party of higher tax.

The Parliamentary Budget Office assessed successive rounds of income tax cuts since 2017 and found they will give the top quintile of income earners an extra $189bn by 2030-31, dwarfing the benefit to the lowest income earners, who get $440m, and the middle-income earners, who get $50bn.

In all, those currently earning $87,000 or more will receive 58% of the benefit, while those earning $57,000 and above will get 22.8%.

According to an advanced copy of his speech, Bandt says that by 2030 successive rounds of tax cuts will cost the federal budget $43bn, three times what is spent on public schools.

Bandt says the poorest 20% of income earners will receive just 0.1% of the benefit, while the middle group “gets a humble 15% of these tax cuts”.

Bandt attacks Labor for voting for the Coalition’s tax cuts, arguing the Greens are the only party “left fighting in parliament to put the millions ahead of the millionaires”.

“But it’s not too late. The worst of the tax cuts is stage three, which doesn’t kick in until 2024. That will be after the next election.”

Bandt argues if opposition parties can “turf the government out” and the Greens can achieve “shared power”, they will use it to stop the third stage of tax cuts.

“Labor voted stage three into law, but after we’ve changed the government at the next election, we’ll push them to join the Greens and end this flat-tax trickle-down nightmare.”

Bandt noted that Fitzgibbon had, “in a parting shot” as he stepped down from the frontbench, called for Labor to support stage three.

Despite not bringing forward the third stage of tax cuts in the 2020 budget, the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has said the government is “absolutely” committed to their introduction, legislated to begin in 2024.

Labor’s shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has said the third stage of tax cuts is “the least affordable, it’s the least responsible, it’s the least fair and it is the least likely to get a good return in the economy because higher-income earners are less likely to spend in the economy”.

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Can the Greens become the third major party of Australian politics?

Until now, success like this had only ever been a Green dream.

When the new ACT Legislative Assembly sits next month, three Greens ministers will sit on the frontbench, alongside six Labor colleagues, after the two parties signed a parliamentary agreement.

The Greens will hold positions of serious influence — like attorney-general and environment minister.

Six Greens were elected to the 25-seat Assembly at the recent ACT election, alongside 10 Labor and nine Liberal members.

The party says it has finally cemented its place as the third major party of ACT politics, and has a legitimate claim to the levers of power.

It does have a solid record of governance — the party’s leader, Shane Rattenbury, has been a minister for the past eight years as part of Labor minority governments.

Mr Rattenbury said they were not daunted by the prospect.

“It is a real privilege we’ve been handed,” he said.

“But with that comes a lot of responsibility and I think a lot of expectation from the community as well.”

This is the kind of arrangement Greens across the country dream of. Working within a progressive government to make their policies — or at least something approaching their policies — a reality.

But can the ACT Greens sustain this kind of success? And is the left-leaning ACT just a political oddity, or could this sort of arrangement work elsewhere?

The Greens hold six seats in the 10th ACT Legislative Assembly.(ABC News: Dave Sciasci)

‘We make Labor governments better’

The Greens make no secret of their desire to force Labor to work with them.

Senator Nick McKim, the Greens’ deputy leader in the Senate, said it was what they were working towards.

“We did that in Tasmania, we’ve done it in the ACT, and there’s now a major opportunity for us to continue down that path.

“Labor governments need the Greens involved and need the Greens in the balance of power, whether it be in the Commonwealth Parliament or in State and Territory Parliaments around the country.”

Greens Senator Nick McKim
Senator Nick McKim says the Greens add a lot to a Labor government.(ABC News: Emilie Gramenz)

Senator McKim speaks from some experience — he was a minister in the 2010-14 Labor-Greens government in Tasmania.

But his story comes with a warning, as that unhappy power-sharing arrangement eventually fell apart.

The Tasmanian Greens were punished at the 2014 election, suffering an 8 per cent swing against them and losing two seats.

Senator McKim said his party was tarnished due to its association with an unpopular government, and they were campaigning in a very different electorate to the ACT.

But he said the Greens should seize the opportunity to work with Labor and take on ministries, whenever it presented itself.

“There is always a challenge for the Greens in accepting ministries, but I think it’s a really important part of our growth and maturation as a political party,” he said.

How to compete, constructively

Political analyst Chris Wallace suggested if Labor and the Greens both wanted to be more successful more often, they would have to sort out their differences.

The two parties have governed together in the ACT for four consecutive terms, and ask their voters to preference the other party at elections.

She said the relationship the parties shared in the ACT should spread elsewhere.

“The way Labor and the Greens are governing together in Canberra now, and over the past few years, is a model for the rest of Australia in just what can be achieved through constructive competition,” she said.

“The government is clearly led by the Labor Party, the Chief Minister is a Labor politician, but the Greens are being involved in every decision in cabinet in a way that’s working well for Canberra.”

Chris Wallace
Chris Wallace says the relationship between the Greens and Labor in the ACT could be a model for other jurisdictions.(ABC News: Luke Stephenson)

But the ACT is not like the rest of Australia. Labor holds all three federal lower-house seats comfortably, and has been in power at a local level for almost two decades.

It was the first jurisdiction to legalise cannabis possession, and was the first to legalise same-sex marriage before the High Court intervened and struck the laws down.

Dr Wallace — who works within the University of Canberra’s Business, Government and Law faculty — said the relationship would have to be different everywhere, and would be more complicated in more conservative parts of the country.

She said part of the reason it worked in the ACT was because both parties tried to get along, which made a difference.

“The Greens here aren’t ultra-progressive, they’re a pretty centrist, sensible party and that’s why the arrangement in the ACT Assembly with Labor is working so well,” she said.

“Labor here is very progressive, the Greens are pretty sensible, they’re coming up with sensible good government rather than crazy extreme government and that’s why they keep getting re-elected.”

She suggested there were lessons in that success for other branches of both parties.

Making a good thing stick

For the ACT Greens, the primary objective right now is making their recent success stick.

Their victory is not unprecedented — in 2008, the party won four seats in the 17-seat Assembly.

But four years later, they suffered a heavy swing against them and were reduced to just one seat.

Shane Rattenbury said they had learned plenty from that defeat, and from the years since that they had spent in government.

“Eight, twelve years down the track, we’ve got a lot more internal capacity, we’ve learnt a lot more, we’re a more experienced governing party,” he said.

“I think that gives us a lot more capability to not make some novice mistakes we have made in the past.”

The party’s parliamentary agreement with Labor sets out negotiated policy priorities and guarantees three Cabinet positions.

Caroline Le Couteur
Caroline Le Couteur served two terms as an MLA before retiring ahead of last month’s election.(ABC News: Dave Sciasci)

Former Greens MLAs — who witnessed the carnage of 2012 first-hand — warned part of the challenge for the Greens politically was maintaining a separate identity from Labor.

Caroline Le Couteur, who served from 2008-12 and 2016-20, said the risk was Labor claiming credit for any and all success while the Greens were forgotten altogether.

“I think that is a substantial risk, and that’s what happened to an extent in 2012,” she said.

“I’m sure that the Labor Party will do its best to say that the Labor Party has been a great government.

“Oh yes, there were a few Greens, but this Labor Government was brought to you by Chief Minister Andrew Barr and his colleagues.”

Meredith Hunter — who led the ACT Greens to the 2012 election — said while much of that result could be blamed on the often unpredictable Hare-Clark system, differentiation from Labor was crucial.

“It’s always going to be a little bit tough being able to show that you’re your own party,” she said.

The result in the recent ACT election was somewhat generous for the Greens — while three seats were won fairly comfortably, another three were knife-edge results.

The party now faces the challenge of proving to the electorate it deserves the sort of representation it has been gifted, and does not waste the opportunity.

And in doing so, many in the Greens nationally would like to see a model made for governments elsewhere.

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ACT Greens vow to get loud on the Legislative Assembly crossbench | The Canberra Times

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The beefed-up Greens crossbench has vowed to stand up for the community and hold the ACT government to account, even if it means challenging party colleagues in Andrew Barr’s cabinet. Greens leader Shane Rattenbury on Wednesday announced the portfolio responsibilities for newly elected parliamentarians Jo Clay, Andrew Braddock and Johnathan Davis, who will represent the party from the Legislative Assembly’s crossbench. The retired Caroline Le Couteur was the Greens’ sole crossbencher in the previous term. The announcement came after the trio’s Greens colleagues Emma Davidson and Rebecca Vassarotti were included alongside Mr Rattenbury in Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s new cabinet. With their presence in cabinet tripled, the Greens hold greater influence inside the ACT government, and therefore greater responsibility for its actions. Ms Clay, Mr Braddock and Mr Davis, who were all elected for the first time on October 17, on Wednesday signalled that they won’t hesitate in calling out the government if it means standing up for the interests of their communities. “Nobody who has ever met me would expect me to sit quietly on any occasion,” said Mr Davis, who will be the Greens’ spokesman for health and education. “The people of Tuggeranong elected me to bring their voices to the Legislative Assembly. I expect to be a very active and enthusiastic member of the party room and crossbench.” Ms Clay, who will be the Greens’ transport spokeswoman, gave a blunt response when asked what type of crossbencher should would be. “Up until recently I was a climate activist. I’m proud to say my daughter’s first word was ‘No’ – so that might give some indication,” she said. Ms Clay was more conciliatory as she talked up the Greens’ tradition of working in a team, saying she was confident of being able to “ride the fine line of working collaboratively in the Assembly, while also speaking up for the climate”. Mr Rattenbury acknowledged there would be times when the crossbenchers would need to speak up against the ACT government. He expected the “energetic” and “passionate” trio to raise issues which cropped up in their local communities in the Legislative Assembly chamber. But he said the six members of his team, regardless of whether they sat in cabinet or on the crossbench, were committed to working together to achieve positive outcomes. Under the terms of the power-sharing agreement struck with Labor, the Greens are required to support policies once they have been endorsed by cabinet. However the party does retain the ability to vote against Labor bills or motions, a feature of the agreement which Mr Rattenbury said allowed the two parties to have disagreements without “collapsing the government”. “We [Greens members] have all signed up the parliamentary agreement, and that outlines very clearly our intent to have a collaborative, co-operative government that is focused on getting things done,” he said. “That is the role that I anticipate all the members of the Greens will play, whether they are ministers or not ministers. “We want to be successful this term, we want to get jobs done. But there will be times when questions need to be asked, and I think that our team can do that in a way that’s about getting outcomes.” New Liberal leader Elizabeth Lee is expected to unveil her shadow cabinet in the coming days.

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Why a coalition between Queensland Labor and the Greens would work

The Queensland Election, to be held on Saturday, has raised again the long-standing problem of how Labor and the Greens should deal with each other.

It seems quite likely that Labor will lose at least one seat (that of South Brisbane, currently held by Jackie Trad) to the Greens, with the neighbouring seat of McConnel also a possibility. In the plausible case where neither major party wins a majority of seats, Labor’s only chance of forming a government would depend on support from the Greens.

Before considering how this might work, it’s worth observing that the horror with which mainstream journalists refer to a hung Parliament has no basis in reality. The term is adapted from a “hung jury” — one which is unable to reach a verdict, either guilty or not guilty. However, Australia has ample experience, at both state and federal levels, of parliaments which have functioned quite effectively despite the absence of a (lower house) government majority.

At present, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has stated that she will not do a deal with the Greens, asserting that “minority governments don’t work”. This is an odd claim, coming from someone who led a minority government, generally regarded as successful, between 2015 and 2017. Interestingly, her father Henry also served as a Minister for Primary Industries in Peter Beattie’s minority government between 1998 and 2001.

It’s safe to predict that, should the numbers permit Labor to form government only with Greens support, Palaszczuk’s apparently resolute rejection of co-operation will be forgotten, or reinterpreted to make an arrangement possible. A variety of such arrangements has been tried, with varying degrees of success.

Until now, formal coalitions have been the exception rather than the rule. But they have performed well in both the A.C.T. (where the Greens made substantial gains at the last election) and new Zealand, where Jacinda Ardern is discussing a continued coalition arrangement, even though the Labour party has a majority in its own right.

On the other hand, the deal between former PM Julia Gillard and former Greens leader Bob Brown was less than successful. My reading of that episode is that both parties were harmed by the conclusion of a formal deal. Arguably, the Greens should support Labor on confidence votes and negotiate on all other legislation on the merits. Rather than go over that ground, I’m going to give my view on how they should work in the future.

First, both parties need to realise that they are part of the same centre-Left movement. For Labor, that means giving up the idea that the Greens are a temporary irritant that will go the way of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) if they are ignored long enough or abused as “inner-city elites”.

For the Greens, it means accepting that there is no prospect of a Green majority government any time seen and abandoning rhetoric suggesting that they represent an unaligned alternative to a two-party duopoly. 

In electoral terms, the starting point for both parties should be an exchange of preferences in all seats. That starting point doesn’t preclude changes in the case of particularly objectionable (or particularly good) candidates, but it does rule out the kinds of negotiations we’ve seen so many times between Labor and conservative parties, particularly in the Senate. It also rules out the fake piety of Green “open tickets”.

The battle for Queensland and the pandemic — play it safe or 'let ‘er rip'

Such a policy would be good for the Left and centre-Left as a whole, but it would also benefit each of the parties to adopt it unilaterally. The alleged hardheads who negotiate these deals have repeatedly bungled them while creating division and attracting bad publicity.

In the current election, the critical obstacle to an agreement between Labor and the Greens is that of climate change. After Labor’s unexpected defeat in the 2019 Federal Election, the Queensland Government was pushed into a position of support for coal in general and the Adani project in particular.

On the other hand, Labor has announced a target of 50 per cent renewable generation by 2030. While the Government has taken positive steps through the expansion of public investment in renewable electricity generation, current policies are inadequate to achieve the target. 

The most promising basis for an agreement between Labor and the Greens is a massive expansion of public investment in renewable energy. Given the ultra-low rates at which governments can now borrow, the case for such an investment program is overwhelming. If investments were focused in regions currently dependent on coal mining, we could lay the basis for a socially and economically sustainable transition to renewable energy.

John Quiggin is Professor of Economics at the University of Queensland and the author of ‘Zombie Economics and Economics in Two Lessons’. You can follow John on Twitter @JohnQuiggin.

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Liberals and Greens win last two ACT election seats as Electoral Commissioner announces final results

The final outcome of this year’s ACT election has been declared — and the last results are a significant boost for the Greens.

The 25-seat Legislative Assembly will include 10 Labor members, nine Liberals and an unprecedented six Greens.

Two seats had remained too close to call until last night, when Electoral Commissioner Damian Cantwell was confident the results were locked in.

Those last two members included Liberal candidate Peter Cain, who won the fifth and final seat in the electorate of Ginninderra, which covers the Belconnen region.

Mr Cain, an ACT public servant, was 167 votes ahead of Labor’s Gordon Ramsay, the ACT attorney-general, after preference votes were distributed.

In the southern electorate of Brindabella, Greens candidate and real-estate agent Johnathan Davis ended up with 82 votes more than Labor’s Taimus Werner-Gibbings.

Labor leader Andrew Barr says he will work with the Greens but wants experienced ministers.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and his Labor deputy, Yvette Berry, have spent the week preparing to negotiate a power-sharing deal with the Greens, who want several seats in cabinet following their election success.

Mr Barr said earlier this week Labor had won considerably more votes than any other party and would lead the Government.

He said he would work with the Greens to include them in his cabinet — especially Greens leader Shane Rattenbury, who had already served as a Barr government minister for eight years.

But Mr Barr said he was reluctant to appoint new MLAs as ministers, saying it was too much to expect from people without experience in the Assembly.

However, Mr Rattenbury said Labor should be prepared to accept some of the new Greens as cabinet ministers immediately.

“I think if people have got the skills and the talent, and I think a number of our members do … I think we’ve got members capable of stepping up to that.”

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Blanchet’s defence of N-word used by professor condemned by NDP and Greens

Federal political parties are condemning the Bloc Québécois for defending the academic use of the N-word.

New Democrat Matthew Green said academic freedom cannot be used to justify a racial slur that still hurts many, including himself, a Black MP. 

“For someone who has had that word hurled against them from the time I was nine years old to now as a politician, that is a dehumanizing word,” Green said. “It is a form of racial violence against people. And for those that would choose to defend it, what they are really defending is the prerogative to uphold white supremacy.”

At a news conference on Thursday, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet supported an academic’s right to use controversial words.

Blanchet’s comments came after the University of Ottawa suspended part-time professor Verushka Lieutenant-Duval in September. A student complained that Lieutenant-Duval had used the N-word during an art and gender class. The professor has apologized, but her suspension has caused a deep rift on and off-campus.

Blanchet said that sharing knowledge should not be considered a racial attack in the context of a classroom. Asked by CBC News if racial slurs should be repeated when alternatives that convey the same meaning exist, he disagreed.

“Words have been used for really bad purposes throughout history and even today. And the persons who are under the prejudice that this causes to them deserve all our compassion,” Blanchet said. 

“However, saying a word in the context of education — most of all university education — to transmit knowledge and science and the ability to criticize and analyze some issues is not a gesture that brings a prejudice against those persons.”

Watch | Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet defends use of the N-word:

University of Ottawa professor Verushka Lieutenant-Duval, who apologized for using the N-word during a class discussion, was suspended but has been reinstated. Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet says Prime Minister Trudeau must act to protect “academic freedom.” 7:21

Asked by reporters to weigh into the debate, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole didn’t condemn the use of the N-word in academia. But he said universities need to find a balance when grappling with offensive content.

“The touchstone has to be respect, in any context, including the university context,” O’Toole told reporters Thursday. “There are works of literature that harken back to a time where there was terrible treatment of Black Canadians and Black people, and so we have to be conscious.” 

Bloc creating ‘false dilemma’

The NDP’s Green said people often use the guise of freedom of speech to defend slurs, but he said there must be a “reasonable limit.” Like the Bloc, political parties that create a “false dilemma” between academic freedom and offence should be focused on those traumatized by such words, he said. 

“When we have a community that is saying explicitly that this causes them harm in the environment that they are trying to access — their employment or they are trying to access their education — we should listen to them first,” Green said.

New Democrat MP Matthew Green says the Bloc Québécois has shown a consistent trend of blocking parliamentarians who have attempted to address systemic racism. Academic freedom cannot be used to justify a racial slur, he says. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

“It’s the same when we are talking about gender equality, when we are talking about sexual orientation. It’s the same when we are talking about any marginalized group. We should listen first and give primacy to the groups that are impacted in these environments that are public institutions.”

The Bloc, Green said, has shown a consistent trend of blocking parliamentarians who have attempted to address systemic racism, including voting down a recent motion brought by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. 

On Thursday, Singh, who has sparred with the Bloc and called one of its MPs racist, said the Quebec nationalist party’s comments were misguided. 

“In this context, it is very clear that that is not a word that should be used,” Singh said. “But the debate and academic discussion is a completely separate but very fair and vital point.

“But to conflate the two is very problematic.”

Blanchet ‘absolutely incorrect’

Newly elected Green Party leader Annamie Paul said she has been called the N-word several times during her leadership campaign. Paul told Power and Politics guest host David Cochrane that she’d be happy to educate Blanchet on the word’s painful historical roots.

“I find it extremely provocative that Monsieur Blanchet called a press conference with regard to this,” Paul said. “Respectfully again, I must tell him that he is incorrect, and I would be happy to explain all the reasons why to him.”

Paul also tweeted an invitation to Blanchet.

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Greens push jobmaker amendments to stop Australia’s largest companies claiming hiring credit | Australia news

Australia’s largest companies would be unable to claim their share of $4bn to hire young workers under Greens amendments to significantly tighten eligibility for the jobmaker hiring credit.

The Greens will seek to exclude companies that have recently declared a dividend or have underpaid workers through Senate amendments to the government bill creating subsidies for new hires aged 35 and under.

On Monday, Labor ambushed the government by bringing on lower house debate on the $4bn hiring credit program, part of a suite of more than $30bn of business tax concessions in the October budget to spur economic recovery from the Covid-19 recession.

The hiring credit has copped criticism from unions, Labor and the Greens who warn it does nothing to help older workers and could even see them laid off by employers hoping to gain payments of $100 a week for new hires aged 30 to 35 and $200 a week for those aged 16 to 29.

The Greens will amend the bill to prevent employers sacking existing staff to claim the subsidies, on top of the government’s unlegislated safeguards that employers must increase their headcount and payroll to claim payments.

The shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, told the house it was “incredibly concerning” that employers could “rort” the scheme by sacking an older worker and hiring two younger workers.

The shadow employment minister, Brendan O’Connor, also hinted at “potential amendments” from Labor. He warned that small businesses losing access to the jobkeeper wage subsidy may not be in a position to hire extra workers to gain the hiring credit.

“Our fear is, if this is replacing jobkeeper as the main support for small business, it will not be fit for purpose,” he said.

Labor plans to pass the bill in the lower house but will not decide its final position until after a Senate inquiry reports on 6 November.

The Greens want to make wholesale changes when the bill comes to the Senate. Greens leader, Adam Bandt, said the minor party “will amend the enabling legislation for the government’s jobmaker wage subsidy to stop public money going to big corporations that are paying dividends to shareholders or that have a history of ripping employees off”.

The exclusion of companies that have recently paid dividends will render Australia’s largest employers ineligible, including grocery and retail giants Woolworths and Wesfarmers, miner BHP and telco Telstra. The big four banks are already ineligible for the program.

The Greens amendment follows controversy about the number of employers that claimed jobkeeper wage subsidies because they suffered revenue downturns of 30% or more and later declared large dividends or paid executive bonuses.

The exclusion of companies that underpaid workers could impact employers such as Sunglass Hut, jeweller Michael Hill, and Super Retail Group, the owner of Rebel, Macpac, and Super Cheap Auto, which have admitted inadvertent underpayments and paid workers back.

Bandt said “in the biggest recession we’ve seen in generations, we shouldn’t be subsidising profitable corporations or giving public money to corporations that underpay workers”.

“If a big corporation is doing well enough to pay dividends during a pandemic, it doesn’t need the public to pay part of its wages bill,” he told Guardian Australia.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is pressing Labor and the crossbench to amend the bill, warning it would allow employers to replace full-time jobs with multiple part-time or casual jobs.

In budget week and again on Monday, O’Connor raised concerns that the bill gives the government power to introduce any form of payment to encourage job creation or workforce participation.

The bill contains none of the program’s safeguards, giving the government a blank cheque to change its rules or introduce new programs without approval from parliament.

Bandt said it is “outrageous that the treasurer is expecting opposition parties to consider a key recovery measure with nothing more than a glorified fact sheet available for review”.

“We need to see the details to make sure this wage subsidy won’t make the employment crisis worse, throw current employees into unemployment, and further drive casualisation and insecure work.”

Scott Morrison has fumbled the details of the program’s safeguards, incorrectly telling 6PR Radio on 8 October that employers cannot sack existing staff and receive the subsidy.

“If you’re already working for a place, they can’t reduce your hours or get rid of you to appoint someone else, they wouldn’t get the subsidy under that arrangement,” he claimed.

In fact, provided an employer increases the total number of staff and the amount spent on wages, there is nothing in jobmaker’s safeguards that would prevent a reduction of hours or laying off existing staff.

Bandt said the government “seems confused about whether the scheme would allow employers to fire a decently paid full-time employee in order to recruit two young people on a subsidised minimum wage”.

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Tight battles for final ACT election seats as Greens prepare to negotiate governing with Labor

The Greens will spend this week considering what role they want to play in the next ACT Government following the party’s strong performance in the territory election.

However, Labor leader Andrew Barr has ruled out having a Greens deputy chief minister, nor will Labor allow its coalition party to “dictate” the make-up of the next cabinet.

The once-minor party will have five or six members in the 25-seat Legislative Assembly, up from two before the election, after it attracted 13.9 per cent of first-preference votes — a positive swing of 3.6 per cent.

The outcome is likely to remain unknown for days due to the complexity of the ACT’s multi-member voting system.

After a preliminary distribution of about two-thirds of voters’ preferences, the results are too close to call in two electorates: Ginninderra (the Belconnen region) and Brindabella (the Tuggeranong valley).

A tiny margin of just seven votes separates two candidates in the race for Brindabella’s fifth and last seat, where Labor’s Taimus Werner-Gibbings was leading the Green’s Jonathan Davis before interim results suggested Mr Davis would be eliminated from the count.

In Ginninderra, Labor minister Gordon Ramsay is battling the Liberals’ Peter Cain for the final seat, with about 270 votes separating the two.

Greens leader Shane Rattenbury told ABC Radio Canberra on Sunday the community had supported his party’s “bold and ambitious ideas”.

He said all party members — not just elected candidates — would meet this week to thrash out a strategy for the next four years.

Despite having been a cabinet minister in the Barr Government, Mr Rattenbury floated the possibility of the Greens sitting on the crossbench rather than governing with Labor.

“They’re all considerations to work through this week,” he said.

“This is about setting the agenda for the next four years and making sure there are good working arrangements [in place].

Shane Rattenbury with predicted MLAs Emma Davidson and Rebecca Vassarotti on election night.(ABC News: Elise Fantin)

The Greens leader also suggested the party had been not happy with all aspects of its Labor partner’s policy direction over the past term.

He raised concerns about responses to climate change, social housing shortages and casualisation of the workforce.

“That raises … questions about things like whether the Government should be outsourcing work or whether we should have more permanent jobs for government staff,” Mr Rattenbury said.

Labor to work with Greens but equal partnership ‘not on the table’

Mr Barr congratulated the Greens on their results and acknowledged that the Labor Party remained in a tight contest with its governing partner over a handful of seats.

“I’m also pleased to see that, in many instances, the Greens gains come at the expense of the Canberra Liberals rather than ACT Labor,” he said.

A group of men and women standing in a park, smiling.
Andrew Barr celebrates with Labor MLAs and candidates Marisa Paterson, Yvette Berry, Taimus Werner-Gibbings and Chris Steel.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Mr Barr said he and Labor deputy Yvette Berry would begin negotiating an agreement with Mr Rattenbury once the election outcome was clearer.

However, he pointed out that Labor, which collected almost 40 per cent of first preferences, would be the largest party in the Assembly and would lead the Government.

He emphatically ruled out Mr Rattenbury becoming deputy chief minister.

“That’s not on the table,” he said.

He also ruled out allowing the Greens to “dictate” which portfolios they received.

“We’ll have a sensible mature negotiation, there won’t be demands, it won’t be shouty — it will be focused on our community and implementing the policies that we need to implement.”

Thinnest of margins: seven votes separating the south

A composite image of two men's faces.
The battle for Brindabella is between Labor’s Taimus Werner-Gibbings and the Greens’ Johnathan Davis.(ABC News: Matt Roberts, Facebook: Johnathan Davis)

The southern electorate of Brindabella — traditionally a Liberal stronghold — was the scene of one of the election’s biggest surprises.

The electorate, which covers the Tuggeranong valley, swung very hard to Labor (7.4 per cent) and the Greens (5.9 per cent), as voters turned from the Liberals.

The two parties are now in an extraordinarily tight tussle — with a seven-vote margin at present — for Brindabella’s fifth seat, ceded by former Liberal MLA Andrew Wall.

Mr Werner-Gibbings, the Labor candidate, reflected on an “extraordinary” and emotional election night.

“I woke up this morning feeling absolutely fine in the head, but there’s also, in the solar plexus, a weird feeling of concern and … disappointment at the lack of clarity.

“But I can wait — I may never feel this feeling again!”

Mr Davis, who is a campaign veteran despite being aged in his 20s, said he was “always prepared to not know the result” for days.

“My impression was that the fifth and final seat was always going to be a close contest,” he said.

“So I expected this result and I’m going to do my best to wait patiently and find a few distractions until we know for sure whether or not I’ll have the privilege to serve.”

The ACT Electoral Commission will continue counting preference votes on Monday.

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