|Major party leaders|
Parliament: 10 years
Leader since: 1998
Parliament: 4 years
Leader since: 2007
The 2008 election for the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly will be held on October 18, 2008. Election dates are set in statute to occur once every four years; the government has no ability to set the election date.
The incumbent centre-left Australian Labor Party, currently led by Chief Minister Jon Stanhope, will attempt to win re-election for a third term after coming to power in 2001. They will be challenged by the opposition centre-right Liberal Party of Australia, led by Zed Seselja, who assumed the Liberal leadership in December 2007. A third party, the ACT Greens, holds one seat in the Assembly, held by retiring MLA Deb Foskey.
The election will see all 17 members of the Assembly face re-election, with members being elected by the Hare-Clark system of proportional representation. The Assembly is divided into three electorates: five-member Brindabella (including Tuggeranong and parts of the Woden Valley) and Ginninderra (including Belconnen and suburbs) and seven-member Molonglo (including North Canberra, South Canberra, Gungahlin, and the remainder of the Woden Valley).
Following the 2004 election outcome, Labor held 9 seats, becoming the first majority government in the territory's history. The opposition Liberal Party held 7 seats, with the Greens holding a further one. The Liberal numbers in the Assembly dropped to six in December 2007 when former Shadow Treasurer Richard Mulcahy was expelled from the party and began sitting as an independent. The opposition would thus need to win a further three seats, on top of regaining Mulcahy's seat, to hold government in its own right. Should the Greens win a seat from Labor, they would probably obtain the balance of power in the Assembly, which they previously held from 1996 to 1998.
The Liberal campaign suffered early problems in February 2008 when a number of prominent Liberal Party and business figures, including popular former Chief Minister Kate Carnell and high-profile businessman and former party finance director Jim Murphy, relaunched the 250 Club, previously a Liberal fundraising group, as the independent Canberra Business Club. The new organisation pledged to support minor party and independent pro-business candidates in the election, citing their disillusion with both major parties and the need for a third political force in the Assembly. At the same time, their best prospect for winning Mulcahy's seat of Molonglo withdrew.
Labor has preselected candidates for all three seats in the election.
The Labor preselection announcement was most notable for the surprise nomination of whistleblower, former police officer, and ACT Australian Democrats party president Wayne Sievers, who nearly won a seat in the Senate for the Democrats at the 2001 federal election. This makes Sievers the early favourite to succeed retiring Labor MLA Karin MacDonald.
On 15 July 2008 it was announced that two Labor candidates had dropped out of the ACT election race. Pascal Leahy withdrew from the Ginninderra vote and Rebecca Cody would now not stand for the Brindabella electorate. ALP ACT campaign director Matthew Cossey says they have pulled out for family and personal reasons. He says the positions will not be filled. Cody's departure is expected to firm Sievers as the favourite to succeed MacDonald.
The party had earlier faced some difficulties with candidate selection. Troy Williams, the party's candidate for Fraser at the 2007 federal election, had intended to contest a seat in Molonglo, and had been reported as a potential strong challenger to ex-Liberal independent Richard Mulcahy. He withdrew on 28 February 2007, citing "personal and business reasons". The Canberra Times, however, reported that Williams' withdrawal had been due to a falling out with the territory's Liberal Party director.
The sole Greens MLA in the Assembly, one-term representative Deb Foskey, is retiring at the election.
The party has announced their lead candidates for the three electorates:
Ex-Liberal independent MLA and former Shadow Treasurer Richard Mulcahy will be recontesting his seat. He has raised the prospect of creating a new minor party in the wake of electoral changes passed by the Stanhope government in May 2008 which decreased the prominence of independent candidates on the ballot paper.
Frank Pangallo, the outgoing seventeen-year mayor of Queanbeyan, has announced his candidacy as an independent in Molonglo, and will be relocating to Narrabundah. Pangallo, well known as a maverick critic of the Stanhope government unattached to either major party, has been tipped to be in serious contention for the seventh and final seat there.
A new minor party, the Community Alliance Party, has applied for registration. Led by Ric Hingee, an advocate for the victims of the 2003 Canberra bushfires, the party is campaigning around focusing government issues of basic services and infrastructure, suggesting that the ACT should be run more like a local council than a state government. This has included staunch opposition to the territory government's 2006-2008 round of school closures and development concerns, such as the proposed power station at Hume. While Hingee has been critical of the ACT government's support for gay civil unions and the Human Rights Act 2004 and is fiercely opposed to Chief Minister Stanhope, it has been reported that he would consider supporting the government in the event of a hung parliament if Katy Gallagher were Labor leader. The party has announced four candidates: Norvan Vogt (Molonglo), who unsuccessfully ran for the federal senate (for the Australian Democrats) in the 2007 federal election, Save Our Schools spokesperson Jane Tullis and prison officer Mike Crowther (Ginninderra) and IT worker James Sizer (Brindabella).
The Australian Motorist Party, led by Geoff Develin, has applied for registration for the election. The party is reportedly planning on running two candidates in each seat.
Damian Heffernan, a local independent film-maker, is running as an independent candidate for Ginninderra.
Adam Verwey is an independent candidate who would like to ban poker machines in the ACT.
The Australian Democrats, who held one seat in the Assembly from 2001 to 2004, have had their ACT division delisted by Elections ACT and thus will be contesting the election in the ungrouped column. Their candidates are Darren Churchill and Marilyn Kay Dennis (Ginninderra) and Greg Tannahill (Molonglo).
The Canberra Business Club has announced their intention to support "pro-business candidates"; it is unclear whether they will endorse their own candidates, or support other candidates who have nominated.