4 March 2009 marks twenty years since first ACT election

Published 27 Feb 2009

“This year marks twenty years of self-government in the ACT, including the twentieth anniversary of the first ACT Legislative Assembly election,” the ACT Electoral Commissioner, Phil Green said today.

Wednesday 4 March 2009 marks twenty years since ACT residents first went to the polls to elect members to represent them in the ACT’s own Legislative Assembly.

“The election is probably best remembered for the large number of parties contesting the election, the interesting names adopted by some of them and of course the consequential length of the ballot paper,” the Electoral Commissioner said.

There were thirty one (31) columns on the ballot paper, twenty two (22) for parties and nine (9) for independents. In total 117 candidates contested the election, resulting in a ballot paper 1.02 metres wide.
“Names like Sun-Ripened Warm Tomato, Party! Party! Party! and Surprise Party seem to be remembered quite fondly in ACT folk law,” Mr Green said.

The election is also remembered for the electoral system used and the length of time taken for the count to be finalised. In 1989 the Territory used the controversial and complicated Modified d'Hondt electoral system, which saw the Territory as a single electorate returning 17 members. Although the election was held on 4 March, it wasn’t until 8 May that the polls were finally declared, with the first sitting of parliament not occurring until 11 May. Mr Green was in charge of the 2 month vote count in 1989.

Also of interest was the final result of the election. Government was formed by Rosemary Follett’s Australian Labor Party, but candidates from the Abolish Self-Government Coalition and the No Self Government Party were also elected and took their seats in the new parliament.

The 20 year anniversary is being recognised in conjunction with Canberra Museums and Galleries’ An Act of Surrender exhibition being held at Canberra Museum and Gallery, from 27 February until 14 June 2009.

The exhibition examines milestones in ACT governance from the last one hundred years and includes memorabilia from the first ACT election.

Phillip Green
Electoral Commissioner

Note: The Electoral Commissioner, Phil Green, will be travelling to Hobart for a meeting of the Electoral Council of Australia from noon Tuesday 3 March to Thursday 5 March.

More information on the 1989 election can be viewed on the Commission's website at: www.elections.act.gov.au/elections/election_89.html