Choosing our MLAs thoughtfully to get the best ones for the job

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Dr Peter Tait, Secretary for the Canberra Alliance for Participatory Democracy

The election is happening. Candidates have all been declared, and voting starts this week. It looks to be a close election. Candidates would want to use all possible ways to attract voters.

The Alliance invites all candidates to put in a statement to tell voters why they are qualified to be an MLA, how they are going to involve us, the people, in policy development and decision making, and how they are going to make our democracy in Canberra stronger.

We put these statements on our website ( The website was upgraded over the weekend to make it easier for voters to compare the responses by candidates in their electorate.  We invite voters to look at candidates’ responses so they can pick which candidates are the better people to represent them in the Assembly. In our representative democracy, we rely on our MLAs to work for our interests in the Assembly. We need to know about them as people as much as we need to know their party platforms.

In the past few weeks candidates have been sending statements; we expect now that more statements will be coming in. So far 26 Statements have been received: 10 Green, 6 Canberra Progressive, 5 ACT Labor, 4 Independents and 1 Federation Party ACT. The Canberra Liberals have written to say their candidates won’t participate.

In the 2016 election our website received a massive increase in activity that reflects downloading of statements and election related material in the weeks before the election. Analysis of the votes received by candidates who did put in a statement compared to those who didn’t, shows those who did on average received more votes. We cannot claim that is because of the statements; it may reflect the type of candidate who appeals to voters. Further, 15 of the current 25 MLAs put in statements in 2016.

CAPaD’s underlying belief is that if we want to build the city we want to live in, then rather than complaining when things go wrong, we should elect MLAs who are going to work with us to make that city. “Candidates are applying for a job as our representative,” concludes Dr Tait. “We should interview them as best we can in this time of COVID so we can choose the best people. CAPaD’s candidate statements are on way to help do that.

In ACT elections our choice is as much about choosing between candidates of the same party as choosing between parties. So we encourage people to vote thoughtfully.

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