Call for Democratic Representation for the Residents of Canberra in the Australian Senate

Nick Houston, Democratic Reform Alliance (DRA) aligned Independent Candidate for the Senate from the ACT, said “for many years the people of Canberra have been short changed by the Australian political system in terms of the numbers of Senators we can elect to the Australian Senate”.

“The ACT has a population of 420,960 people and elects two Senators to the Australian Senate. Tasmania and South Australia with populations of 529,900 and 1,740,700 return 12 Senators each. In Canberra it takes 210, 480 people to elect one Senator while in Tasmania it takes 44,158 people and in South Australia it takes 145,058 to elect one Senator.

The Australian Senate was initially meant to be a state’s house to protect the interests of the smaller states, but this is no longer the case. It is now controlled by the major political parties and bears little resemblance to the institution envisioned in the Constitution. But because Senators are elected on a proportional basis rather than first past the post, it allows for a broader representation of the diversity of views of the community in the Parliament.

Houston said “the under representation of the residents of Canberra in the national Parliament compared to the smaller states is an affront to democracy. It also does not give expression to the breadth of the views of the Canberra community as in the larger states. The Canberra community is quite diverse and not everyone votes for a major party. These people are currently unrepresented”

Section 122 of the Constitution allows the Parliament to legislate for the representation of territories in either House. The ACT acquired Senate representation following the passage of the Senate (Representation of Territories) Act in 1974.

Houston, who is a local Canberra lawyer, says “that to achieve equal representation in the Senate for Canberra there does not need to be an amendment to the Constitution but merely an amendment to the existing Senate (Representation of Territories) Act. This should not be difficult”.

According to Houston “the people of Canberra should be entitled to greater representation in the Australian Senate. It is no longer acceptable that the Senate voting system means in practice that the people of Canberra always get one Labor and one Liberal Senator. This is not proper representation and the people of Canberra in our full diversity are not having our voices heard”.

“The major parties may resist the call of democracy coming from Canberra because it upsets their duopoly on power, but this is not a good enough reason. The major parties are out of touch with the concerns of the electorate and it time for simple but meaningful reform to enhance the representation of the Canberra community in the Commonwealth Parliament”. 

Houston said, “if elected as an Independent I will work hard with the other Independents and minor parties to ensure the people of Canberra are given the same basic rights as people living in the other Australian states. While we may be a Territory the original intention of the Senate was to protect people in the smaller states. Just because we are the national capital does not mean we should be short changed in terms of our rights to representation”.


About Nick Houston and the DRA

Nick Houston and the DRA are focussed on creating better individual accountability arrangements for our politicians, reducing corruption in the political system, and extending the ability of ordinary Australians to participate in the governing of Australia.

The DRA supports binding national plebiscites on critical social issues including euthanasia, drug law reform, foreign treaties, and decisions to commit troops overseas, and is calling for the direct popular election of the Governor-General within the current constitutional framework.

Nick Houston is a long-term resident of Canberra who has worked in three different government departments. For the last 13 years run a legal practice in Canberra specialising in migration law.

To learn more about Nick Houston and the transparency policies of the DRA see:


Media Contact: Nick Houston

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