Most Australians Want to Keep Canberra as Nation’s Capital

The Australia Institute surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,434 Australians on the connection between politicians and Canberra. Results show that most Australians (65%) think Canberra should remain the capital, politicians should spend more time in Canberra (54%), Parliament should sit more days each year (69%) and were twice as likely to agree the Prime Minister should live in the Lodge (47%) than disagree (19%).

Key findings:

  • Two in three Australians (65%) think the capital of Australia should be in Canberra, while just 17% think it should be somewhere other than Canberra
  • More than twice as many Australians agree (47%)  the Prime Minister should live in the Lodge, than those who disagree (19%).
  • The majority of Australians (54%) agree that politicians should spend more time in Canberra, while 21% disagree.
  • The vast majority of Australians (69%) agree that Parliament should sit for more days each year, with just 11% disagreeing.
  • Greens voters were most likely to agree the capital of Australia should be located somewhere other than Canberra, however all voters were still more likely to support Canberra as the capital of Australia.
  • Labor and Coalition voters were most likely to agree that politicians should spend more time in Canberra, with Greens and Independent/Other voters less likely to agree.

“Canberra was built to unite the country, a necessary product of Australia’s Constitution. Its relative isolation is not snobbery, but a compromise between New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia that made Federation possible,” said Ben Oquist, executive director of the Australia Institute.

“To treat the seat of democracy with scorn is to treat democracy with scorn. With trust in democracy under assault, we need to boost confidence in our public and democratic institutions, not undermine them. Deriding the ‘Canberra bubble’ and eschewing the Lodge sends the exact opposite message.

“If the Prime Minister wanted to recognise the good work that the public service and Parliament do, he could embrace Canberra and what it has to offer all Australians. The public service is apolitical and expert, ‘frank and fearless’. It serves every Australian. Prime Ministers should want to be associated with it.

“Physical proximity to the capital makes it harder for politicians to use “Canberra” as shorthand for faceless elites and bureaucrats. Menzies made Canberra his home during his entire time as Prime Minister. The Lodge was not just his principal residence but his only home. It seems obvious that the Prime Minister of Australia should lead from Australia’s capital, where the public service, the press gallery, the Parliament and the bulk of expertise are all located at the Prime Minister’s service.”

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