Federal redistribution update


The Australian Electoral Commission is currently undertaking federal redistributions in New South Wales (which is losing one seat), Western Australia (which is gaining one seat) and the ACT (which should see minor changes on the border between the two seats.

Since I last wrote about these redistributions, we have seen two rounds of submissions in New South Wales and Western Australia, with a variety of individuals and groups, including political parties, putting in ‘suggestions’ and then a second opportunity for individuals and groups to make ‘comments on suggestions’.

I’ll only briefly cover the ACT, where the process is at a slightly earlier stage. With only two divisions, and with the southern division of Canberra under quota and the northern division of Fraser over quota, you would expect a few suburbs at the southern edge of northern Canberra to be transferred, but the process is relatively simple. In fact, no political party bothered to put in any suggestions.

In the case of Western Australia, I’ll keep my summary simple, and refer to WA resident William Bowe’s summary at Poll Bludger.

In short, both major parties agree on creating a new division out of parts of Hasluck in south-eastern Perth. Labor recommends calling the division ‘Tonkin’, and the Liberal Party recommends ‘Court’, both using the names of deceased former WA premiers who belonged to those respective parties. The WA Greens  proposes naming the sixteenth division ‘Vallentine’ after former senator Jo Vallentine, who was elected for the Nuclear Disarmament Party, became an independent then helped form the WA Greens. Vallentine would be a strong candidate for a seat name, except for the fact that AEC guidelines recommend that divisions be named after deceased persons, and Vallentine is very much alive. These guidelines can be ignored, so the option is still a possibility.

I wanted to focus most of my writing on New South Wales, the largest state with the most complex electoral boundaries. I’ve waited until after the second round of submissions were released last week. In this post, I’ll run through some interesting points in the map where the parties have disagreed on their approach.

This blog post is quite lengthy, and runs through five key parts of the state, and what each of the parties has proposed. I will return to these three redistributions (along with the state redistribution in Western Australia and the Brisbane City Council ward redistribution) when the draft boundaries are released.

New South Wales is losing one division, and this will trigger major changes. As I explained in a previous post, the area of northern NSW covering the Hunter, Central Coast, New England and the north coast is almost an entire quota below where it should be, and for this reason all parties have recommended effectively abolishing a seat in this region.

Labor and the Greens have proposed similar approaches for the north coast of NSW, where all four seats are well under quota. Both parties propose each seat expanding into the seat immediately to the south, and the knock-on effects result in Cowper (which is currently centred on Coffs Harbour) stretching from Coffs Harbour to Port Macquarie, covering both major cities but very little to the north of Coffs or to the south of Port. This is not ideal, as it separates these two major centres from large parts of their hinterland, and it’s unlikely to be a long-term solution.

In order to avoid this result, the Liberal Party and the Nationals propose moving in a different direction, by having the division of Page (currently centred on Lismore, Casino and Grafton) cross over the Great Dividing Range to take in Tenterfield, Glen Innes and other areas in the north-eastern corner of New England.

However this creates big knock-on effects on the division of New England, which in itself only requires small additions in the Greens and Labor proposals. It also conveniently makes Page much stronger for the Nationals and protects their mid-north coast divisions from being pulled further south.

The parties have proposed different approaches in the Hunter. The Liberal Party has proposed abolishing the Labor seat of Hunter, splitting its areas between Charlton, New England and Paterson. The Liberal Party and the Greens both propose leaving Newcastle largely alone, with Charlton shifting west to take in Cessnock. On the Labor proposal, Newcastle shifts to take in the Tomaree Peninsula, and the Lake Macquarie seats of Charlton and Shortland shift close to the Newcastle city centre.

Both the Labor and Greens proposals effectively suggest the merger of Paterson and Lyne, but the combined seat’s southern boundary looks quite different. For the Greens, Hunter takes in all of Maitland and Dungog, with Lyne covering the Tomaree Peninsula and areas up to the southern edge of Port Macquarie. For Labor, Raymond Terrace and the peninsula are in Newcastle, and Paterson instead keeps Dungog.

Outside of this region, it is not necessary to abolish a seat, but some population imbalances force changes. In other areas, parties have made pretty blatant changes which favour their side when no change was required.

The most controversial proposal comes from the Liberal Party who propose splitting the Blue Mountains into three seats: the upper mountains combined with the central west of NSW, the lower mountains combined with Penrith, and the middle mountains combined with parts of the Hawkesbury and the City of Blacktown in another seat. A majority of second-round submissions are specifically in opposition to the Liberal plans for the Blue Mountains, which would conveniently split up this progressive voting area (currently in a marginal seat) between three seats.

It’s not actually necessary to make any changes to the Blue Mountains, with Macquarie fitting within the quota and requiring no changes from neighbouring seats. The Greens and Nationals don’t propose any changes in this area, and Labor only proposes small changes.

There are difficult problems that need solving in the Illawarra region. The area covered by the Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama and Shoalhaven council areas are on track for just over 2.5 quotas, so it is necessary to combine at least one of the three seats in this area with parts of a neighbouring area. At the moment, this is achieved by including a large part of the Southern Highlands in Throsby and the non-urban southern parts of the Sutherland Shire in Cunningham, but this isn’t enough to keep these seats on quota. If you include any more parts of the Southern Highlands in Throsby, it will effectively sever the parts of Hume on the Sydney fringe (around Wollondilly and Camden) from Goulburn and towns further west. On the other hand, it’s not possible to push any further into Sutherland without starting to take in southern Sydney suburbs.

The ALP has chosen to bring the seats up to quota entirely by moving suburbs from Hughes into Cunningham in the Sutherland Shire, which pushes Hughes further into Liverpool and almost entirely out of the Sutherland Shire. At the other end, Throsby retracts entirely into the Illawarra area, putting the remainder of the Southern Highlands into Hume. The Greens chose a minimum-change proposal, making no change in the Southern Highlands and moving a small part of Engadine from Hughes into Cunningham.

On the other hand, the Liberal Party and the Nationals both proposed (in slightly different ways) to combine some parts of the Campbelltown area with northern Wollongong in Cunningham.

As someone who grew up in Campbelltown, I find the proposal very strange. While there are connections between the Illawarra and Campbelltown, they aren’t that strong. More significantly, the Liberal proposal splits up the Campbelltown area in a way that is unnecessary – splitting Campbelltown station into three seats. Unlike the southern fringe of Sutherland or parts of the Southern Highlands, Campbelltown is a community which is both distinct and big enough to have its own seats.

It’s also politically convenient – Cunningham would combine safe Labor areas in both Campbelltown and Wollongong, taking the southern Campbelltown suburbs out of the marginal seat of Macarthur, and keep Hughes leaning Liberal by keeping it focused on Sutherland, rather than Liverpool.

The other big changes are proposed in the inner west of Sydney. The seats of Wentworth, Sydney, Reid and Grayndler are all over quota, despite the quota being increased. This means that, on average, these seats need to shift to the east.

The Greens proposal makes the least changes – moving parts of Darlinghurst, Potts Point and Woolloomooloo from Wentworth into Sydney, and then moving the remainder of the Leichhardt LGA into Grayndler, and shifting Reid and Watson to the east. It does make the Greens position slightly stronger in Grayndler, but I would argue that this approach reflects the simplest and most subtle change that is possible – Sydney would lie entirely within the City of Sydney and Grayndler (apart from one suburb) would align with the Marrickville and Leichhardt council areas. If you want to see a map of a seat that would pack in a lot more Greens voters, check out Harry Hook’s submission for a seat of ‘Dalley’ covering Newtown, Balmain, Leichhardt, Glebe, Chippendale, Erskineville, Petersham, Stanmore and Pyrmont.

The Liberal and Labor parties both propose pretty dramatic changes to Grayndler and Sydney. In the Liberal submission, Sydney takes in all of Leichhardt and parts of Petersham and Stanmore from Grayndler, while losing southern (Labor-friendly) parts of the City of Sydney, turning it into a harbour-based seat. Grayndler then takes in the remainder of Newtown and the other suburbs in the southern half of the City of Sydney, as well as Mascot, while losing most of the Ashfield council area.

The Liberal proposal would make Sydney better for the Liberal Party, while making Grayndler more Labor-friendly, but in terms of Labor/Greens contests it’s probably about the same, with both seats containing some very strong Greens suburbs.

The Labor proposal manages to split the Greens heartland between three seats. Labor spends a large part of their submission justifying moving Haberfield, Leichhardt and Lilyfield (from Grayndler) and Annandale (from Sydney) into Reid, basically making Reid a harbour-based seat stretching from Annandale to Concord.

The Balmain peninsula, and the City of Sydney parts of Newtown and Erskineville, would remain in Sydney, while the strong Greens areas in Marrickville would remain in Grayndler, which would actually shift further west into Labor heartland areas around Earlwood and Croydon.

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  1. I’m offended that you didn’t mention my submission, which recommended calling the new WA seat Throssell.

  2. The Greens NSW proposal is certainly the best of the parties’, in that there is not much gratuitous change for change’s sake. Alot of what they propose was very similar to my own suggestions, or else a very reasonable alternative.

    The NSW north coast gets messy no matter how you draw it. Getting in close to Coffs and Port McQ is not ideal, but there is just no real link I can see between the Tablelands and the coast. All parties except the Greens have some WTF proposals through regional NSW and parts of Sydney.

    I agree that moving eastwards is the logical move for Grayndler, and while it would boost Green prospects there, it would do so at the expense of Sydney. Neither Labor nor the Liberals proposals make as much sense.

    The interesting thing from the major parties is that
    a) Both propose things that they vehemently opposed previously
    b) Both propose things that have been rejected over and over by previous redistributions.

    I know parties have to fly the flag, but there comes a time to stop flogging dead horses.

    In WA, there’s only real differences at the margins, everyone agrees on the general strategy. So, I’m expecting no major surprises there.

    In ACT, the only interest is how they propose to deal with the existing name “Fraser”.

  3. Both Labor and Liberals proposals in NSW reek of gerrymandering.

    WA seems surprisingly straightforward. Wonder why.

  4. Well, there’s less seats to play with. The three completely rural seats aren’t going anywhere, and many of the Perth seats (particularly Curtin, Perth, Fremantle, Tangney and Swan) are constrained by two rivers and the coast. Once that’s all taken into account, there’s not much room to play sneaky self-serving games – the new seat can’t be anywhere but Perth’s outer suburbs, and that’s where the major redrawing will happen.

    There’s probably more argument about what to name the seat. Tonkin is a better idea just because the name isn’t controversial. Say that name to most Perth folk, and they’ll think of the highway (which will run through the new seat – imagine naming a western Sydney seat M4 :P). Two Courts have been premier, one less than 15 years ago, and they’re both a lot more controversial. The older one closed the Freo line and gave us Section 54B, which are remembered in WA. Not many people remember John Tonkin.

    Adam: why Throssell? He’s just one of many early premiers who weren’t around for very long.

  5. Even as a Labor Party member, i absolutely believe the Labor proposal is lunacy especially around inner-city Sydney. The Best proposal by far is the Green proposal, although it looks like it will create a much more winnable Grayndler, It certainly won’t taint there ambitions in Sydney. Apart from being the least radical, and makes the most sense, this should be the approach taken. The Labor proposal is true gerrymandering, the Reid, Grayndler and Sydney proposals are completely over the top and cementing their position even with the Green proposal the likely hood of them holding those seats are quite high.

  6. While I agree that renaming Fraser would be a good idea in order to free up the name for the next Victorian redistribution, I wouldn’t choose Burley Griffin, who was in no sense an Australian. I’m not sure exactly of a more appropriate name, but perhaps someone involved in founding the ANU, or in the early development of Canberra itself. In any case Fraser was always an odd choice for the seat. It could also be an opportunity to rename the seat of Canberra, which is I imagine quite confusing to a lot of people.

  7. Regarding seat naming conventions, the next Victorian redistribution will likely create a seat in northwestern Melbourne. The logical name for such a seat would of course be Hawke, but if Bob Hawke is still alive by then then that could be slightly messy. Something to ponder over the next few years

  8. Well, the last redistribution was to create a seat of Burke in NW Melbourne/urban fringe, but the change was seen as too radical and they had to redraw the state again.

  9. The NSW redistribution will be really difficult. This is evidenced by such a wide variance of comments. it is difficult to see how the aec can avoid the following outcomes.
    1/ Page moving into northern New England.
    2/ Throsby losing its southern highlands component.
    3/ The most minimal changes possible to the inland seats, even if this means under quota seats.
    4/ The return of nearly, if not all of the parts of Sydney LGA to Sydney from Wentworth. A really bad idea IMV, that will need to be reversed in 6 years.
    5/ Reid being strathfeild , & burwood LGA s in entirety, losing Auburn LGA.
    6/ A complete carve up, & virtual abolition of Hunter.

    Everything else who knows….

  10. Mark Mulcair
    Really enjoyed your submission , & comments. A body of work to be proud of, for sure, & thank you.
    Being a resident of willoughby LGA , I was particularly interest in your treatment of N Sydney Warringah, M’Kellar. Well done on proposing meaningful changes. FWIW the whole of Willoughby LGA ought to be in N Sydney. It is absolutely inevitable it will be next time anyway. As you pointed out Hunters Hill LGA is a better fit with Bennelong, & will likely not survive the coming council amalgamations , nor should it.
    Did you consider moving N Sydney’s boundary further north into bradfield temporarily ,to come up to quota ??.

  11. I don’t see what made “Fraser” an odd choice for the ACT – it is for Jim Fraser, the ACT’s longstanding federal representative (there’s also a suburb of Canberra named for him).

    Does it really need to be renamed? Can’t it simply be gazetted as recognising multiple Frasers?

    Regardless, calling a division “Burley Griffin” would replicate a longstanding error. Burley was the man’s middle name, not part of a double-barrelled surname; “Griffin” would be apropos (and would serve dual purpose, also recognising Marion Mahoney Griffin).

    If an ACT division is to be renamed, my suggestion would be Coombs.

  12. 1. On the naming of Divisions: It isn’t actually a rule that Divisions can’t be named after living people – Watson, Casey and Bruce were all so honoured while still alive. But it has now become a convention not to do so.
    2. On the problem of shared surnames: Joseph Cook is the only deceased PM not to have a seat named for him, because there’s already a seat of Cook named for James Cook. But I don’t see why a seat couldn’t be called Joseph Cook. By the same token, the ACT could keep its Fraser and a Victorian seat named Malcolm Fraser – it’s no longer than Kingsford Smith. The real problem in Victoria is what seat to rename. All the rural seats except Mallee are Federation seats and not supposed to be abolished.
    3. On the other hand it wouldn’t hurt to rename the ACT seat. Jim Fraser was an obscure backbench member who died 45 years ago. If we don’t like Burley Griffin it could be O’Malley.
    3. On Burley Griffin. Yes Burley was his middle name, but he called himself Burley Griffin. No-one has ever heard of Walter Griffin. This used to be quite common – Henry Campbell Bannerman, David Lloyd George and Andrew Bonar Law did it, and in Australia Robert Murray Smith, Bill Forgan Smith, Walter Massy Greene and Charles Carty Salmon all did it.

  13. Adam, I did point out that the guidelines around naming seats after deceased persons are only guidelines, but the guidelines do stand and I think they are likely to be followed. A seat hasn’t been named after a living person for over 30 years, and the last one was in 1984 when a large number of seats were created at the same time.

    I don’t see why a seat can’t be named after two different people. I don’t think adding someone’s first name is a solution.

  14. I thought they changed “Cook” to honour both James and Joseph Cook? So it shouldn’t be a big deal to do it with Fraser. It’s just that Malcolm Fraser doesn’t really have much connection to the ACT compared to Victoria.

    It would be nice to see the name “Namadgi” revived, but it could only be used for the southern seat, with “Canberra” being used for the northern seat.

    The obvious candidate for renaming a Victorian division would be Wannon, as it was Fraser’s own seat and doesn’t really commemorate anything special (it’s a local river).

  15. It’s also in the guidelines not to rename federation seats, although they have done so twice recently (and quite unnecessarily), in abolishing Gwydir and Kalgoorlie. Mallee is the nearest seat that is not a federation seat, and I think the southern part of Mallee used to be in Wannon.

    I don’t like naming seats after two different people (except the Lyonses and the Haslucks, which makes some sense). Joe Cook and James Cook have no connection, and very few people (even among the very few people who care) think of Joe Cook when they see the seat of Cook. It’s named after James Cook because it’s on Botany Bay. Likewise, Jim Fraser and Malcolm Fraser have no connection, being from different parties and different state/territories. I think the ACT Fraser should be renamed O’Malley so there can be a Victorian Fraser. King O’Malley was not only the founder of Canberra but also the last survivor of the first federal parliament.

  16. I think there’s a clear hierarchy in the guidelines – naming seats after deceased Australians is the main priority, followed by preserving Federation names, and then using Aboriginal names.

  17. I am personally in favour of scrapping the provision about federation divisions anyway and moving towards having every seat named for a deceased Australian (i.e. getting rid of geographically-named seats entirely). I admit that I have not given up hope that this will happen by attrition in the end anyway, which is why I was far from upset with the abolitions of Gwydir and Kalgoorlie. In the meantime I wish the Commission gave a bit more attention to the suggestion that federal names not duplicate state names, and deal with the seats that do (federation names be damned – surely no one would care too much about losing a name like “Adelaide” or “Perth”, or the most egregious example, “Sydney”, which doesn’t even have the federation excuse).

    I think Cook should be extended to include both Joseph and James, and I don’t like the idea of including first names. Fraser on the other hand should just be abolished in the ACT and a new one created in Victoria, as Adam suggests. O’Malley is a good name for the ACT replacement; the small amount of confusion this would involve with the suburb of O’Malley is probably unavoidable given Canberra’s suburb naming conventions. Namadgi is a possibility if they decided to rename Canberra at the same time, but it’s another geographical name; I don’t think the Commission has gone with one of those for a new seat since Namadgi itself in 1996.

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