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.