Where to put Victoria’s 39th seat?


The latest ABS population figures for December 2019 were released yesterday, and they confirmed what we have suspected for some time. Victoria will gain a 39th seat at the next election, while Western Australia will lose its 16th seat and the Northern Territory (barring any legislative change) will revert to a single electorate.

In this post I will focus on how the addition of a 39th seat will likely shake up Victoria’s electoral map, including an interactive map showing each seat’s variation from quota. I will return on Monday with a similar analysis for Western Australia.

The Australian Electoral Commissioner is required to determine the entitlement of electorates in the House of Representatives for each state one year after the first sitting of the House, which this year will take place on July 3. The Commissioner uses the most up-to-date state population statistics, which will be the December 2019 data.

Victoria gained its 38th seat at the previous election, after holding steady at 37 seats for a long period of time. This means these electoral boundaries are relatively fresh. No seat is significantly out of line with the average. The most populous seat is 4.7% over the average (Ballarat) and the least populous is 5% below the average (Chisholm).

When you add a 39th seat, you lower the average seat size from 111,551 to 108,690. 30 of Victoria’s 38 seats are then at or above the average, with only a handful slightly below.

Every seat will have to be redrawn to create enough surplus voters to draw a new seat, and the impact will likely be statewide, but you can zoom out to the regions to get a sense of which areas will be hit hardest.

This table groups seats into four areas. I have split the state between Melbourne and rural Victoria, and then also split these areas into north-west and south-east.

RegionSeatsVariance from new quota
North-West Melbourne1026.5
South-East Melbourne1513.2
Eastern Victoria522.0
North & West Victoria838.4

There are 15 seats in Melbourne to the south-east of the Yarra. These seats are only slightly over quota: collectively 13.2% of an extra seat across these 15 seats.

So these seats shouldn’t require too radical changes. The individual seats range from +5% (Macnamara) to -2.5% (Chisholm). Outside of Macnamara, no other seat is more than 3% over quota. This area includes the seven least populous seats in the state, and all but one of the seats under the new quota.

There is more population growth in seats in central and western Melbourne, but most of the surplus lies in rural seats. The ten Melbourne seats to the north-west of the Yarra are collectively 26.5% of a seat over quota.

Some of the most populous seats lie to the west of Melbourne: Ballarat, Corangamite, Wannon and Bendigo are all 5% or more over quota, with Mallee not far behind.

So it seems most likely that the 39th seat will be drawn somewhere on the north-western fringe of Melbourne, absorbing surplus voters from these north-western rural electorates and the north-western half of Melbourne.

There is a natural divide through Victoria that runs from Port Phillip Bay, along the Yarra and then up through the Alps. The north-west half of the state, stretching as far to the east as Indi, includes 18 seats (10 in Melbourne, 8 outside Melbourne). This region has 65% of an extra quota’s worth of electors.

The Commission will usually try to avoid drawing electorates which cross the boundary. It seems likely the Commission will bring the north-west closer to a full quota by returning those suburbs on the north side of the Yarra which were moved from Jagajaga to Menzies in the last redistribution. This won’t make up 35% of a seat, but it might be enough to then just average out the differences across each half of the state.

Finally, here is the interactive map which you can click on to see the quotas for each electorate. Red seats are 1% or more under quota. Green seats are 1% or more over quota. Pale yellow seats lay in between.

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  1. Worth noting that the growth patterns will likely continue through to the projection date, which is likely to be a full 3.5 years this time. It was shortened for the previous re-distribution, because the prospect of a 39th division was well in frame. But having barely passed that threshold this time, the new redistribution should be good for at least two elections.

    I agree that the new division will be on the north-west fringe of Melbourne, likely comprising the south-western part of McEwen and drawing from all the other surrounding divisions. But even with the projections likely increase the surpluses in the area, the lack of a big +20% surplus in any division will see a flow-on effect right across the map.

    I can’t imagine there will be much of a debate about the name, unless one of the geographically-named divisions were to be redrawn such that it required a new name and therefore became an alternative candidate to be the inevitable Division of Hawke.

  2. considering the growth of the western fringe of melbourne like melton, rockbank, truganina and tarneit suggest the seat of(vic) melton district,buninyong district, koroit district, tarneit district be all re-aligned while federal seats of ballarat, gorton, lalor need re alignment based on their population growth like LALOR needs to take more of GORTON and GORTON needs to take more of BALLARAT at the federal level and state level make a new seat of plumpton taking from kororoit district

  3. I hope that Macnamara will be split up given the huge population growth in the area west of St Kilda/Brighton Rd.

  4. I tend to agree with Dean, the new electorate should be based on the north-western fringe, taking in areas from McEwen, Calwell and Bendigo.
    This new district will most likely be called Hawke, I’m sure people may suggest Burke, considering the now abolished district covered similar areas, although the AEC doesn’t tend to recycle old names. I would like an electorate called Kirner, although I doubt that would happen.

    In other areas, Ballarat will definitely need to lose voters, most likely Bacchus Marsh to Gorton, Corangamite will need to shed the remainder of the Colac-Otways LGA.
    I’d like to see a new seat created around the inner west taking in Yarraville, Footscray, Kensington, Maribynong and Sunshine although I doubt that will happen this time and would only take place when a district in the eastern suburbs is abolished.
    The south eastern suburbs needs some cleaning up, Isaacs should gain East Bentleigh and lose the rest of Dandenong LGA, Hotham will probably move south and gain parts of Dandenong, whilst Bruce will gain voters from LaTrobe and Holt.

  5. Ben, can you explain how the ACT will not revert to 2 Divisions as it’s quota has fallen below 2.5

  6. Corangamite will need voters from of Corio. Either, The Midland Highway corridor (except any parts that go to Ballarat), southern suburbs of Geelong or part of the Bellarine Peninsula.

    Maribyrnong might no longer cross its namesake river.

  7. Jeff, there is a margin of error applied when a territory falls just short of the half-quota. I’m not fully across how that is calculated, but it’s enough to bring the ACT over the line.

  8. My approach would be to slice McEwen east-west. i.e. Macedon Rangers/Sunbury on one side; Mitchell/Whitlesea/Nillumbuk the other. These are two distinct two suburban corridors, so it makes a lot of sense to break it up in that fashion.

    Both seats would be mixed urban/regional, with knock on effects for the outer northern suburbs seats – Calwell in particular. Most seats though ought to remain pretty similar to their current form.

  9. DW, yes that’s my idea at first glance. PA new Sunbury/Macedon Ranges based seat that also takes in Bacchus Marsh. Maybe Melton township if it fits?

    That would soak up all the existing excess from Ballarat, Bendigo, and the metro north-west in one fairly neat hit

  10. That was my thinking too, splitting McEwan into two Whittlesea and Sunbury based seats. Looking at Bacchus Marsh moving out of Ballarat, and if Menzies shrinks back to just the south side of the Yarra, then there will be some tweaking in the south.

  11. I would be inclined to keep Gorton as a Melton based seat and build the new division around the Calder Fwy. You could leave Bacchus Marsh alone and instead cut Ballarat down to size by transferring Daylesford to the new seat (similar to the arrangement in the state seat of Macedon). At the southern end, it would probably take a chunk of suburbia around Taylors Lakes.

  12. David Walsh
    On Ballarat: I would shift Dalyesford to McEwen and shift Bacchus Marsh to the new electorate and in doing so Ballarat would fall under quota and if needed would allow Ballarat to shift southward into Corangamite as that electorate losses areas around its western or northern parts.

    According to Antony Green the electorates of Wannon and Mallee are over quota so the AEC would probably not want to add parts of Corangamite to Wannon.

  13. Pencil, I think it probable that Wannon will absorb Corangamite’s share of Colac-Otway Shire (Apollo Bay). Beyond that, transferring Meredith and Lethbridge from Corangamite to Ballarat could be a way of preventing Wannon expanding into Surf Coast Shire. (Both towns are in the state seat of Buninyong).

    Though if Ballarat is to expand into Golden Plains Shire, the more pressing community of interest concern would be from areas in the immediate vicinity of Ballarat itself that are currently in Wannon, in particular Smythesdale.

  14. I agree with the previous posters that there will be a new seat probably along the Calder Corridor taking in parts of McEwen, Ballarat (round at least Trentham) and Bendigo (if Mount Alexander Shire around Castlemaine is included).

    I also agree that Bacchus Marsh should be removed from Ballarat for both demographic but community of interest grounds as well.

    Other areas of the state warrant interest as well. Corangamite and Corio will both need to shed voters – probably around 10 – 15,000. If the current northern Corio boundary stays, then it would mean that large parts of Corangamite may need to go (Wannon is the best bet). This would bring Wannon into areas that are effectively outer suburban Geelong. However, if Lara (Corio) was joined to a Werribee based seat, then Corangamite can hold some of its rural hinterland and Wannon stays as a purely regional seat.

    There also needs to changes in Eastern Victoria as well as many of the outer seats are over quota. Gippsland needs to some voters, Yarram going to Monash would be a minimal change, and Monash in turn needs to lose a lot of voters. My guess is that it would need to lose Bunyip/Tynong to La Trobe and Koo Wee Rup and Lang Lang to either Latrobe, Flinders or Holt (depending on what is done with the Westernport surrounds).

    A ready reckoning seems to suggest that there needs to be a seat based on Narre Warren – La Trobe will move to the East, Holt quite possibly southwards. Rather than doing the endless shuffle in the South Eastern suburbs, new seat could be created at the expense of an existing seat – Hotham would seem the obvious candidate for abolition and losing the name of a colonial governor wouldn’t cause much of a stir. In turn, Chisholm could move south to be City of Monash based seat, Deakin east to be more Whitehorse Road based and Menzies move back south of the river (current enrolments show 18.3 seats south of the river) and expand into Croydon.

  15. Redistributed I believe you are right, the new seat will look like the old seat of Burke and will be based along the Calder corridor of Sunbury to Kyneton, as its core.

    My Prediction on likely seat leans

    New Seat (Hawke / Burke) Marginal Labor
    Wannon, Improved situation for the Liberals
    Corangamite, Improved situation for Labor
    Ballarat, Improved situation for the Liberals, but a labor majority
    Bendigo, essentially no change
    Mallee, essentially no change
    Nicholls, essentially no change
    Indi, essentially no change
    McEwan, Improved situation for the Liberals, too close to call
    Melbourne seats north and west of the Yarra, essentially no changes

    South and East
    Menzies, a safer Liberal seat, with significant Boundary changes
    Deakin will look totally different and could go in 2 broad directions, but should be a safer liberal seat
    Latrobe, has the potential to move East and possible become a Labor (more likely a more marginal Liberal Seat) seat but will have major changes
    Gippsland, essentially no change
    Monash, Reduced in size, slight Labor increase but no real change

    In Victoria the Redistribution usually starts with specific seats, Mallee, Wannon, Indi and Melbourne north and west of the Yarra, and Gippsland, McNamara and Kooyong, south and eat of the Yarra

    West and north of the Yarra

    On current Figures, Wannon and Corangamite have 14,000 too many electors, and I cant see Corio being pushed across the Werribee river. The easiest result is to move Wannon east into Corangamite and for Ballarat to take back territory around Stawell, Ararat and Symthsdale

    Ballarat is currently 8,000 over nominal average, with the 14,000 from Wannon and Corangamite, it would retreat westwards leaving 22,000 to be redistributed to a new seat

    Mallee is also over quota and the Commission can fix this 2 ways, either Maryborough back into Bendigo or Nicholls to move further up the Murray river. Either way Bendigo has to loose several thousand voters. I believe the commission will like chose the latter option as that will allow McEwan to take Seymour

    The bottom part of Indi could also be redistributed to McEwan, as Indo needs to loose about 4,000 voters

    Menzies will contract to the Yarra river, pushing around 35,000 people into the west and north section of Victoria and these will be picked up by Jaga Jaga, which will loose other territory to Scullin / McEwan

    All of the other seats in Metro Melbourne north and west of the Yarra will shrink with Gorton picking up Bacchus Marsh.

    The exception of this is Melbourne which could either stay exactly the same or pick up Flemington again

    The new seat will, in my view, contain Kyneton, Trentham, Toolern Vale, Sunbury, Bulla, Romsey and possibly Taylor Lakes /Sydenham

    South and Eat of the Yarra

    Gippsland to loose constituents to Monash which will pass them on to either Holt or Casey

    McNamara to loose either south of Glen Huntley Rd to Goldstein or Windsor to Higgins (the latter being where I thing the Commission will go.

    Depending if Kooyong moves into Higgins or into Chisolm will determine the fate of the South East

    Menzies having shed 35,000 electors will eat into Deakin and Chisolm will possible do the same, this seat will now be looking for 40,000 electors, which it can get by moving into Casey or Aston ( in many ways this will be the most interesting area of the redistribution as it could make Casey a Labor Seat.

    Holt will move south a bit and the seats along the bay will essentially be the same while moving a couple of thousand around a bit and this could have some impact on Issacs

  16. I think the idea that the outer rural divisions are over-quota is largely an artefact of looking at current enrolments only. We are less than a year past the projection date (25 Aug 2019) from the last redistribution, so it’s no surprise that the surpluses arising from adding a division to the quota calculation are distributed very evenly, including to divisions that are typically under-quota. It means the projections in the last redistribution were pretty good.

    But the underlying growth trends haven’t gone away, and this time the projection date is likely to be a full 3.5 years. In the last redistribution, the starting vs projected margins vs a 38-division quota were -6.63% to -9.34% for Wannon, -6.57% to -9.51% for Mallee, -1.23% to -3.36% for Murray (as it then was), -1.06% to -2.59% for Indi and -0.98% to -3.27% for Gippsland. So each of those divisions was losing ground to the tune of 1.5% to 3% of a quota over the projection period, which was slightly less than two years. I would expect that the projection numbers for the “outer ring” of rural divisions will have them all comfortably inside the tolerance. Meanwhile, I won’t be surprised if Gorton’s current +6% is +10% or more by the projection date.

  17. The seats that are well over quota (on current enrolments) can be separated into ‘high growth’ and ‘low growth’ seats. The high growth seats are those such as Ballarat, Monash, Corangamite and the low growth are Wannon and Mallee. The high growth seats may need to shed 10,000 to 12,000 voters to get into the range whilst the low growth seats may only need to shed about 2,000 or 3,000. We have to wait for the projections to get the real picture. When seats are taken in combination such as (say Corio and Corangamite) the numbers of voters and the knock on effects become very pronounced unless some of the previously perceived wisdoms are seen as no longer being required.

    The other interesting thought to ponder is whether due to Covid 19 reductions in immigration, the Victorian 39th seat will be a one term wonder and drop off at the next apportionment post 2022 election.

  18. @Redistributed

    It’s hard to tell how Covid 19 will affect population growth, although I doubt Victoria will have such a shortfall to lose a seat three years from now. In fact I’m still inclined to say they’d gain another seat six years from now.

  19. It seems obvious that it will need to be a new seat out west but shuffling these people around will be hard to make work with the eternal Yarra line… I think Jagajaga and Menzies marching quite a way south seems to be the most reasonable solution.

    It will be interesting to see the net effect with the abolition of the NT and WA seats. WA federally being a happy hunting ground for the liberals but NT voting for Labor recently due to CLP problems… could work out simply as a notional 1 seat loss for the Liberals overall.

  20. @Northofagus – I could see the WA redistribution costing the Libs even more than one seat. The most Liberal parts of Pearce will end up in the rural divisions that the Libs already win handily, and it seems likely that Swan will lose a bunch of Liberal booths to Tangney and pick up some strong Labor ones from Hasluck or Burt. So there could be a big consolidation of Liberal votes into very safe divisions, hurting them in more marginal contests.

  21. My prediction that the new seat will be called Hawke. Taking in parts of McEwen, Gorton, Bendigo and Ballarat
    I think it will take in Diggers Rest, Sunbury, Riddells Creek, Gisborne, Macedon, Mt Macedon, Woodend, Bacchus Marsh, Hopetoun Park, Toolern Vale and parts of Melton. I am almost certain will be a notionally Labor seat.

  22. I’m intrigued by the fact that the redistributions have not yet officially commenced.

    I’m not talking about the call for submissions – I’d expect that to be several weeks away as they prepare the enrolment projections. But with the cycle in the previous parliament, the Direction to Commence a redistribution for VIC, SA and ACT was published in the Gazette on 1 Sept 2017, just one day after the publication of the determination on 31 Aug 2017, and the redistribution officially commenced on the following Monday, 4 Sept 2017.

    This time the Determination was published on 3 July but I can’t see a Direction to Commence. The Electoral Act requires the redistribution to commence “forthwith” after the determination. Maybe I’ll tweet at the AEC and see if they have a story!

  23. IIRC, in the media release about the determination, the AEC said they’d be meeting this week to ‘officially commence’ the redistribution.

  24. In 2014, the determination was made on 14 November and the three redistributions for WA, NSW and ACT officially commenced on 1 December. Public suggestions started in Feb 2015.
    I remember quite clearly, because I was getting married at the end of November and thought I’d miss the opportunity to provide a suggestion.
    This time round I have a 5-week old son, so the AEC really know how to mess with my personal life!?

  25. Official commencement of both VIC and WA has been announced on AEC website.

    Suggestions beginning ‘September 2020’, so something for us to get our teeth into pretty shortly!

  26. Idle (and completely pointless) mini redistribution speculation:

    Currently Ballarat and Corangamite are the the two contiguous electorates with the largest combined enrolment. That would make for a curious mini redistribution: (1) a seat narrowly focused on Ballarat and surrounds; (2) another narrowly focused on Geelong suburbs and the Bellarine peninsula; and (3) a weird north-south elongated electorate running from Daylesford to Apollo Bay, taking in Bacchus Marsh and Bannockburn. The latter is certainly not anything you’d draw under the proper process!

  27. The timetable for the VIC redistribution has been updated. Call for suggestions will be 16 Sept, closing 16 Oct. Looks like the WA one will run at least a week later.

  28. Labor would beg the AEC to not have the new division of Hawke to be in the Coalitions hands. So this could be a new city seat potentially. Melbourne is growing and having a new city seat is likely. However a few outer suburban seats could be pushed slightly out. Seats like La Trobe or Corangamite for example could be pushed slightly more rural helping the coalition, Maybe even McEwen could be pushed. But if these seats do get pushed the margin will hardly be affected. Just marginally a little better for the coalition. If the division of Hawke (If it becomes a seat of course) Should it be in the city. The question is will this help the Greens capture a 2nd lower house seat for the first time? Which would embarrass Labor as well. If i was head of the AEC redistricting process, I would put Hawke in the Western suburbs of Melbourne near Gellibrand and Fraser

  29. Daniel – I’m not sure whether “embarrassing Labor” I s a criteria for the commissioners? After all Fraser is a safe ALP seat.

  30. It may be a bit complicated, but I would see all sides seeing benefit in bringing Scullin slightly further south (taking from Cooper): Cooper made up by shifting West Heidelberg from Jagajaga to Cooper, and Jagajaga balanced out by leaving the Diamond Creek area in (it was moved there last redistribution) but adding Eltham back and Menzies retreating back south of the Yarra as others have suggested. Menzies is then free to creep southward and take some of the population pressure from Kooyong and Chisholm

    This will corral Cooper’s ongoing growth a little, centre Scullin as a better defined urban/urban fringe seat with less rural duality,and allow McEwen to make a slow, decades-long, stable march southward as outer Melbourne grows. Menzies is then free to creep southward and take some of the population pressure from Kooyong and Chisholm

  31. I don’t see that happening as it absolutely ruins Cooper’s character as a Darebin council-based seat, hemmed in by the Darebin and Merri Creeks.

  32. I think the first cut to Cooper will be to move Clifton Hill into Melbourne, although I’m not sure if that will be enough. There will be a need to somehow shuffle the Cooper and Wills surpluses towards the new division in the north-west and I think via Melbourne could be at least part of the answer, with Melbourne absorbing surpluses from those divisions and then giving up Kensington to move the surplus in the right direction.

  33. I guess we’ll have to wait for the projections, but it seems like Melbourne might not require much change.

    My rough idea would be to put some of northern Wills (Fawkner perhaps) into Calwell. If the new Division is Sunbury-based, then perhaps some areas around the airport could go into that seat. That’s a similar arrangement as at state level.

    In that way, there’s no need for major surgery to Melbourne, Maribyrnong, etc.

    I’d personally look at putting the Latrobe Uni precinct into Jagajaga as a way of reducing the numbers in Cooper. Then maybe putting the Diamond Creek area back into McEwen to balance the numbers out. I’d prefer that than dragging Scullin southwards and making a messy split in the Mernda/South Morang area.

  34. I have to agree with that last part in particular Mark. There is no neat way to split Mernda South Morang Epping and Mill Park. I tried it last time reverting to the transmission line which is really a poor boundary. Even trying to use the Plenty River around that areas is problematic, as there is really only one crossing at that point.

  35. I think one of the Post Covid wash ups will be that this 39th seat will only last one term. With limited immigration, Victoria’s population growth and relative share of national population is unlikely to be sustained. Equally possible is that WA might get its 16th seat back.

  36. Data is up, but I’m having a little crisis trying to find the map data at SA1 level (including the split SA1s) that I could swear they provided last time because I can’t see where else I’d have gotten it.

    I can find the enrolment data and projections at SA1 level, but can only find GIS data for whole divisions. I thought that for previous divisions there was GIS data including the SA1s. I could add the projection data onto an external source of SA1 boundaries, but that won’t include the split SA1s.

  37. I’m attempting a redistribution for the first time on QGIS, and I really have no idea what I’m doing, so if I could get any tips on the technical side of things, that would be much appreciated! Cheers all.

  38. Others probably have easier approaches – mine is entirely self-taught.

    I’m working in CARTO for the first time after doing my previous submissions using Google Earth. But basically the same approach. I actually flip SA1s in an Excel file built up from the AEC projections list, but then use that to update a map in CARTO that is coloured by division so I can visualise what I’m doing.

    I could probably flip SA1s directly in CARTO and then use SQL to report where I’m at with totals, but using Excel makes it easy to save fallback points if something doesn’t work. The free data allowance in CARTO is pretty tight.

    Given that the AEC hasn’t provided SA1 spatial data this time, I got the SA1 boundaries from the ABS (https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/1270.0.55.001July%202016?OpenDocument) and then uploaded a separate table with the AEC data on pop projections, current division and a field for new division. I was then able to use SQL to combine the tables within CARTO, which avoids ever needing to export the polygons (haven’t had much luck with that in CARTO). I’ve got other layers with LGA boundaries and the current division boundaries.

    The annoying thing about the lack of SA1 spatial data from the AEC relates to the SA1s that are split between divisions. Without a polygon for the two individual areas, I just have two records, each with the full polygon, so they overlap on the map. Makes the map look ugly, and I’m probably going to need to do a lot of manual editing to make images presentable in my suggestion.


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