There will be a redistribution this year which should see NSW lose its 49th seat to Queensland, which will require one seat to be abolished and the state distributed into 48 districts.
Using the enrolment statistics of 28 November this year, I have done some analysis of each seat’s enrolment levels. Of course, these will change before the redistribution is completed, but it can give us an idea.
First of all, I divided the state into seven areas of seven seats each. This demonstrates that the seven seats in the centre of Sydney, as well as the seven on the north shore, both have significantly more votes than the average. In particular, Wentworth, Kingsford Smith and Bennelong, which have all got more than 5% more than the average voters per seat. The seats of Sydney and Lowe have fallen well below the average, but can be compensated by the neighbouring seats without the need to abolish any seats. The fourteen seats covering the eastern suburbs, inner west, north shore, northern beaches, and out to Berowra and Mitchell, make up a total of 13.94 quotas under the new 48-seat model, meaning that it’s unlikely a seat will be abolished in the eastern half of Sydney.
I also grouped the seven seats covering southern Sydney. This includes the seats covering Sutherland, Bankstown, Liverpool and the Macarthur region. This is the only part of Sydney with falling quotas, with the seven seats making 6.77 quotas. In particular, Fowler, Werriwa and Macarthur are all well below a quota, and if no seat is abolished Macarthur will have to pick up territory from Hume to its south.
In contrast, the North-Western Sydney region, including Macquarie and Reid, is much closer to seven quotas, with high voter numbers in central Western Sydney around Reid and Parramatta.
The seats to the south of Sydney are also below quota, like South-West Sydney. The Illawarra seats of Cunningham, Throsby and Gilmore are well below quota, and indeed Malcolm Mackerras in yesterday’s Crikey argued for the abolition of the seat of Throsby, in southern Wollongong. Hume, covering the rural territory between Macarthur and the ACT, also has fallen significantly below the quota.
The seven seats in the Central Coast and the Hunter is lying right on average for all seven seats, which translates to 6.85 quotas once the 49th seat is abolished.
The seats in northern NSW and inland NSW are also falling, particularly Calare and Parkes, covering the former seat of Gwydir, abolished in 2006. Three of the four north-coast seats are falling as an average, particularly Lyne.
So what are the options? Seats in northern Sydney, central Sydney and the Hunter are on track to maintain their 28 seats in those regions. It seems the three main options for a seat to be abolished are:
- Throsby/Gilmore – As Mackerras has argued, both of these seats are well below quota and either could be abolished, which would simultaneously push Hume and Eden-Monaro further in towards Wollongong and allow the Hume-Macarthur border to be pushed further south of Picton, providing the extra numbers needed to shore up the seats in South-West Sydney.
- Macarthur – Macarthur is the least populous seat in NSW, and is bordered by below-average seats in Hume and Werriwa. However, Macarthur, Werriwa and Fowler cover the new South-West Growth Area, which would mean a significant increase in voters in the near-future, which could require creation of a new south-west Sydney seat. It would also drag Hume into Campbelltown, resulting in a seat stretching from the outskirts of Canberra to the outskirts of Sydney. Macarthur also covers the newest NSW state seat of Wollondilly, created before the 2007 election, demonstrating that the region will overall be increasing in size.
- Calare/Parkes – Despite losing a seat in the last redistribution, the numbers of voters in the northwest of the state continue to fall further behind the pace. However, it was highly controversial in local communities when Gwydir was abolished, and the redistribution will likely try to avoid repeating the experience.