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North Sydney by-election – December 5

northsydney1-LIBThe by-election for Joe Hockey’s seat of North Sydney has been scheduled for Saturday 5 December.

I’ve now posted the guide to the by-election, which is likely to see Liberal candidate Trent Zimmerman elected to finish Hockey’s term.

Read more

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NSW redistribution – map complete

I’ve now completed the Google Earth map of the draft federal electoral boundaries for New South Wales.

Download the map here.

I’ve also produced a fusion table combining the map with the notional estimates of the two-party-preferred margin and primary votes for Labor, Coalition, Greens and others in the 47 new electorates.

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Increase to Queensland malapportionment on the cards?

I’ve missed a story which has been quietly bubbling along for the last few months which could see a bill introduced by the opposition Liberal National Party passed, increasing the electoral bias in favour of large rural seats in the Queensland parliament. There are stories today suggesting the legislation could be passed as soon as tonight.

Queensland (along with most states) has a history of malapportionment in the 20th century. Malapportionment (often incorrectly termed a ‘gerrymander’) is where some electorates are drawn with a larger population than others, usually putting more voters in each urban seat and less in each rural seat. This has the effect of making the votes cast in more populous seats less valuable. For most of the twentieth century, this imbalance has favoured the conservative parties, with urban Labor voters packed into a smaller number of seats.

Most of these imbalances have been removed from Australia’s electoral system, with the Western Australian Legislative Assembly moving to ‘one-vote-one-value’ last decade, but a few parts remain.

There are a series of large electorates in northern and western Queensland which have a substantially lower enrolment than the rest of the state, thanks to a policy which grants “phantom electors” to large seats in proportion to their landmass.

All seats are required to fit within 10% of the quota, but seats that are larger than 100,000 square kilometres are allowed to count 2% of their square kilometres towards the quota. So for a seat which covers 200,000 square kilometres, they are allowed to have 4,000 less voters than the average. Robbie Katter’s seat of Mount Isa covers over 570,000 square kilometres, and has less than 20,000 voters, while most seats have between 30,000 and 40,000 voters.

I previously discussed the theory behind this approach back in June, when the NSW Nationals were lobbying for smaller seats in western NSW. While it is reasonable to provide greater resourcing for MPs covering large geographic areas, and it is a good argument for adding additional seats to the Parliament, malapportionment has clear party-political impacts which cannot be justified.

While Labor is in government in Queensland, the party does not have a majority. The opposition LNP has proposed a bill which would double the “phantom voter” allowance to 4% of the square kilometres in a seat, and add up to five more seats to the Parliament. The effect of this change would be to add a sixth seat to the area covered by the five large remote seats (Mount Isa, Dalrymple, Cook, Gregory and Warrego), and add four seats in the rest of Queensland, which covers over 95% of the state’s population.

It appears that the bill has the support of the two Katter’s Australian Party MPs, both of whom represent districts which benefit from the current malapportionment. With KAP and LNP supporting the legislation, the vote comes down to Billy Gordon, the member for Cook in Far North Queensland. Gordon was elected as a Labor MP but was expelled from the party earlier this year, and also represents a very large seat.

It’s unclear where Gordon stands on the issue, but there are reports that he is considering supporting the legislation, and it could be voted on as soon as this evening.

I normally try to avoid campaigning on this website but considering this issue I’m willing to make an exception. GetUp has set up a campaign to ask Queenslanders to email Billy Gordon or call his office to ask him to vote against the legislation. If you live in Queensland or care about fair electoral boundaries, give him a call now.

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IPART declares NSW councils “unfit”, set for merger fight

The NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has today released its report into the “Fit for the Future” process, which has been the program whereby the NSW Government has been pushing for wide-scale council amalgamations across New South Wales. Despite the rhetoric, the report tells us nothing about the sustainability of local government, while giving us an insight into the state government’s amalgamation agenda. Despite the sheen of objectivity, IPART’s assessment works on the basis that local councils must be bigger, and for those councils which fail to meet the size criteria set by the government, their financial position is largely irrelevant.

The NSW government set a variety of criteria which it expected councils to meet. One of these criteria was the vague concept of “scale and capacity”, which seemed to be code for “bigger”. Today IPART, following the very much non-independent criteria set by the state government, has declared a majority of the state’s councils as “unfit” – most of those declared unfit were because they failed to meet the arbitrary “scale and capacity” criteria, which appears to have been applied to different councils of similar sizes.

The NSW government has used rhetoric that implies that there is no alternative but to merge for these councils, and that they need to do so to be sustainable. Yet most councils declared “unfit” cleared the financial criteria set down, and instead were declared “unfit” because of a big-council political agenda being pursued by the government. It is laughable to call this process “independent” when you consider how the criteria have been framed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tuesday news open thread

We’re expecting two big bits of news today.

The Canadian election results will be flowing in over the next few hours. Polls close at 10am AEDT in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the final ridings in British Columbia will close at 1pm AEDT.

We’re also expecting the NSW Government to release its proposed council amalgamations this morning.

I won’t be blogging today but feel free to use this post as an open thread to discuss these two bits of news.

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NSW redistribution – notional vote figures

I’ve been getting a bunch of questions about the relative strength of parties in the proposed new federal electorates which were released by the AEC yesterday.

William Bowe at Poll Bludger released notional two-party-preferred figures yesterday, and my calculations are pretty close to his, but I’ve also added primary vote figures for Labor, Coalition, Greens and “other”.

The AEC has released data on which ABS Statistical Area 1 units (the smallest analytic unit available) are in which seats, both on the existing boundaries and on the draft boundaries. I then mashed this up with Parliamentary Library data on how the primary vote and the two-party-preferred vote is estimated to have been split up by SA1 at the 2013 election to produce estimates.

The following table provides the 2PP for Labor at the 2013 election (you can derive the Coalition figure by subtracting the percentage from 100), the change in that 2PP due to the redistribution the primary vote for Labor, Coalition, Greens and other, and the proportion of the new electorate which was not in the existing electorate.

The table is below the fold. Enjoy!

Read the rest of this entry »

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NSW redistribution, council amalgamations and SA reform

There’s been a lot of electoral news this morning! I’ll try to run through it all really quickly. I’ll be putting together the new NSW electoral map over the next week and I’ll try to find some time to cover the other issues.

NSW redistribution

The Australian Electoral Commission has released the draft map of the new New South Wales federal electoral boundaries.

The federal seats of Hunter and Charlton in the Hunter region have effectively been merged. The seat takes in more voters from Charlton, but has maintained the federation seat name of Hunter.

The seat of Throsby (covering the Southern Highlands and southern Illawarra) has been renamed Whitlam after the former prime minister. The seat of Parkes has taken in Broken Hill, while Farrer and Riverina have consolidated into southern NSW.

In inner Sydney, Grayndler has shifted north, losing Labor areas in southern Marrickville and Ashfield and gaining Balmain, Annandale and Drummoyne. The seat of Barton (currently held by the Liberal Party on a slim margin) has shifted into that gap, and presumably will become a notional Labor seat. The seat of Cook, which covers Cronulla, has jumped the Georges River to take in parts of the St George region.

I’ll be working on my map of the boundaries, which is likely to take most of the next week.

We would normally expect Antony Green to calculate the seat margins for the redistribution, but he’s currently in Canada for Monday’s Canadian federal election. I’m not currently equipped to do the calculations for such a large state but will look into it if we haven’t heard from Antony by the end of next week.

NSW local government amalgamations

We’re still waiting to hear from the NSW government about it’s plans for council amalgamations across Sydney but we’ve gotten a seemingly well-placed report in today’s Daily Telegraph with some details about the proposal, although they are in part contradictory.

In one part, it suggests that Sydney’s councils will be cut from the current 42 to about 20, and that about one third of the state’s 152 councils will be cut. But in the article and on the map there are seven council mergers proposed, which would cut the number of councils by eight – a long way short of cutting 22 councils from Sydney.

It also talks about “as many as 30 rural and regional councils” being abolished, but also suggests a reluctance to touch rural councils – 30 rural councils being abolished is a lot.

The mergers proposed are:

  • Manly and Warringah
  • Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield
  • North Sydney and Mosman
  • Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai
  • Bankstown and Canterbury
  • Randwick and Waverley
  • Auburn, Holroyd and southern parts of Parramatta (Granville mostly)

There’s an interesting mix here. Some very small councils such as Mosman, Burwood and Strathfield are on the chopping block, but other small councils such as Hunters Hill and Woollahra appear to be saved. Large councils like Warringah, Randwick, Bankstown and Hornsby are also set to merge, sometimes with reasonably large neighbours.

Considering these discrepancies, it appears these might only be some of the mergers planned.

The report also suggests a delay in council elections until March 2017, although it’s unclear if this would only be for affected councils, or the whole state.

Watch this space.

South Australian electoral reform

The South Australian government has announced plans for a raft of electoral changes, including introducing the possibility of double dissolution elections to resolve deadlocks.

Interestingly, it also involves the abolition of preference voting for the Legislative Council, moving instead to a party list system using the Saint-Lague counting method. This is very similar to how most proportional systems work in Europe.

There won’t be any preferences, with only primary votes used to distribute seats, according to a method which involves dividing the number of votes by a party by the number of seats they have won.

It’s quite a good system to use for list elections, as it is much much simpler than the way we elect our proportional houses in Australia, but it is problematic if it’s used in elections where not that many candidates are to be elected. It would work much better in SA if they also moved to four-year terms for the upper house, and thus elected 22 candidates instead of 11, but I can’t work out if that’s part of the package.

The reforms will be put to a referendum in 2018.

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WA council elections – new ward map posted

Western Australia is currently undergoing regular council elections. It’s taken a while to pull together, but I’ve now completed an updated ward map for these elections.

You can download the 2013 and 2015 ward maps from the maps page. It’s quite a difficult task as there’s no central repository of information on wards, or how they’ve changed. If you notice any errors, please let me know.

Most WA councils conduct their elections via postal voting, apart from a few small rural councils which run their own elections. The election day is in less than two weeks, on October 17, although in practice most postal votes will be cast well in advance.

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NT redistribution – boundaries finalised

ntredist

The Northern Territory has been undergoing a redistribution for the 25 seats in the Legislative Assembly, and the final boundaries were released last week.

Quite substantial changes were made compared to the draft boundaries – it was basically an entirely new map. A number of seats that were renamed in the draft were restored to their original name.

Antony Green has calculated the margins for the seats here.

The overall trends were similar, with the creation of the new seat of Spillett straddling Darwin and Palmerston, and the abolition of one of the three seats in Alice Springs.

And you can download the Google Earth map here.

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Canning 2015 – results summary

Saturday’s by-election in the federal seat of Canning in Western Australia resulted in the Liberal Party’s Andrew Hastie to win despite a sizeable swing to the ALP. At time of writing, the swing to the ALP was sitting on 6.65%, with a bunch of special votes yet to be counted.

While the Liberal margin has been halved, the swing was below what was expected prior to Tony Abbott’s downfall as Prime Minister last Monday.

The swing varied quite a lot between different parts of the seat. A large majority of Canning’s population lives in the two urban centres of Armadale and Mandurah. In Armadale, the Liberal two-party-preferred vote dropped by 9%, but it only dropped by 3% in Mandurah.

This is encouraging for Labor’s chances in the new seat of Burt at the next election, which covers parts of Armadale. About 40% of the population of Canning will be moved into the marginal seat of Burt according to the draft boundaries. The ALP gained 53% of the two-party-preferred vote in the Burt part of the seat, but only 41.4% in the rest of the seat. The Labor swing was much larger in the proposed seat of Burt – 9.1% against 5.4% in the remainder of the seat.

Below the fold, I’ve broken the results up based on the same boundaries I used in the pre-election guide, and included maps of the by-election results.

Read the rest of this entry »