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Seat of the day #11: Paterson

Paterson1-2PPPaterson is a knife-edge marginal seat in the Hunter region of New South Wales, covering Maitland, Raymond Terrace, Kurri Kurri and the Port Stephens peninsula.

Liberal MP Bob Baldwin has held Paterson since 2001. A recent redistribution pulled Paterson further into Maitland and away from towns further up the coast, and demolished the 9.8% Liberal margin. The seat now has a notional Labor margin of 0.4%. Baldwin will be retiring in 2016, with the race effectively starting as a dead heat between the major parties.

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Seat of the day #10: Lingiari

Lingiari1-2PPLingiari is a massive seat covering the vast bulk of the Northern Territory, except for the Darwin and Palmerston areas. The seat covers Alice Springs, Katherine, some outskirts of the Darwin areas, the outback and the top end. The seat has a very large indigenous population and a large proportion of votes are cast at remote polling booths.

Labor’s Warren Snowdon has represented Lingiari since its creation in 2001, and has represented the Northern Territory for all but one term since 1987. He now holds the seat by a slim 0.9% margin.

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Seat of the day #9: Bendigo

Bendigo1-2PPBendigo is a marginal Labor seat in regional Victoria, covering Bendigo, Castlemaine and surrounding areas.

First-term Labor MP Lisa Chesters holds the seat by a 1.3% margin. Before Chesters was elected in 2013, Labor’s Steve Gibbons had held the seat for fifteen years.

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Seat of the day #8: Lilley

Lilley1-2PPLilley is a marginal Labor seat in northern Brisbane, covering Chermside, Stafford, Nudgee and Deagon, along with surrounding suburbs.

Labor’s MP Wayne Swan has held Lilley since 1998 after first holding the seat from 1993 to 1996, and now holds the seat by a 1.3% margin. Swan served as Treasurer from 2007 to 2013, and as Deputy Prime Minister from 2010 to 2013.

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Seat #7: Parramatta

Parramatta1-2PPParramatta is a marginal Labor seat in western Sydney, covering Parramatta, Granville, Wentworthville, Carlingford, Dundas and Rydalmere.

Labor’s Julie Owens won the seat in 2004, and holds it by a slim 1.3% margin. Despite the slim margin, the Liberal Party’s selection of a candidate was only recently finalised, which is a hint that the seat is expected to stay with Labor in 2016.

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Seat #6: Chisholm

Chisholm1-2PPChisholm is a marginal Labor seat in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, covering Burwood, Burwood East, Oakleigh, Chadstone, Mount Waverley, Box Hill and Mont Albert.

Former speaker Anna Burke has held Chisholm since 1998, and is retiring in 2016. She holds Chisholm by a very slim 1.6% margin. It seems most likely that a national pro-Labor trend will ensure the election of her Labor successor, but the retirement of the longstanding Labor MP could make Labor nervous about Chisholm bucking the trend.

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NSW council amalgamations – the never-ending election

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 4.52.05 pmYesterday I posted a quick summary of the NSW government’s council amalgamation announcement.

Today I wanted to run through the partisan impact of the councils being created, and the impacts on the next NSW council elections.

In December, I assessed the proposed council amalgamations by calculating the federal two-party-preferred vote in each area.

There is a lot of variation in council elections – strong independents can mask the political bent of an area, and in some areas major parties don’t contest the election. While there is some personal vote effects in federal election results, I thought using the 2013 election would be useful in estimating the underlying political trend of each area. Basically I estimated the 2013 Coalition two-party-preferred vote in each council and then subtracted 3.5% from that figure to get a figure which would produce a statewide 50/50 result.

Some of the trends we saw in the draft proposals can be seen in the final decisions announced yesterday:

  • The new Parramatta is more Liberal-leaning than the old Parramatta, while neighbouring Cumberland is strongly Labor-leaning.
  • Pro-Labor Randwick has been absorbed into an overall Liberal-leaning eastern suburbs council.
  • Including Botany Bay in the eastern suburbs and Rockdale in Georges River would have made both councils more Labor-friendly. Instead a bizarre council has been created in the middle.
  • Greater Ryde (as I’ve called it – no name has been released as the decision is pending court action) is substantially more friendly to the Liberal Party than the old Ryde, which was more of a marginal council.

Kiama, which was expected to be absorbed by the larger and more conservative Shoalhaven council, has been spared.

I’ve updated the map to include the rest of the state – a series of new councils have been created in south-western and south-eastern NSW, and the three big towns in central west NSW, Dubbo, Orange and Bathurst, have been brought into bigger regional councils.

Now I want to address the major democratic deficit in yesterday’s announcement.

I’m not going to go over the whole question of whether council amalgamations are a good idea in this form, or whether bigger councils are better or worst, but instead address how the ward boundaries have been drawn, and the absurdly long period that so much of New South Wales will go without elected representatives.

It’s very unclear when elections will be held for most NSW councils. My best guess at the moment is that there will be three council election dates in 2016-17:

  • Councils unaffected by mergers (eg. Blacktown, Fairfield) – September 2016
  • Councils which were considered for amalgamation but were spared (eg. Hawkesbury, Kiama) – March 2017
  • New councils – September 2017

It’s also unclear how soon amalgamations will happen in the case of councils where the minister has given “in principle” support for amalgamations pending court action, or for those where no decision has been made (eg. Newcastle/Port Stephens). Will they be ready by September 2017, or will we have to wait longer?

It firstly seems ridiculous to scatter NSW council elections over such a long period.

More importantly, it’s an absurd amount of time to go without an elected council. I understand that you need some interregnum when replacing an outgoing council with a merged council, but fifteen months is ridiculous.

About 27% of the NSW population lives in one of the nineteen new councils created yesterday. Another 21% lives in the nine proposed councils which will be created once the current court action is resolved. If Newcastle is also merged and its council sacked, that will be a majority of the NSW population living in an area with no elected local representation.

Finally, it is appalling the way that the state government has gone about drawing the ward boundaries for those new councils with wards.

If this were a federal or state election, the process of drawing electoral boundaries is delegated to an independent commission. That commission takes submissions, takes comments on those submissions, makes a draft map, and then takes objections and comments on those objections. If their second map is significantly different to the first map, they can sometimes provide a third round of objections.

In Victoria and Queensland, a centralised authority uses a similar process to draw up boundaries, with rounds for objections and comments.

We don’t get that in NSW. A referendum or ministerial approval is needed to change the number of councillors, create wards, abolish wards or change the mayoral election method, but the council itself can draw its own wards. Having said that, such a process is still open, with draft boundaries being put out for consultation before being decided by the council.

We got none of that for these new councils. There was some discussion about how many councillors each council should have, and whether there should be wards. But there was no hint that the wards would be decided unilaterally without any consultation at the same times as the councils were being created. The elections have been delayed by a year, there’s plenty of time to do it properly.

Having said that, we now know the wards for a bunch of new councils across Sydney. Once the federal election is over, I’ll move over to preparing ward maps for the upcoming Victorian and NSW council elections (all of them). Until then, this is my last post about this issue, and I’ll soon resume posting about the federal election.

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Seat #5: Moreton

Moreton1-2PPMoreton is a marginal Labor seat in southern Brisbane, covering Sunnybank, Runcorn, Eight Mile Plains, Acacia Ridge, Coopers Plains, Rocklea, Salisbury, Moorooka, Oxley, Corinda, Graceville and Fairfield.

Labor’s Graham Perrett has held Moreton since 2007, and while the seat is very marginal it seems likely that he will win a fourth term in 2016.

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NSW council amalgamations round one

This is a quick post. I’ll come back later tonight with an updated map showing the new councils and their partisan breakdown, along similar lines to this post from December.

Some quick points about what has happened.

  • 19 new councils have been created, with the pre-existing councils in this area having been abolished as of today.
  • All nineteen new councils have had administrators appointed. Elections for these councils, along with other councils which have been considered for amalgamation, are delayed until September 2017. This leaves those amalgamated councils without elected representation for sixteen months.
  • The minister has also “agreed in principle” to nine other council amalgamations, but hasn’t acted on those proposals due to pending legal challenges.
  • Details about the new councils are available at this website.
  • No decision has been made about three council amalgamation proposals, including the two Hunter proposals. Interestingly, a new Armidale council has been formed out of two councils, while a broader proposal on creating a larger Armidale council out of four existing councils (including two abolished today) has not yet been resolved.
  • Most of today’s decisions aligned with the original proposals, except on the North Shore and Northern Beaches. Mosman has been included in a proposed new council with North Sydney and Willoughby, instead of joining a greater Manly council, while Manly, Warringah and Pittwater have been merged into a single Northern Beaches council. The original proposal would have seen Warringah split in half and the pieces given to Manly and Pittwater.
  • A bunch of amalgamation proposals have not proceeded, including:
    • Kiama and Shoalhaven
    • Hawkesbury and the Hills
    • Tamworth and Walcha
  • The number of councillors and wards for each new council has already been proclaimed.
  • Where wards will be created, those ward boundaries have already been released, and they can be downloaded from the new council’s page on the Stronger Councils website.
  • It appears that all of the urban councils have wards, and all of the rural councils have no wards.
  • All warded councils will have five wards of three councils, and a mayor elected by the councillors.
  • Despite the government expressing support for directly elected mayors in the past, a number of councils with directly elected mayors have been merged into councils without a directly elected mayor, including Canterbury, Manly, Hornsby and (if the minister goes through with further amalgamations) North Sydney and Willoughby.

That’s it for now. I’ll return later with a new map of the state, showing each council and its political bent.

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Seat #4: Richmond

Richmond is a marginal Labor seat in northern New South Wales, covering Tweed Heads, Byron Bay, Ballina and surrounding areas in the north-eastern corner of the state.

Labor’s Justine Elliot has held the seat since 2004, and now holds the seat by a 1.6% margin.

Labor will probably be able to hold off the Coalition in 2013 in favourable circumstances. The Greens also have ambitions to win Richmond, but will need to build their vote in the very unfavourable Tweed Heads area and find a way to get ahead of one of the major parties before this claim is taken seriously.

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