Local government Archive

Brisbane City – redrawing the wards

briswardsThe City of Brisbane is unlike any other council in Australia. With a population of over one million people, the council is much larger than metropolitan councils in other Australian cities.

The election for Lord Mayor of Brisbane is the largest single-member election in Australia, with over 550,000 people voting in the 2012 election. This is much more than in a federal electorate. The council consists of 26 councillors, each elected from their own ward. Those 26 wards are also quite large – almost as large as Queensland state seats.

Considering all this, elections for the City of Brisbane are more like a small state election than any other local council election around Australia. With this in mind, I’m planning to cover the March 2016 Brisbane election in the same way I have done for recent state elections, with a guide for each ward.

In the meantime, the Electoral Commission of Queensland is currently undertaking a redistribution of Brisbane’s wards for the 2016 and 2020 elections. The last redistribution took place before the 2008 election, and the current wards have been used for two elections.

In this post, I’m looking at what changes may need to be made to the existing ward boundaries.

At the last redistribution before the 2008 election, the ward of Grange was abolished in the north of Brisbane, and was effectively replaced by a southern ward. In exchange, the seat of Walter Taylor lost the one third of its territory on the southern side of the river. This effectively cut the number of wards north of the river from 12.7 to 12. It seems likely that some of these trends will be reversed in this redistribution.

The ECQ has released enrolment figures for each ward as of 2014, as well as projects for 2016 and 2018. All wards must be within 10% of the quota in 2014, and it’s a good idea to also try and draw boundaries that keep wards within that quota by 2018.

For my analysis I have split Brisbane into four quarters. There are twelve wards north of the river and fourteen south of the river. For the wards south of the river, I have split them into two quarters of seven wards each. The south-east covers The Gabba ward in South Brisbane and all those wards to the east of the M3, while the south-west covers the remaining wards south of the river.

The north-west covers Central ward (covering the Brisbane CBD) and wards further west covering areas like Indooroopilly, Ashgrove and Moggill. The north-east covers areas to the north and east of the CBD.

Region Enrolment Wards 2014 variation 2016 variation 2018 variation
North-East 167,584 6 20.37 24.53 28.23
North-West 162,855 6 2.86 6.11 3.07
South-East 188,911 7 -0.68 -3.67 0.53
South-West 183,002 7 -22.55 -26.97 -31.83

Overall, the north-west and south-east are close to quota. There are some seats over quota – Central is 10.2% over quota already, and The Gabba is expected to be more than 10% over quota by 2018 – but theoretically these issues could be resolved by minor changes between neighbouring wards rather than major structural changes to the whole city.

However the north-east is well over quota and the south-west is well under quota. By 2018, the north-east will have enough extra voters for 28% of an extra ward. By 2018, the south-west’s population will fall 31.8% short of justifying a seventh ward.

In order to resolve these differences, wards will need to shift north from the south-west to the north-east. Since these two regions don’t border each other, it will require significant changes to some wards in one of the regions where the population is on quota.

In particular, it will be necessary for one of the wards to cross the river. At the moment, there is no ward crossing the river. In the past, the Walter Taylor ward (covering the Indooroopilly area) has included areas on the south side of Brisbane, and the Indooroopilly state seat is currently the only Brisbane seat to cross the river. Because of this, it seems likely that a ward will cross the river in this area.

So the most likely trend seems to be:

  • Seats in the south-east undergo minor changes, with the Gabba shrinking and giving territory to Holland Park, and Holland Park and three of its neighbours all expanding slightly to absorb the growth from the Gabba. The surplus from Doboy will bring Wynnum-Manly up to quota relatively simply.
  • In the south-west, Parkinson will shrink, but all of its neighbours will have to grow, in particular Jamboree and Macgregor. This will require one of these wards, probably Tennyson, to jump the river and take in about 8000 voters.
  • The wards of Walter Taylor, The Gap and Toowong all will require substantial more population, which will probably result in significant redrawing of their borders and a general shift to the north-east. This will include taking in substantial parts of Central ward, which is well over quota.
  • Bracken Ridge will likely give some of its territory to Deagon to bring them both into quota, and McDowall will take population from Marchant to bring them into quota. No changes are necessary to Northgate.
  • Hamilton is due to be way over quota, and with Northgate not needing changes, most of this population growth will need to be discharged into Central ward. With Central giving up some of its territory to Toowong, this will result in Central shifting towards the north-east.

You can find out more about the redistribution at the ECQ website, and submissions close on December 22.

Newcastle lord mayoral – maps and tables

Newcastlemayoralresults1-ALPA large swing of 14% to Labor has delivered the party the Lord Mayoralty for the first time in 15 years. Labor lost the lord mayoralty to independent John Tate in 1999. Tate was re-elected in 2004 and 2008, and replaced by Jeff McCloy in 2012.

On current numbers, Labor’s Nuatali Nelmes is sitting on 42.5% of the primary vote, followed by Brad Luke on 23.6%. Luke is the acting lord mayor, and was a Liberal Party member until recently, when he decided to run as an independent for Lord Mayor. The Greens’ Therese Doyle is coming third on 14%, followed by conservative independent Aaron Buman, a former councillor who ran for lord mayor in 2008 and 2012.

For the purposes of analysis, I have broken up votes between the four wards of Newcastle City Council, with special votes such as prepoll and postal votes grouped as ‘other votes’. It’s worth comparing the following table to the pre-election table.

Voter group ALP % Luke % GRN % Buman % ALP swing Total votes % of votes
Fourth 48.11 18.86 9.22 14.85 17.68 19625 23.94
Second 36.34 31.04 15.29 8.61 12.86 17318 21.12
Third 43.82 22.70 14.06 10.93 13.93 16619 20.27
First 42.82 19.12 19.78 10.06 12.94 16040 19.57
Other votes 39.78 27.45 12.10 12.61 11.63 12377 15.10

Labor topped the poll in all four areas, but did substantially better in the fourth ward and substantially worse in the second ward. The second ward was the best area for Luke.

For the Greens, their vote was highest in the first ward, and worst in the fourth ward. The party gained swings of between 3% and 3.6% in three wards, but actually suffered a tiny negative swing in the fourth ward.

Aaron Buman gained a 4% swing compared to his 2012 result, but still came fourth, and only managed to outpoll the Greens in the fourth ward.

Below the fold, I have included booth maps showing the primary vote for the four leading candidates, and the Labor swing compared to 2012. Please note these maps exclude two booths at the edge of the City of Newcastle: Beresfield and Minmi.

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Newcastle mayoral by-election live

City of Newcastle lord mayoral by-election results

Candidate Party Votes % Swing Projected %
Aaron Buman Independent 8,852 11.29 +3.97 11.33
David Chapman Independent 3,910 4.99 +4.99 4.99
Rod Holding Independent 1,438 1.83 +1.83 1.83
Brad Luke Independent 18,669 23.82 -19.3 23.45
Nuatali Nelmes Labor 33,107 42.24 +13.86 42.42
Joe Ferguson Australia First 1,236 1.58 +1.58 1.58
Therese Doyle Greens 11,166 14.25 +2.46 14.25

9:57pm – I’ve just added prepoll figures to the count.

9:50pm – Final post for tonight – I’ve broken down the figures by each ward of Newcastle council. Labor’s vote ranged from 36.3% in the second ward to 48.1% in the fourth ward. The Labor swing was clustered around 12-13% in three out of four wards, but was 17.7% in the fourth ward. The vote for conservative candidate Brad Luke ranged from 19% in the first and fourth wards, up to 31% in the second ward. The Greens vote ranged from 9% in the fourth ward to 19.8% in the first ward. The Greens vote increased by 3-4% in three out of four wards, but actually suffered a -0.1% swing in the fourth ward.

9:39pm – We now have results from all 47 ordinary vote polling places, and the result is reasonably clear, and similar to the figures from earlier tonight.

8:48pm – We now have almost two thirds of booths reporting, and we are still looking at Labor in the low 40s, Brad Luke second with just over 20%, and the Greens’ Therese Doyle around 14%.

8:22pm – Newcastle results still trickling in, with 19 booths now reporting, but no significant change in the picture.

8:00pm – In the Second Ward, which covers Wentworth Falls and other mid-mountains towns, the Greens councillor resigned from council most recently. At the moment the Greens vote is down from 22.7% to 17.7%, and the Labor vote is down from 36.9% to 27.3%. The Liberal Party polled 40.4% in 2012, but is not running this time. At the moment Labor is leading, followed by two independents on 23% and 20.2% each.

7:56pm – A quick detour to look at the Blue Mountains. In the First Ward (Katoomba, Leura and areas further up the mountains), Labor, Liberal and independent Robert Stock all won a seat in 2012. Stock resigned earlier this year. The Liberal vote has dropped 5.1% from 26.5% to 21.4%. The Labor vote has increased from 23% to 29.8%, and the Greens vote has increased from 22.1% to 28.9%. At the moment, it looks like either Labor or the Greens will gain a seat, depending on preferences from the Liberal Party and two independents. I should note that I haven’t built a booth-matching model, so I am comparing the result so far off 9/10 booths and no special votes to the total vote from 2012.

7:55pm – With about 1/3 of ordinary votes reporting, Labor is still on track for 43% of the primary vote in Newcastle.

7:44pm – We now have twelve booths reporting in Newcastle, and the picture is largely the same – Labor with a huge primary vote lead, followed by a conservative independent and the Greens.

7:32pm – We now have seven booths reporting, and Labor is still on track to lead by a long way on primary votes, and should be able to win with Greens preferences. The Greens on raw numbers are down 1%, but when you match booths this flips to a +2.93% swing.

7:22pm – I should also note that in Newcastle I am comparing Brad Luke’s vote to the vote for Jeff McCloy in 2012, as the leading conservative independent, which explains the 20% swing against Luke.

7:17pm – We have the first two booths reporting from Newcastle, and Labor is projected to end up on about 45.6% of the primary vote – which should be easily enough to win with Greens preferences. In Marrickville West Ward, the Labor vote and Greens vote are both up, with the Liberal vote down, so Labor should retain the seat.

6:00pm – Polls have just closed in Newcastle’s lord mayoral by-election, as well as in three other council by-elections in Marrickville and the Blue Mountains. I’ll mostly be covering the results from the City of Newcastle this evening. The lord mayoralty of Newcastle was held by Jeff McCloy from the 2012 council election until he resigned earlier this year after he was exposed as giving donations to a number of Liberal candidates despite being a property developer, prior to winning the mayoralty.

You can also check out the Tally Room guide to this by-election, which includes analysis of the 2012 election result and the history of Newcastle’s lord mayoralty.

McCloy won the lord mayoralty in 2012 with 43% of the primary vote, with Labor coming second with 28%. The main candidates are considered to be Labor’s Nuatali Nelmes, and independent candidate Brad Luke, who was elected to Newcastle City Council in 2012 as a Liberal councillor.

Results will be coming in tonight from 47 polling places, and I will be attempting to match results to 2012 booth results to produce a predicted final result. However we will not be experiencing a two-candidate-preferred count tonight, so the projections will only produce estimates of the final primary vote.

Council elections in Tasmania and SA

Two Australian states are in the process of electing their local councils for the next four years. Unfortunately due to the large volume of state elections currently taking place, I won’t be able to provide any coverage of these elections, but others have produced some useful coverage elsewhere.

South Australian elections take place every four years. All SA council elections are conducted by postal ballot – ballot papers will be sent out over the week of 20-24 October, and voting closes on November 7. SA councils are elected by a mixture of single-member and multi-member wards, as well as directly-elected Mayors in most (or possibly all?) councils.

Until this year, half of each Tasmanian council was elected every two years for a four year term. This year is the first time that entire councils have been up for election at the same time. Tasmanian councils have no wards – so this means that all councils are proportionally elected, and the quotas will drop significantly. Mayors in Tasmania tend to be directly-elected. Tasmanian ballot papers will be posted between the 14th and the 17th of October, and must be returned by the 28th of October.

The shift in Tasmania towards conducting all council elections on one day every four years means that only one Australian state now conducts staggered council elections. In Western Australia, councillors are elected every two years for four year terms. The next WA council elections are due in late 2015.

Queensland’s next council elections are due in early 2016, while both New South Wales and Victoria are both due around the time of the next federal election in late 2016.

Tasmanian psephologist Kevin Bonham has completed an in-depth profile of the Hobart City Council election, including analysis of how sitting councillors’ have voted and lists of candidates. I recommend it for those eager for more elections news.

Radio Adelaide program The Scrutineers, by Casey Briggs and Dianne Janes, has produced a special episode focusing on South Australia’s local government elections. You can listen to the show online, as well as subscribe to the podcast and download old episodes of the show.

Victorian local government election review – the rest of the story

Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post about the Independent Local Government Electoral Review Panel in Victoria, chaired by former federal Liberal MP Petro Georgiou. In particular I focused on recommendations to modify the local government franchise, by extending the right to vote to all permanent residents (ie. non-citizens) living in the local government area, removing the second vote for businesses in the City of Melbourne, and generally simplifying and clarifying the process for non-residents to gain the right to vote in all council elections.

The review’s reports, however, covered much more than the franchise, so I thought I would return to the topic and summarise some of the most interesting recommendations, below the fold.

There are two reports – stage 1 and stage 2. I have listed the recommendation number for those recommendations I have discussed.

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City of Melbourne to end double votes for business?

While the NSW Governments and the Shooters and Fishers push ahead with legislation to institute the “Melbourne model” of two votes for each business and corporation paying rates and owning property in the city, an independent review of Victorian local government has recommended an end to the very same practice.

The independent Local Government Electoral Review Panel, chaired by former federal MP Petro Georgiou, has released two lengthy reports after a year of consultations and discussion papers. The panel’s two reports cover a wide variety of issues, and I will return at a later date to consider the report in full, but the report is particularly interesting in recommending significant changes to voting rights for local council elections.

The report is recommending that all permanent residents be given the right to vote in the local council where they live, even if they are not a citizen, and is recommending a significant simplification of the process by which non-residents gain the right to vote.

The report points out that the current process of enrolment fails tests for equity and transparency, for example:

The right to vote can be transferred from one party to another. Under section 15 of the Local Government Act 1989, other than those commercial tenants who are on the council’s rate records, if a commercial tenant wants to apply to vote as a ratepayer, they need the landlord’s consent. The
landlord can then choose whether or not to transfer their vote to a tenant. This is inequitable and anachronistic.

The potential for chaos has also been exposed under the proposed bill for the City of Sydney, as revealed by Sean Nicholls in the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday:

The information provided was it would mean any landholder who pays rates in the City of Sydney will get a maximum of two votes, regardless of the number of businesses operating in the building they own.

Those businesses would not be entitled to vote unless the ratepayer nominates them as one of the two eligible voters.

Currently all business owners who pay more than $5,000 a year in rent have the right to vote but are not automatically enrolled.

As a result, thousands of business owners who meet the rent threshold and are eligible to vote would lose the right under Mr Borsak’s bill.

Giving certain individuals or corporations the power to choose which of their tenants is given the right to vote opens the process up for further abuse.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Currently the City of Melbourne is the only council in Victoria where businesses are given two votes, but the process is needlessly complicated across the state, as seen in this diagram produced by the Review’s secretariat (right).

The Review’s report has significant implications for the political debate in New South Wales around voting rights for the City of Sydney.

The fact that a committee led by a former Liberal MP, and appointed by a Liberal state government, is so sceptical of double voting for businesses should demonstrate the folly of extending the experiment to NSW.

If these reforms are implemented, the business vote will be significantly reduced in City of Melbourne elections. At the moment, non-resident voters make up almost 60% of the electoral roll for the City of Melbourne.

In addition, the enfranchisement of permanent residents in council elections would be a significant step forward, and I think a positive step towards voting rights being extended to all those who a permanent members of a community, not just those who have achieved citizenship.

City of Sydney business voting – bill revealed

Following on from the announcement earlier this week that the NSW state government will support a bill from the Shooters and Fishers that will radically expand business voting for the City of Sydney, today the bill was introduced in the Legislative Council, after previously not being advertised or being presented for any consultation.

The legislation confirms that property owners, ratepaying lessees or occupiers are entitled to vote: corporations are entitled to two votes, and otherwise the number of property owners, ratepaying lessees, and occupiers who get to vote are capped at two.

The other key part of the law will automatically enrol voters for all those who are eligible to vote. This creates the effect of massively expanding the number of non-resident voters in the City of Sydney, possibly threatening Clover Moore’s hold on the position.

The bill does not limit voting rights to non-residents who actually pay rates, regardless of the absurd ‘taxation without representation’ argument from supporters of business voting. The proposal isn’t about giving voting rights to ratepayers, but giving voting rights to one particular sector that has a history of having a large amount of influence over most councils.

Outrageously, the law gives the government the power to expand these new rules to any other local council in New South Wales, seemingly on an arbitrary basis. The NSW government has refused to say which other councils could also see massive expansions in business voting, but there have been suggestions that Parramatta, Newcastle and Wollongong could see a similar imposition.

Some might say that the latest news at ICAC regarding the Lord Mayor of Newcastle suggests that business interests don’t need any more influence over councils, but it hasn’t stopped the NSW government.

If you can’t win, change the voters?

Since the expanded City of Sydney was created in 1948, every single state government has tinkered with the City of Sydney’s structure and boundaries to advantage their allies in local council elections.

Today’s announcement by the state Liberal government that they plan to radically expand business voting in the City of Sydney is in the same vein, but is a more extreme step away from local democracy in the City of Sydney, and a step back to an era where voting rights were contingent on property ownership.

It’s hard to say for sure what is being proposed, as I have not been able to find an actual bill anywhere, but the legislation appears to apply only to the City of Sydney (although it is suggested that it may be expanded to cover other councils), will give “up to two” votes to each business in the City of Sydney, and will create a permanent electoral roll for non-residential electors, so that all businesses are automatically enrolled and don’t have to ‘re-enrol’ for each election.

Owners and occupiers currently have the right to vote in NSW council elections in the council where they own property or operate a business, but most are not enrolled and do not vote. The City of Sydney is the only council where non-resident voters (such as businesses) are required to vote at the moment, but because most businesses are not enrolled to vote, and because you have to re-enrol for every election, it is effectively not compulsory to vote if you are a business.

While there are philosophical arguments about giving the right to vote to business owners who don’t live in the council area, this proposal is a naked power grab from conservative state politicians who have been unhappy with the progressive agenda that has been supported by voters in the City of Sydney, and want to remove the most prominent and successful mayor in New South Wales.

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Queensland council de-amalgamations go ahead

As I reported earlier this year, Queensland is progressing with a plan to de-amalgamate four former local council areas from the super-councils created in 2007-8.

Voters in these four areas voted in favour of de-amalgamating in March 2013.

All four of these council areas elected new mayors and councils on Saturday November 9th, and you can see the results on the Electoral Commission of Queensland website.

The four councils are:

  • Douglas Shire – merged with Cairns.
  • Livingston Shire – merged with the City of Rockhampton and the Shires of Fitzroy and Mount Morgan to form Rockhampton Region.
  • Mareeba Shire – merged with Atherton, Eacham and Herberton to form Tablelands Region.
  • Noosa Shire – merged with Caloundra and Maroochy to form Sunshine Coast Region.

While the merger of Cairns and Douglas will be entirely reversed, the merged entities in the other three areas will remain, as at least two former councils remain part of the larger councils.

The four councils will be restored on 1 January 2014.

You can download a Google Earth file with boundaries for the four new councils, and the new boundaries for the councils that have lost territory. You can also download an updated map of all of Queensland’s council areas, showing the new boundaries from 2014.

All four councils elected their councillors at-large, so no ward maps need to be updated.

WA government releases new council map for Perth

The Western Australian government has recently unveiled its latest plans to drastically reduce the number of councils covering the Perth area.

The latest model reduces the number of councils in Perth from 30 to 15, with only three councils left without boundary changes. One council outside Perth (Murray Shire) expanded to cover parts of a neighbouring council that had been abolished.

The changes varied from the original plan, in particular with a Fremantle council remaining separate from Melville.

I have produced a Google Earth map covering the proposed Perth boundaries, which you can view and toggle between the current boundaries and the proposed boundaries. Download it here.

Below the fold you can also see the inner-Perth boundaries, before and after the proposed changes.

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