New South Wales Archive

Werriwa – a century of shifting boundaries

Werriwa boundaries, 1900 redistribution. Click to enlarge.

Werriwa boundaries, 1900 redistribution. Click to enlarge.

Gough Whitlam represented the federal electorate of Werriwa from a 1952 by-election until his resignation in 1978. The electorate has a long history of being held by Labor, ever since the 1930s. From 1934 until 2005, the seat was only held by four MPs, three of whom rose to a high rank in the federal ALP. Gough Whitlam from 1952 to 1978, and then John Kerin from 1978 to 1994 and Mark Latham from 1994 to 2005. Kerin served as Treasurer in the Hawke government, and Latham led the ALP to the 2004 election. From 1954 to 2005, every change of MP in Werriwa took place at a by-election.

The 2005 by-election was won by Chris Hayes, who held the seat until 2010. In 2010, he shifted to the seat of Fowler, immediately north of Werriwa, and Laurie Ferguson, who had represented Reid since 1990, took over Werriwa.

I have a particular personal interest in Werriwa. I lived in the electorate for most of my life until 2010, and ran in the electorate in 2004 and at the 2005 by-election.

Werriwa is a particularly fascinating seat, and that’s what I want to cover today.

Werriwa has existed continuously as a federal electorate since 1901, but the seat covers a very different area today to its original territory in 1901. Werriwa originally covered a large part of southern New South Wales, including Lake George (which gives the seat its name) and what is now the northern suburbs of Canberra.

With the use of historical maps, I’m going to trace how Werriwa shifted regions gradually over time, moving from a southern NSW rural electorate to a suburban seat in south-western Sydney.

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NSW electoral funding changes

In recent weeks, the news has been dominated by stories about the desire of the NSW Liberal Party to reform the state electoral funding system in New South Wales – supposedly to reduce the influence of private donations. Today, Mike Baird announced new legislation to change the electoral funding system in the lead-up to March’s state election.

The media reporting has focused on tougher sanctions, and a supposed increase in the proportion of election spending that will be publicly-funded.

But it’s missed a major story – about how the public funding regime will substantially favour the major parties over smaller parties, giving major parties 55% more public funding per vote, and possibly locking out some smaller parties out of getting any public funding at all.

Under the proposed changes, funding will again be based on how many votes you receive (unlike in 2011), but this funding will be disproportionately weighted towards the major parties. Substantially more funding will be provided to a party that wins seats in the Legislative Assembly.

On my reading of the law, a major party that wins 32% of the vote in both houses would be entitled to spend $9.3 million, and receive back the same amount, effectively funding their entire campaign.

Smaller parties would be entitled to spend more than they would be entitled to receive in funding, but if they spend less than they are entitled to receive, they will receive less funding. This effectively provides certainty to the major parties while denying it to smaller parties. I may be wrong on that point – this law is quite a mess.

There is in particular a huge amount of uncertainty for the Greens, who could be entitled to approximately $3 million or $2 million based on the result in two inner-city seats.

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NSW redistribution – what could happen?

Every three years, approximately one year after the federal election, Australia’s population is assessed, and each state and territory is given a set number of seats to be filled in the next Parliament, based on population. When the number of seats allocated to a state changes, a redistribution is immediately triggered to draw up new electoral boundaries.

This time around, population shifts have guaranteed that New South Wales will lose its 48th seat, and Western Australia will gain a 16th seat. It now appears that the ACT’s population will not be sufficient to give them a third seat, after it first appeared to be possible in late 2013.

These redistributions will by necessity cause significant changes to borders, in order to create a whole new seat in WA and squeeze NSW’s populations into 47 seats.

Electorates will need to be drawn to be within two quotas. A quota is drawn up as the average population per electorate as of the time of the redistribution, and another one which is the average projected population of each new electorate as of 3.5 years after the conclusion of the redistribution. These quotas will be 1/47th of the NSW population, and 1/16th of the WA population.

Below the fold, I’ve posted my analysis of the likely trends in the NSW redistribution, and have produced an interactive map showing the population quotas in each electorate.

In short, I think the seat most likely to be abolished is Hunter, which will have significant knock-on effects in the Hunter region and in western NSW. Seats in inner Sydney will shift east, while seats throughout Western Sydney will expand in size in southwestern direction, shifting Werriwa and Macarthur further into the fringe of Sydney.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a similar analysis of the prospects in Western Australia.

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Miranda results wrap

Last night’s result was very dramatic, and something most people weren’t expecting.

Miranda isn’t exactly strong Labor territory, and the massive 22% swing in 2011 seemed to indicate a reversion to form for an area that’s mostly contained in the federal seat of Cook, a very safe Liberal seat.

There’s no way to read the result as anything but a sweeping victory for Labor and a major defeat for the Liberal Party, but it’s hard to know how much broader implications can be read into the result.

There’s no indication in statewide polling that Labor is close to competitive with the Coalition, which you’d expect if Miranda was an indication of broader trends.

The newly-elected MP, Barry Collier, previously held the seat from 1999 to 2011, but chose to retire in 2011. He would have been likely to lose in 2011, with only a small swing needed, but it is likely that his absence massively increased that margin, and his return on its own brought Labor closer to a win.

The by-election was also very unnecessary and in unsympathetic circumstances for the incumbent, who resigned after less than three years to move interstate to run a football team, giving up a ministerial career.

On election day, the Fire Brigade Employees Union targetted the electorate, with firefighters (partially dressed in firefighters’ uniforms) handing out leaflets urging voters to ‘Put the Liberals Last’. I have posted images of this leaflet below the fold.

This followed days of massive bushfires on the edge of Sydney, and took place under a pall of smoke. Early yesterday morning, there was no smoke in the inner west of Sydney, but once you drove down to Miranda the sky was covered in it.

Overall, I think it’s mostly the return of Barry Collier, the unnecessary nature of the by-election and local issues that were decisive, with the fires playing a secondary role. The ALP gained a 27.3% swing at prepoll booths, compared to an overall swing of 26.2%, despite the FBEU having no presence at prepoll.

I’m reposting here the two-party-preferred maps from last night – one shows the overall percentage, the other shows the swings to Labor, for each booth.

Two-party-preferred votes at the 2013 Miranda by-election.

Two-party-preferred votes at the 2013 Miranda by-election.

Two-party-preferred swings at the 2013 Miranda by-election.

Two-party-preferred swings at the 2013 Miranda by-election.

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Miranda by-election 2013 – results live

Primary vote results

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Murray Scott GRN 1,729 4.35 -4.42
Lisa Walters IND 825 2.08 +2.08
Barry Collier ALP 18,504 46.56 +24.31
George Capsis CDP 2,791 7.02 +3.49
Brett Thomas LIB 15,567 39.17 -21.55
John Brett IND 328 0.83 -3.90
Total formal votes 39,744

Two-party-preferred vote results

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Brett Thomas LIB 16,565 44.79 -26.21
Barry Collier ALP 20,418 55.21 +26.21
Total votes in final count 36,983
Exhausted votes 2,761

Click through to read commentary and view booth maps.

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Miranda by-election guide

miranda1-2ppA by-election will be held in the NSW state seat of Miranda on 19 October. Miranda covers parts of the Sutherland Shire in southern Sydney.

The seat has traditionally voted Liberal but Barry Collier held the seat for Labor from 1999 to 2011.

In 2011, Collier retired and the Liberal Party’s Graham Annesley won the seat – with a massive swing of 21.8% across the seat.

Annesley was a former senior executive at the NRL and was appointed immediately as Minister for Sport and Recreation. In August 2013 he resigned both as a minister and as Member for Miranda to take up the CEO’s role at the Gold Coast Titans NRL team.

The Liberal Party should comfortably hold Miranda, which they now hold with a 21% margin. But that 2011 margin was inflated, and if the ALP has made any kind of recovery in its performance in NSW state politics, it should be able to drag that margin down. The seat will be interesting to watch to see whether this happens.

Read the Miranda profile here.

NSW and Victorian redistribution updates

Last Thursday, the Victorian Electoral Boundaries Commission released the draft boundaries for the Victorian state redistribution. These boundaries are expected to cover the 2014 and 2018 state elections.

Antony Green has produced his estimates of the margins for all eighty-eight electorates.

In short, two Nationals and one Liberal seat were abolished. A new Liberal seat and two new Labor seats were created. Four other marginal Labor seats have flipped to be notionally Liberal or National.

On paper, the Nationals have lost one seat and Labor have lost two, with the Liberal Party gaining three. However the swing for Labor to win government has been reduced. On current boundaries, the ALP needs to win two seats with a swing of 1.2% to form a majority government. On new boundaries, the ALP will need to win four seats, but only need a 0.4% swing.

New South Wales is also in the process of redrawing its boundaries.

Two weeks after draft boundaries were released for the New South Wales state redistribution, I have finally completed the Google Earth map of the state.

You can download the map here.

redistribution banner

I’ve previously blogged about this redistribution, and Antony Green has already posted a similar analysis to the one he did for Victoria. In addition, he has released a more detailed research paper with estimates for margins and primary votes for all 93 electorates.

I have also done one extra bit of analysis, looking at which parts of the state have been drawn under- or over-quota.

The Commissioners were required to fit electorates to two quotas: within 10% of the average for the number of voters as of February 2013, and the estimated number of voters as of April 2015.

Region 2013 quotas 2015 quotas
Central Sydney 10.8169 10.8921
Hunter & Central Coast 14.0397 13.9789
Northern NSW 6.9952 6.9832
Northern Sydney 11.0712 11.0423
South-East NSW 9.1528 9.1280
Southern Sydney 5.1172 5.0696
South-West Sydney 10.8176 10.8978
Western NSW 10.2230 10.1182
Western Sydney 14.7664 14.8897

The Commissioners have clearly chosen to draw seats larger than the average in regions with a declining population (Northern Sydney, South-East NSW, Southern Sydney, Western NSW), and draw smaller seats in regions with a growing population (Central Sydney, South-West Sydney, Western Sydney). The Hunter, Central Coast and the north of the state have been drawn very close to the quota.

These numbers reflect the approach of the ALP, rather than the Nationals who advocated using the loose quota rules to draw less-populated electorates in regional areas. The Liberal Party and the Greens proposed boundaries that stuck very closely to the quota.

The Commissioners only drew three districts that diverge from the 2015 quota by more than 3.5%, and thus would have been prohibited under the previous rules. One of these seats is the far-western Barwon, that is declining in population rather quickly. The other two are Shellharbour and Wollongong in the Illawarra region. Both are also declining, and have been drawn to be above the quota.

UPDATE: Edward Boyce in comments has pointed out an error. In addition to the three seats that have been drawn more than 3.5% over the quota, the Western Sydney seats of Camden and Riverstone, which are both growing very fast, have been drawn more than 3.5% under quota.

UPDATE 2: My error: the former threshold was 3%, not 3.5%, and eleven electorates vary by more than 3%.

NSW redistribution boundaries – the next day

A substantial amount of analysis was produced yesterday about the draft boundaries for the NSW redistribution.

You can look at the maps here.

Antony Green has posted his estimated margins for each electorate.

He estimates that the ALP has lost two seats net to the Liberal Party. A Nationals seat was abolished in Western Sydney, while the new seat of Newtown was created, and is considered to be notionally Green.

As expected, there was a significant knock-on effect through southwestern Sydney and southwestern NSW.

This knock-on effect sees the seat of Goulburn changed dramatically. The town that gives the seat its name is now at the eastern edge of the seat, while Goulburn has gained large parts of Burrinjuck, including Yass.

The remainder of Burrinjuck has been merged with eastern parts of Murrumbidgee as the new seat of Cootamundra.

The three seats of Goulburn, Burrinjuck and Murrumbidgee are all held by ministers: Pru Goward, Katrina Hodgkinson and Adrian Piccoli. These three seats have been reduced to two, and this could see a clash between ministers, or force one of them to grab a seat off a neighbouring MP.

The seat of Murray-Darling has been renamed to Murray with the loss of Broken Hill, while Barwon has grown even larger to cover the sparsely populated north-west of the state.

Bathurst has been largely left alone, while Dubbo and Orange have swapped quite a bit of territory, shifting from a north-south axis to an east-west axis.

Changes were relatively mild in other parts of regional New South Wales.

In Sydney, the north shore has been left alone with only minor changes. The biggest changes start with the creation of the seat of Newtown, which has absorbed most of the excess quota from Heffron and Sydney and allowed those two seats to largely remain intact.

Antony Green estimates that Newtown is a notional Greens seat. I haven’t had a chance to crunch numbers myself, but this makes sense. The Greens seat of Balmain has largely been left intact, except for the loss of the suburb of Haberfield, which is considerably more conservative than the rest of the seat.

The ALP should have less trouble holding the new seat of Summer Hill than its predecessor of Marrickville, although the seat is still likely to be strong for the Greens.

Quite a few more seats are reshuffled throughout south-western and north-western Sydney. The seats of Menai and Smithfield have been renamed as Holsworthy and Prospect respectively. The ALP seat of Macquarie Fields has shifted south, gaining areas in the seat of Campbelltown which swung much more strongly to the Liberal Party. This is enough to switch the seat from notional Labor to Liberal.

Former Premier Nathan Rees’ seat of Toongabbie has shifted significantly and has been renamed Seven Hills, and his margin of 0.3% has become a Liberal margin of 8.5%.

2011 was a terrible result for Labor, and it’s probably not worth focusing too much on seats right at the bottom of the pendulum. Labor will presumably gain at least some swing back to them, and if there was to be a competitive election, the seats on current margins from 10% to 20% that would prove decisive.

So far, the boundaries seem very sensible, and a good attempt at dealing with all of the contradictions and demands that come with electoral redistributions.

I have started work on my Google Earth map of the new boundaries, but won’t have it finished until later this week. I will come back with those when they have been completed.

NSW redistribution – draft boundaries released

The NSW Electoral Commission has released the draft boundaries for the NSW state redistribution this morning.

I’m at work today so won’t be able to do any in-depth analysis until later. I’m sure Antony Green will post his analysis today, and in the meantime you can post your comments about what this means in the comments section below.

Some quick thoughts:

  • Marrickville has effectively been split into two seats: Summer Hill and Newtown. Newtown stretches from Petersham to Redfern and Surry Hills and is likely to be very strong for the Greens.
  • Balmain has been largely left alone – losing Haberfield and gaining a bit of Ultimo.
  • Sydney has lost part of Ultimo and all of Surry Hills.
  • Summer Hill covers all of the suburb of Marrickville, most of Lewisham, all of Dulwich Hill and most of Ashfield LGA.

Please have a look at the maps and post interesting information you find below.

I have the day off on Wednesday, so I hope that by the end of Wednesday I can complete a new Google Earth map of the boundaries.

An unsurprising landslide

Yesterday’s by-election in the NSW state seat of Northern Tablelands saw a result in line with expectations: the Nationals won the seat with a massive swing and a comfortable majority on primary votes.

The seat has a history of being held by the Nationals before Richard Torbay won the seat in 1999. At the last NSW state election, the three other rural independents lost their seats to the Nationals, and support for rural independents in federal Parliament has declined after the decision of Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott to support the Labor federal government in 2010.

In the current circumstances, it would have been very hard for an independent without a pre-existing high profile to compete with the Nationals. Jim Maher attempted to run as a successor to the independent vote which used to dominate in the New England region. Maher polled 13.8% across the seat, and 20.8% in the Armidale area, but didn’t come close to holding on to more than a small part of Richard Torbay’s vote.

It will be very easy to interpret this result as a sign that Tony Windsor is set for defeat in New England at the September federal election. Windsor is certainly facing a tough race, but this by-election was very different to Windsor’s upcoming race. The independent and Labor candidates in the by-election had little profile, while Windsor has a history of winning his seat with massive majorities and still has a high profile. While he will have a serious fight on his hands, the Nationals can’t expect the result to be anywhere near as lopsided as yesterday’s result.

Polling places at the 2013 Northern Tablelands by-election. Armidale in blue, Inverell in green, Glen Innes in yellow, Gwydir in orange, South in red. Click to enlarge.

Polling places at the 2013 Northern Tablelands by-election. Armidale in blue, Inverell in green, Glen Innes in yellow, Gwydir in orange, South in red. Click to enlarge.

As a final point in analysing the by-election, I have broken the results down using the same geographic areas I used for the pre-election profile.

While a map showing the results for the seat wouldn’t be particularly interesting, as the Nationals have dominated the race across the seat, there are some interesting variations in the vote, particularly between Armidale and the rest of the seat.

All polling places have reported, along with the prepoll votes and some postal votes. More votes in the ‘other votes’ categories are yet to be reported.

The following table shows the primary vote for the top three candidates at yesterday’s by-election, as well as the vote for Richard Torbay at the 2011 election.

Voter group NAT % IND % ALP % Torbay 2011 % Total votes % of ordinary votes
Armidale 51.12 20.79 11.38 65.85 8,777 31.12
South 69.40 11.06 9.17 57.61 6,435 22.82
Inverell 64.81 10.40 8.39 68.38 5,556 19.70
Glen Innes 63.91 10.83 9.77 62.40 4,874 17.28
Gwydir 75.41 3.59 11.12 59.45 2,384 5.52
Other votes 65.45 16.71 7.69 63.28 5,056

Overall, the Nationals performed most strongly in the Gwydir region and in the south of the seat, which were Torbay’s worst areas in 2011. The Nationals vote was lowest at 51.1% in Armidale, which also saw the highest vote for Jim Maher and the ALP.