New South Wales Archive

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NSW by-elections in Blacktown and Cootamundra

We’re due for two state by-elections in New South Wales later this year, and I’ve just finished guides for both electorates, which you can read now.

Blacktown

Former NSW opposition leader John Robertson has announced plans to resign. Labor should easily retain this seat.

Cootamundra

Former Nationals minister Katrina Hodgkinson announced plans to resign in late July. The Nationals will likely retain this seat, but they will be challenged by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party.

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NSW by-election guides complete

I’ve been absent over the last two weeks as I’ve been moving house. This has unfortunately prevented me from covering the aftermath of the WA state election as much as I would’ve liked, and slowed down work on other elections.

I’ve now completed a guide to the Gosford by-election in New South Wales, and added candidate lists to the Manly and North Shore by-elections. All three of these by-elections will be held on Saturday April 8.

Read the by-election guides here.

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Guides to Manly and North Shore by-elections

By-elections are due to be held soon in the two New South Wales seats of Manly and North Shore. The two seats sit side-by-side on the north side of Sydney Harbour, and are both very safe Liberal seats.

The seat of Manly was held by Mike Baird from 2007 until 2017 , when he resigned from parliament after stepping down as Premier.

The seat of Manly was held by Jillian Skinner from 1994 until 2017. Skinner has served as a senior frontbencher since the 1990s, and served as deputy Liberal leader from 2007 to 2014. Skinner left the frontbench in January and announced her intention to step down at the time.

Both seats have similar dynamics. The Greens have come second in both seats at the last two election cycles, but they are over 20% away from unseating the Liberal Party. Both seats also have a history of independents winning, but that very much depends on who runs.

It seems likely that the Liberal Party will hold both seats, but the threat of an insurgent candidate appears to have been enough to force a backtrack on council amalgamations, so the Liberal Party may know more than the rest of us.

Read the guide to the Manly by-election.

Read the guide to the North Shore by-election.

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NSW council mergers hit a wall – and may go backwards

After multiple years of making plans and implementing them, the NSW government is now on the verge of announcing something which should have come much sooner. For councils that have already been amalgamated, there will be plebiscites where voters will be asked to decide on whether the amalgamation should be wound back and the former councils restored. In addition, all of those amalgamations which have yet to be implemented appear likely to be cancelled. That means no amalgamations for the eastern suburbs of Sydney, the north shore, Newcastle or Wollongong, along with a scattering of other council areas.

This decision leaves the NSW government’s amalgamation plans in a complete mess. Councils that were facing mergers have been divided into two classes based on whether lawsuits were launched by those councils delaying the amalgamations. Regardless of their merits, amalgamations won’t go ahead where they haven’t yet been implemented, meaning in some cases we will see tiny councils like Hunters Hill and Burwood surviving alongside much larger neighbours.

I’ve made no secret that I am supportive of some enlarging of councils in the eastern half of Sydney, although many of the proposed amalgamations were unnecessary or unwise, but it was always problematic to implement the decision without a democratic mandate. It’s not surprising that elected councils would oppose amalgamation: I don’t think it should be necessary for the council to support a proposal. But a proposal agreed to by the state government should go to a plebiscite of the people in that community before being implemented.

I suspect quite a few of the mergers would have been successful if plebiscites had been held, at least in Sydney. Now we face the possibility that unwise mergers will be undone after a lengthy period of pain and after the spending of large amounts of money on the amalgamations.

We have recent experience of multiple local councils in Queensland de-merging following overwhelming plebiscite results, but all of these cases were in regional areas. I do expect that most of the regional council mergers will be undone by plebiscites, although some may survive.

We have no real sense of how plebiscites will go in Sydney, or how unpopular the amalgamations have been. There are some that on their face merge councils that are already quite large (Canterbury-Bankstown, Hornsby-Ku-ring-gai) or combine areas with no common interest (Bayside council) but I suspect that a lot of local voters are happy with the new councils in Parramatta, Inner West and Georges River, to take some examples. We will never find out if voters in the eastern suburbs or north shore would have supported amalgamating their councils – such a plebiscite could have decided the issue and saved a lot of political pain a few years ago.

The results of the plebiscite could end up being messy. What if Ashfield votes to stay in the Inner West but Marrickville votes to leave? Things will be particularly messy in the Parramatta-Cumberland area, where pieces of each council were broken up. I live in Parramatta and the new council is not much larger than the old council: it just covers different areas.

What if the voters in the heartland of Parramatta vote to reject the amalgamations, but the new additions from the Hills, Hornsby and Auburn councils vote to stay? What if Granville votes to return to Parramatta council, but the former Holroyd and Auburn councils (which don’t share a border) want to stay as Cumberland?

Whatever happens, this should produce some interesting electoral contests. Up until now, the campaign against council amalgamations was focused on the forced nature of the mergers. Will there now be room to debate the merits of particular council sizes and boundaries in the context of a fair democratic fight?

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Council mergers string out NSW elections for four more years

The NSW state government has written to councils laying out the timetable for council elections for those councils which have not yet been amalgamated. This timetable could well see council elections held in every one of the next four years, with the possibility of some new councils not facing election until the next regular council election in 2020.

There are eleven new councils which have been proposed but have not yet been implemented, mostly because of pending court cases. This is in addition to twenty new councils which have already been proclaimed.

The proclaimed councils will have their elections held in September 2017, and the NSW Electoral Commission will be planning to hold elections in September 2017 for those unmerged councils if their mergers haven’t been implemented before the 2017 election.

But for those councils which are amalgamated any later than this month, their election will be postponed until March 2018 or September 2019. The government has even flagged the possibility of elections being postponed until September 2020, when most council elections are due.

Thanks to this announcement and the ongoing legal conflicts, it now appears likely that the newly-created councils will face their first elections gradually over the course of multiple years.

In other council amalgamation news, I had missed the state government’s amalgamation of Rockdale and Botany Bay councils into Bayside council in September. I believe it’s the only council to be amalgamated since the first wave of amalgamations earlier this year.

It’s also quite possibly the most outrageous of all of the new councils.

The two old councils are on either side of Sydney airport, and have very little in the way of community of interest or transport corridors. The absurdity of the boundaries become more obvious when you look at the new ward boundaries. The new Mascot ward stretches across the airport, covering the suburb of Mascot along with the suburbs of Arncliffe, Turella and Wolli Creek.

The Bexley ward also has ridiculous boundaries. The pre-existing boundary between the old Kogarah and Rockdale councils wasn’t the most logical boundary, and it would’ve made sense to erase it by merging Rockdale, Kogarah and Hurstville into a single St George council. But instead that boundary has been kept while inexplicably creating a council which crosses the airport, and it produces a very messed-up ward on that boundary.

In other news, two of the newly-merged councils have already changed their names. Western Plains has reverted to be Dubbo, and the merged Gundagai council has been renamed Cootamundra-Gundagai.

The relevant maps on the maps page have been updated to include the new Bayside wards and these updated council names.

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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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Federal electorate map of NSW finalised

The AEC has released the final maps for the NSW federal redistribution today, after the decisions were first announced in January.

I had made a Google Earth map of my best estimates of the electoral boundaries in January, and these are largely accurate.

The only spots where I was incorrect were:

  • Hume/Eden-Monaro border
  • Grayndler/Reid
  • Hume/Werriwa
  • Fowler/McMahon

You can download the final map here.

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NSW and WA redistributions – updated maps

We are now nearing the end of the federal redistribution process which precedes the next federal election.

We had redistributions in New South Wales, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

The AEC has a curious process where they announce the final boundaries but do not provide the maps and data which allow people to see the precise boundaries. This extra information is usually provided about a month later.

In the ACT, the final boundaries were identical to the draft boundaries, so no further maps are necessary (although the final data is expected next week). In Western Australia, the final maps were released yesterday, and I’ll post them further down in this post.

In New South Wales, the final boundaries were announced last Friday, without any maps. In most places it’s reasonably clear what boundaries they were using (although a few were confusing). I’ve done my best to put together a new map – I think it’s likely to be accurate but there may be a few errors (in particular the Hume/Whitlam boundary and the Parkes/New England boundary) and I will update it when the official data is released in late February.

Download the NSW final-ish electoral map.

Download the WA final electoral map.

Download the ACT final electoral map.

Below the fold you can see interactive maps for NSW and WA, although I haven’t added any other data to the maps, just the boundaries.

Read the rest of this entry »

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NSW council amalgamations – proposals released

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 5.09.31 pmThe NSW government has released its plans for council amalgamations following a lengthy of period of reviews and submissions by local councils.

The government is proposing cutting the number of councils in the Sydney region from 43 to 25, as well as merging other councils in rural NSW.

In this post I’m going to focus on the changes to the region stretching from Port Stephens to Shoalhaven, covering the vast bulk of New South Wales, including about 6 million residents.

This region includes 53 councils, and the NSW government proposes reducing this to 32 councils, with only 14 councils unaffected.

I’ve done some analysis of the political make-up of each new local government area, examining allegations of gerrymandering, and posting some maps showing the stats for each proposed new council.

You can download the Google Earth map of the proposed boundaries here. (link broken)

You can also download the dataset I used here.

My map does not cover rural areas – it only stretches from Port Stephens to Shoalhaven.

Read the rest of this entry »

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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.