New South Wales Archive

6

NSW government pushing for council mergers

Local councils across Sydney are currently going through a process of making submissions to the state government’s ‘Fit For The Future’ program, which is aimed at judging councils on a bunch of criteria, seemingly with the goal of consolidating the number of local councils, producing a smaller number of more populous councils.

In practice, the criteria are largely arbitrary, based on some vague concept of “big is better”, and attitudes of local councils towards amalgamation seem based on base politics, with various councils effectively promoting hostile takeovers of their neighbours in ways that will help their political party solidify its hold.

Through the course of this month, each council in the Sydney region is making a submission to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) about how their council meets the criteria set by the NSW government as to whether they are ‘fit for the future’. This process has involved many councils undertaking consultation, and coming to decisions about their recommendations, which have focused on whether councils support amalgamating with their neighbours.

The criteria cover the capability of the council, along with its efficiency, financial sustainability and management of infrastructure. The other criteria, ‘scale’, seems to be particularly arbitrary – the government has set a presumption that councils should have a substantially larger population than they have now, which necessitates significant amalgamations regardless of how a council performs on the other criteria. No number has been set for this criteria, with various figures suggesting different figures throughout the process.

While the process is requiring councils to produce public submissions, there is no such requirement for the state government to be transparent in their decisions – the IPART decisions will remain secret, and we won’t know whether any decisions by the state government to recommend amalgamations was made based on an IPART recommendation, or despite IPART’s recommendations.

There are undoubtedly some parts of Sydney which could do with local council amalgamations (hello, Burwood and Hunters Hill), but it is very unclear how much Sydney councils would be improved through amalgamations. While there may be some efficiencies, these in part could come from reductions in duplicated services, which may not be appreciated by their residents, and there will be a substantial cost to amalgamate different councils. Different councils provide different levels of service, and it remains unclear whether amalgamated councils would raise all parts of the council area to the highest standard, or lower services to the minimum.

Many councils are already benefiting from efficiencies created by cooperation between councils, sharing procurement and other parts of a council’s work, through the existence of regional organisations.

Looking at the list of councils who have expressed an openness to amalgamation, it has little to do with which councils are in most need of amalgamation, but more to do with politics – larger councils attempting to take over their smaller neighbours, and councils finding ways to design new boundaries that benefit the politically-dominant faction. In some cases, councils which are not considered to be in any need of merger have launched attempts to take over their neighbours.

In most of these cases, these councils are run by Liberals or Liberal-aligned independents.

Warringah Council, which is already well above the average population, has launched a bid to merge with its neighbours in Manly and Pittwater, neither of which support amalgamation.

In the north-west, The Hills, another large conservative council, is seeking to take over Hawkesbury Shire, which has about one third of the population but covers a large swathe of north-western Sydney. Hawkesbury, despite its small population, was not targeted for amalgamation because it covers such a large area. Hornsby Shire has also proposed a merger with Ku-ring-gai, who have refused the overtures.

In the inner west, most councils have opposed amalgamation, but in some cases councils have adopted ‘back-up options’. Leichhardt Council has proposed an amalgamation with Canada Bay and Ashfield councils, which would produce a strange Y-shaped area, but would conveniently weaken the Greens, who topped the poll in Leichhardt in 2012.

Further out in the inner west, Auburn and Burwood councils both agreed to a merger with Canada Bay council, but Canada Bay rejected the proposal. The three-council merger proposal was already strange, as it would leave Strathfield council alone (one of the smallest with a population of 37,000) surrounded by a new council on three sides which would include a population of over 190,000. It’s even more ridiculous without Canada Bay, because Burwood and Auburn do not share a boundary. Auburn intends to still push for the merger despite Canada Bay’s objections.

While Auburn is eager to merge with councils to its east, it has been resistant to joining an enlarged City of Parramatta with Holroyd (which is also anti-amalgamation) and Parramatta, which is generally supportive. One wonders whether this is linked to the political make-up of the councils, and where the centre of gravity would lie in an Auburn-Burwood-Canada Bay council compared to a City of Greater Parramatta.

The most ridiculous case comes in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. The original proposal from the independent panel was to merge the councils of Botany Bay, Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra into the City of Sydney, so that Sydney would cover the entire eastern peninsula. The other four councils all oppose this option, but their tactics to prevent it have varied.

Waverley and Randwick councils, which both have substantial numbers of Labor and Greens councillors but are currently dominated by conservatives, have both supported mergers with Woollahra and Botany Bay councils respectively, and possibly as a merger of all four councils. In Randwick, the Greens have come on board with the Liberal plans to launch a hostile takeover of Botany Bay council, which is dominated by Labor and strongly opposed to a merger.

Woollahra council, which is also dominated by the Liberal Party, also rejects amalgamation – unlike its neighbours to the south, the Liberal Party has a solid hold on Woollahra which is unlikely to change. It seems like those ‘marginal Liberal’ councils may see amalgamation as a way to solidify their hold on the east.

Of course, we have no idea how seriously these local council positions will be taken. Apart from Randwick and Waverley, no two other neighbouring councils support merging with each other. So any mergers will require the overriding of councils, at which point it seems far more rational to draw new boundaries where the government sees the most need, rather than drawing them according to the short-term political interests of sitting councillors.

We also don’t know what other reforms could come along – the independent review panel also recommended direct election of mayors, and possibly other structural reforms. I would personally like to see larger councils (including those large councils that already exist) given a larger number of councils than the current limit of 15 – but the trend seems to be in the other direction, treating councils as ‘boards of directors’ which are easier to manage with less representation.

While local government in New South Wales isn’t perfect, triggering a frenzy of amalgamation pushes across Sydney won’t do much to improve it – so much of the problems local councils have relate to the costs that have been imposed on them by other levels of government, and the ways in which they are restricted in finding funds to cover their work. Consolidating local councils into larger units won’t do much at all to fix that fundamental problem, but that’s a story for another day.

The deadline for local council submissions is next Tuesday, 30 June, so we may well see solid proposals for council amalgamations, likely forced, later this year, in time for council elections in 2016.

5

Why can’t Greater Sydney be run as a democracy?

There was a story yesterday about plans by the NSW government to form a “Greater Sydney Commission”, which would take charge of planning for development across Sydney, and seemingly also have some kind of responsibility for infrastructure and transport.

Apparently the Commission was announced in 2014, although I missed it at the time. It appears to be linked to the government’s ongoing plans for local government reform (which I will cover later this week), with the Commission effectively including both council and state government representatives and would take control of setting housing targets and a variety of other Sydney-wide planning concerns.

The Sun-Herald described the Commission as ‘London-style’, but there’s a critical difference. In London, where there is a city-wide Greater London Authority alongside local borough councils, the Authority is a democratic organisation, run by a directly-elected Mayor and a 25-member Assembly, elected using proportional representation.

Instead, the proposed Commission would appear to have twelve members. The senior public servants covering roads, transport and planning for the NSW government would be represented, alongside three “independent members” (who knows what that means – just NSW government appointments?) as well as six representatives of local councils. It appears that six regional organisation of councils will each have a representative on the Commission.

So this body that would be taking over responsibilities from the democratically-elected state government, and from democratic local governments, would always be at least two steps removed from the will of the voters – voters elect councillors, who elect regional representatives, who elect Commissioners, while state government representatives are public servants appointed by the relevant ministers.

I can see a lot of value in a body that would look at planning issues for the whole of Sydney, in a way that is hard for either the state government or small local governments. But there’s no reason this can’t be democratically run.

There are two places in Australia where a democratically-elected government effectively covers an entire city, but no more – the City of Brisbane, which covers a large part of the Brisbane urban area, and the Australian Capital Territory, in which nearly all of the population lives in Canberra. In both cases we have ‘big city government’ that prioritises the city as a whole, rather than small parts of the city, or a bigger area of which the city is one part.

There’s a tendency amongst those pushing for local government reforms to push for any mechanism which takes the decision a step away from the voters: creating panels of mayors (thus excluding the vast majority of local representatives), or creating apolitical commissions. It’s almost like democracy is a necessary evil, and where possible it should be pushed into the corner.

There are real political issues to be debated across Sydney – which areas should receive the brunt of the new housing needed for current and future population growth, and how much investment should go into public transport or roads. But they should be debated in democratic forums.

I don’t see a good reason why such a body couldn’t be democratically elected. It could be elected at the same time as the next local government elections in September 2016. You could elect it using the same voting system, with a number of large ‘wards’ or electorates covering a number of local government areas.

Sure, such an elected Greater Sydney Assembly would be likely dominated by members of the political parties, but that’s democracy, and such an election would have different dynamics to state and council elections, and would focus attention on the needs of Sydney as a city, in a way that doesn’t happen in NSW state elections.

It appears this Commission will have a lot of power over planning Sydney’s future – and that power should go to a body that represents the people of Sydney. If things work out well, such a body could then go on to take on other responsibilities currently sitting with state or local government.

18

Federal redistribution update

The Australian Electoral Commission is currently undertaking federal redistributions in New South Wales (which is losing one seat), Western Australia (which is gaining one seat) and the ACT (which should see minor changes on the border between the two seats.

Since I last wrote about these redistributions, we have seen two rounds of submissions in New South Wales and Western Australia, with a variety of individuals and groups, including political parties, putting in ‘suggestions’ and then a second opportunity for individuals and groups to make ‘comments on suggestions’.

I’ll only briefly cover the ACT, where the process is at a slightly earlier stage. With only two divisions, and with the southern division of Canberra under quota and the northern division of Fraser over quota, you would expect a few suburbs at the southern edge of northern Canberra to be transferred, but the process is relatively simple. In fact, no political party bothered to put in any suggestions.

In the case of Western Australia, I’ll keep my summary simple, and refer to WA resident William Bowe’s summary at Poll Bludger.

In short, both major parties agree on creating a new division out of parts of Hasluck in south-eastern Perth. Labor recommends calling the division ‘Tonkin’, and the Liberal Party recommends ‘Court’, both using the names of deceased former WA premiers who belonged to those respective parties. The WA Greens  proposes naming the sixteenth division ‘Vallentine’ after former senator Jo Vallentine, who was elected for the Nuclear Disarmament Party, became an independent then helped form the WA Greens. Vallentine would be a strong candidate for a seat name, except for the fact that AEC guidelines recommend that divisions be named after deceased persons, and Vallentine is very much alive. These guidelines can be ignored, so the option is still a possibility.

I wanted to focus most of my writing on New South Wales, the largest state with the most complex electoral boundaries. I’ve waited until after the second round of submissions were released last week. In this post, I’ll run through some interesting points in the map where the parties have disagreed on their approach.

This blog post is quite lengthy, and runs through five key parts of the state, and what each of the parties has proposed. I will return to these three redistributions (along with the state redistribution in Western Australia and the Brisbane City Council ward redistribution) when the draft boundaries are released.

Read the rest of this entry »

9

NSW Nationals want smaller seats – how?

Last month, Nationals MLC Ben Franklin announced that he would seek a parliamentary inquiry into the size of the western NSW electorates of Barwon and Murray, which cover a majority of the New South Wales land mass. Today, according to a tweet from the party’s account, the NSW Nationals passed a motion calling for smaller electorates in regional NSW.

It’s true that these electorates are huge, and are a challenge to represent, but this simply reflects the low populations living in these areas. While there are some variations in electoral boundaries which could make Barwon at the least slightly smaller, any legislative changes would likely require increasing the population contained within seats in Sydney and along the coast, unless the Nationals are considering a proposal to increase the size of the Legislative Assembly.

The proposal also ignores the fact that the Nationals actually benefit from our electoral system. In 2015, the Nationals polled about the same as the Greens, but won 17 seats to the Greens’ 3, due to their vote being concentrated in particular parts of the state.

Franklin ignores all the other conditions that can make it harder to represent an electorate, such as having a large number of residents who don’t speak English, many residents with problems needing support from their local MP, such as public housing issues. It’s a lot easier to measure the landmass a seat covers, but it doesn’t mean it is the only problem faced by MPs in representing their electorate. Yet we don’t discuss weighting electoral power based on any other type of disadvantage – it’s one person, one vote.

There is a long and ugly history in Australia of electoral laws being used to increase the voting power of rural voters at the expense of urban voters – in effect MPs represented land, not just people. In New South Wales at a state level, and in most other jurisdictions, different quotas were set in rural and urban areas, meaning that there were much smaller numbers of voters in a rural seat than in an urban seat. Read the rest of this entry »

7

NSW redistribution – updated figures

Last year, I wrote up an analysis of the prospects for the current redistribution of federal electorates in NSW.

In late April, the final population data, provided to well below the suburb level, was released. In addition to updated population figures as of the end of 2014, the data also includes estimates of the population in each area as of August 2019.

When drawing the electoral boundaries, the 2019 projections are actually more critical. The law requires all seats to fall within 10% of the average as of the current day (the 2014 data), but fall within only 3.5% of the average as of the end of the projection period (2019).

Last year, I explained how the region covering the Hunter, the Central Coast and the North Coast was well under-quota, and I expected that the seat of Hunter would be broken up, effectively seeing western NSW lose half a seat and the Hunter lose half a seat.

However the latest data reveals that the proportion of the NSW population living in this northern part of the state is expected to decline even further. The four seats with the biggest drop in their quota between 2014 and 2019 are the four north coast seats of Cowper, Lyne, Page and Richmond. This doesn’t mean that these seats are shrinking – but they are growing well below the statewide average.

When you add up all of the seats in northern NSW, including New England, the Hunter, the Central Coast and the North Coast, this entire region (which currently has 12 seats) only has enough population in 2019 for 11.09 quotas. This means that, after transferring a small part of either Hunter or New England to a seat further west, this entire area would be under quota by a whole seat’s worth of population, which means a seat somewhere in the area. I expect this seat to most likely be Lyne, which is at risk of being pushed so far south by its neighbours to the north that it loses its main centre of Port Macquarie.

At the other end of the spectrum, the inner-city seats of Wentworth and Sydney will continue to outpace the statewide population growth, and by 2019 between them they will be 0.18 quotas over the target. This fast growth should pull Grayndler to the east. The marginal seat of Reid is also almost 0.07 quotas over the target, and will likely be pulled east by the inner-city growth, substantially changing the make-up of the seat in ways I don’t yet understand.

The deadline for submissions is May 22, and I’d expect to see the draft boundaries from the Electoral Commission some time in July.

There are also currently redistributions pending for federal boundaries in the ACT and Western Australia. While ACT should be relatively simple, in WA they are gaining a 16th seat so there will be substantial change there too, but I haven’t been following it as closely. We’re also undergoing a state electorate redistribution in Western Australia, and we’ve already seen draft boundaries released for the new ACT Legislative Assembly electorates. When the drafts are released I will produce maps for each of these redistributions.

One other thing: What happens if a double dissolution is called before the redistribution is concluded? If a state is undergoing a redistribution but is not changing its number of seats, nothing happens. That’s the case in the ACT, and would have been last time in Victoria and South Australia.

But if a state is increasing its number of seats (as in WA) or reducing its number of seats (as in NSW), a ‘mini-redistribution’ is conducted, which will ensure each state has the right number of seats, but will also result in disproportionate seat sizes.

In New South Wales, the two contiguous seats with the lowest enrolment, which I believe are Shortland and Newcastle in the Hunter region, would be merged. Correction: Shane Easson in comments points out that the two smallest seats are actually Farrer and Riverina, which are both Nationals seats.

In Western Australia, the two contiguous seats with the highest enrolment, which I believe are Canning and Pearce on the fringe of Perth, will be split into three seats.

Since Newcastle and Shortland are both safe Labor seats and Canning and Pearce are both safe Liberal seats, this would have a net +2 effect for the Coalition without a vote being cast.

9

A new seat of Whitlam?

With the recent death of former Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, discussion has already started about the possibility of creating a federal electorate bearing his name. With a federal redistribution due for New South Wales in 2015, there appears to be a real possibility that an electorate bearing the name ‘Whitlam’ could be contested for the first time at the 2016 federal election.

Most Westminster parliamentary systems use geographic descriptors to name their electorates. Australian state electorates in most cases take the name of a key suburb in their electorate, and names tend to change often as suburbs shift between seats. New Zealand electorates follow a similar model. Constituencies in the United Kingdom and Canada also use geographic names, but often pair two or more geographic names together if a seat has more than one major centre (eg. Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission in Canada, or Houghton and Sunderland South in the UK).

Australian federal electorates have followed a different naming convention, often using names that are not tied to a particular geographic area and can maintain their ‘identity’ even while some of the suburbs within the seat may change. A majority of federal electorates are named after prominent Australians. There are a number of electorates that still carry the names of geographic areas, but most of these are holdovers from an earlier era, and in most cases are named after major centres (eg. Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle, Fremantle).

The Australian Electoral Commission issues guidelines for naming divisions, which indicates a preference for naming new divisions after prominent deceased Australians, and in particular suggests naming seats after Prime Ministers. It also looks to protect seats with indigenous names, or with names that date to the first federal Parliament in 1901, and discourages the use of geographic names or duplicating the name of a state electorate.

There is a federal division carrying the surname of every Prime Minister to serve before Gough Whitlam (it’s unclear to me whether the seat of Cook in southern Sydney is solely named for Captain James Cook, or also for former Liberal prime minister Joseph Cook, but there is a seat with the name).

There has been wide variation in how quickly the AEC has acted to create a seat named after a Prime Minister following their death.

  • John Gorton – died 2002, seat of Burke renamed Gorton for 2004 election. Gorton is in the outer western suburbs of Melbourne, whereas John Gorton represented Higgins in the eastern suburbs.
  • William McMahon – died 1988, seat of Prospect renamed McMahon for 2010 election. McMahon is in the western suburbs of Sydney, whereas William McMahon represented Lowe in the inner west. At the 2009 redistribution, the seat of Lowe was renamed Reid, with the seat of Reid effectively abolished.
  • Frank Forde – died 1983, new seat of Forde created in 1984 when Queensland was given five additional electorates. Forde covers the southern fringe of Brisbane around the Logan area, whereas Frank Forde represented Capricornia in central Queensland.
  • John McEwen – died 1980, new seat of McEwen created in 1984 when Victoria was given five additional electorates. McEwen covers rural areas to the north of Melbourne, while John McEwen represented Murray and Indi, both in northern Victoria.
  • Robert Menzies – died 1978, new seat of Menzies created in 1984. Menzies covers parts of Eastern Melbourne, and is adjacent to Robert Menzies’ former seat of Kooyong.
  • Arthur Fadden – died 1973, new seat of Fadden created in 1977. Fadden was first drawn to cover southern Brisbane, but now covers northern parts of the Gold Coast. Arthur Fadden first represented the Darling Downs in southern rural Queensland, and then McPherson, which at the time covered the southern Gold Coast and large areas further west but has since contracted into the Gold Coast.
  • Harold Holt – presumed dead 1967, new seat of Holt created in 1969. Holt is on the south-eastern fringe of Melbourne, whereas Harold Holt represented Higgins in the inner east of Melbourne.

Looking at the five most recent examples, we see some broad trends. Firstly, most Prime Ministers tend to get seats named after them not long after they died – it was less than five years in five out of seven cases. In the case of Robert Menzies, the seat was created six years after his death. Billy McMahon’s case is the only exception – a seat was not created for 21 years after his death.

In the case of the three Prime Ministers who died in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was relatively easy for the Electoral Commission to name seats after them in the 1984 redistribution, which was triggered by the addition of over twenty new seats to the House of Representatives. A large number of prominent Australians were honoured with electorate names, including three Prime Ministers (the longest-serving PM, and two of the shortest-serving PMs).

In the two most recent cases, seats were renamed, rather than a new seat being created. This is likely to be the same in the case of Whitlam.

There is also a trend in terms of what areas are graced with the name of a former Prime Minister. In all cases, the former Prime Minister’s seat lies in the state they represented in the Parliament, but often does not cover the same area. The seats of Menzies, McEwen and Fadden cover roughly similar areas. McMahon is a little bit further away, while Holt, Forde and Gorton cover wildly different areas. You can also see this with earlier Prime Ministers – Edmund Barton represented the Hunter region, but his seat lies in southern Sydney. Billy Hughes represented central Sydney, northern Sydney and briefly Bendigo, but his seat covers parts of south-western Sydney and the Sutherland Shire.

The AEC has also never paid any consideration to giving Prime Ministers’ names to seats that their party now represents – many seats named after Prime Ministers are very safe seats for the opposing party.

So what are the options for a seat named ‘Whitlam’? I think it’s safe to assume that the seat will lie in New South Wales, where Whitlam lived much of his life and where he served as an MP. Conveniently, New South Wales is due for a redistribution next year, due to the NSW population not keeping up with the rest of the country, which will necessitate a reduction of NSW seats in the Parliament from 48 to 47. Unfortunately there is no prospect of New South Wales gaining additional seats in the near future, so a new seat of Whitlam will have to be a new name for an existing seat.

WSseats-WhitlamI also think the best option for a seat of Whitlam lies in Western Sydney, which he represented in Parliament and is particularly seen as connected to the Whitlam legacy. There are a large number of seats in Western Sydney, many of which have good reasons why the AEC would not want to replace the existing name with ‘Whitlam’:

  • Werriwa – the seat Gough Whitlam represented from 1952 to 1978. The seat has an indigenous name, and is an original Federation electorate, which may see it saved. On the other hand, ‘Werriwa’ is a reference to Lake George in southern NSW, which was contained in the electorate in 1901. It bears little relevance to the south-western Sydney area that the seat now covers, and Whitlam may make more sense as a seat name.
  • Fowler – immediately north of Werriwa, covering much of the areas that lay in Werriwa when Whitlam sat in Parliament. The seat is named after Lilian Fowler, who was the first female Mayor in Australia when she served as Mayor of Newtown, and then went on to sit as a Lang Labor MP in the NSW state Parliament in the late 1940s. There are very few seats named after women, but she is much less prominent a figure than Gough Whitlam.
  • Hughes – also substantially overlaps with the area Gough Whitlam represented, but is already named after a Prime Minister.
  • McMahon – partially overlaps withthe area Gough Whitlam represented, but is already named after a Prime Minister.
  • Blaxland – Whitlam did not represent this area, but was still a significant beneficiary of the Whitlam legacy. The current name can be confusing, considering the name of the town of Blaxland in the Blue Mountains – quite a long way away from the electorate. It is also worth bearing in mind that this seat could eventually be an appropriate seat to be renamed after Paul Keating when that time comes.
  • Parramatta – An original electorate, but as a geographic name that is also used for the City Council and state electorate (both of which have different boundaries) it can be quite confusing. Previous electoral redistributions have also brought Parramatta close to shifting out of the Parramatta CBD, so a more flexible name may make life easier for the boundary commissioners.
  • Chifley – named after a Prime Minister, and not an area that Whitlam represented.
  • Greenway – named after colonial architect Francis Greenway.
  • Lindsay – named after Australian artist Norman Lindsay.

There are clearly a number of options, none of them perfect, and I expect we will see a variety of submissions by political parties and others during the redistribution process.

To my mind, I think the most likely seats to be renamed are Parramatta or Werriwa. They are the only seats in the region not to be named after a prominent Australian, and while they are both Federation names, their geographic descriptions are either constraining (in the case of Parramatta) or irrelevant (in the case of Werriwa).

I also think there is an outside chance that the commissioners could rename Fowler, Lindsay or Greenway, as those seats are not already named after Prime Ministers.

What do you think?

3

Charlestown and Newcastle results wrap

Newcastleresults1-ALPYesterday’s twin by-elections in the Hunter region of New South Wales saw Labor regain two seats it had lost at the 2011 election – seats traditionally considered to be heartland Labor territory.

The results were never in significant doubt, but the results in the two seats are quite interesting.

In Newcastle, Labor is expected to win, but currently sits on less than 37%. Most of the remaining vote is split between an independent Liberal and a Greens candidate, and preferences are not expected to flow. On election night, a preference count was conducted between Labor and the Greens, but independent candidate Karen Howard came second, so a new count will need to be undertaken to confirm Labor’s victory.

In Charlestown, immediately south of Newcastle, the Labor result was much clearer. Labor won 49.7% of the primary vote, with the Greens second on 14.1%. After the distribution of preferences, Labor has won 70.4% of the two-candidate-preferred vote, an easy win.

Charlestown was an easy win, but it’s hard to compare that result to a general election due to the absence of a candidate to pick up the Liberal mantle. In Newcastle, Karen Howard appears to have won most of the Liberal vote from 2011, so it is possible to run a comparison. In Newcastle, the Labor vote increased by 6.3%, and the Greens vote increased by 5%. Karen Howard polled 10.4% less than the Liberal Party. If you assume Howard is a stand-in for the Liberal Party, the by-election points to Labor improving its position since the last state election, but not by enough to win the next state election. It should be noted, however, that by-elections are not good measures of statewide performance – last year’s Miranda by-election produced a much more emphatic swing to Labor. Polls suggest that Newcastle was more in line with statewide performance, but a by-election is not the best way to measure that performance.

In this post, I will break up the votes in each electorate into sub-areas, and post a series of maps illustrating the result, all over the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

0

Charlestown and Newcastle – live results

Charlestown – Primary vote results

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Luke Arms Independent 4,696 12.25 +12.25
Marc Sky Independent 1,024 2.67 +2.67
Jane Oakley Greens 5,404 14.09 +5.66
Suellen Wrightson Palmer United 2,433 6.35 +6.35
Jodie Harrison Labor 19,045 49.67 +20.76
Luke Cubis Independent 1,333 3.48 +3.48
Arjay Martin Independent 599 1.56 +1.04
Brian Tucker Christian Democratic 1,753 4.57 +2.39
Veronica Hope Independent 2,056 5.36 +5.36

Charlestown – Two-candidate-preferred vote results

Candidate Party Votes %
Jane Oakley Greens 6,887 29.58
Jodie Harrison Labor 16,395 70.42
Total votes in final count 23,282
Exhausted 7,212 30.98

Newcastle – Primary vote results

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Steve O’Brien Socialist Alliance 1,054 2.61 +1.02
Tim Crakanthorp Labor 14,895 36.95 +6.33
Michael Osborne Greens 8,005 19.86 +5
Jacqueline Haines Independent 2,917 7.24 +7.24
Jennifer Stefanac Palmer United 1,295 3.21 +3.21
Karen Howard Independent 10,610 26.32 -10.36
Milton Caine Christian Democratic 805 2.00 +0.87
Brian Buckley Clare Independent 731 1.81 +1.81

11:09pm – Just an update – due to the time, I’m going to post a summary of the results tomorrow morning.

10:25pm – The NSWEC is releasing two-candidate-preferred votes between Labor and the Greens in Newcastle, but this will not be the final result as the Greens came third. It is slightly interesting to see (the Greens won a single booth at Newcastle East PS), but it doesn’t reflect the overall result – it seems unlikely we will see a 2CP count between Crakanthorp and Howard tonight. I’m going to finish this blog now, and come back in a little while with maps and overall summaries.

10:22pm – We have now also gained prepoll, postal and iVote ballots for Charlestown, confirming a solid Labor win with a swing of over 20%. Small batches of other votes will continue to be added but most of the vote has been counted, and I have turned off my projections to simply reflect the raw results at this point.

10:18pm – The addition of prepoll, postal and iVote ballots in Newcastle has slightly lowered the projections for Labor and the Greens and increased the projected vote for Karen Howard, but Labor’s Tim Crakanthorp will still win.

9:42pm – And we now also have all primary votes for election-day booths in Newcastle. The ALP is on 37%, Karen Howard is on 26%, and the Greens are on 20%.

9:35pm – We now have all votes from ordinary election-day booths in Charlestown. I’m guessing we will see some special votes counted tonight, but the result is pretty clear now. The ALP has fallen below 50%, but will still win easily. The Greens have come second, with a primary vote just under 15%. After preferences, the ALP wins 70.4% of the two-candidate-preferred. Labor won the 2CP vote in every booth, with the Greens cracking 40% of the vote after preferences in two booths.

9:19pm – Not much to report, beyond adding extra booths. Labor is winning in both seats.

8:23pm – Two more small booths reported in Newcastle – no significant change.

8:16pm – I can’t see how Labor doesn’t win Newcastle. They are now leading on primary votes, but the booths that have been reported so far are less favourable to Labor, so they should increase their lead. Whether the second spot goes to Karen Howard or the Greens’ Michael Osborne, Labor shouldn’t be seriously challenged on preferences.

8:04pm – Results are coming in very fast now, and I’ve just updated my Charlestown numbers. Labor still above 50% on primary votes, with almost half of the booths reporting. Labor on over 77% of the two-candidate-preferred vote off two booths. We have no comparison for a Labor-Greens 2CP in Charlestown so I don’t have any swing or projection.

7:51pm – We now have eight booths reporting from Newcastle, and the story is not as clear as in Charlestown. Labor is just under 33%, with Howard on 30% and the Greens on 21%. I expect Labor’s vote to increase to about 38% and Howard’s to fall to 25%, so Labor should easily win with Greens preferences. It’s not entirely out of the question that the Greens could come in the top two, so don’t expect two-candidate-preferred votes for a little while, but Labor should win.

7:48pm – We’ve just had a surge of polling places reporting in Charlestown (seven so far) and Labor is now over 52% of the primary vote. I project this to drop to about 51.6% but still it’s an easy win for Labor in Charlestown.

7:38pm – I’ve added a results table for Charlestown at the bottom of the post, but bear in mind that the projections are completely disconnected from reality until we get booth results for somewhere that was used in 2011. Newcastle will be available shortly.

7:26pm – Still no more substantial results from Charlestown.

7:23pm – We now have a second booth for Newcastle, which is Merewether Heights, and again Karen Howard has topped the poll, with 41.5% of the vote. If you compare her vote to the 2011 Liberal vote, this is a swing of 16.3% against her, but very impressive for an independent. Labor is second on 22.9% (+6.9%) and the Greens third on 17.3% (+6.8%).

7:09pm – First booth for Newcastle is also New Lambton South, and the primary vote was won by conservative independent Karen Howard, with 37.7%. Labor is second on 32.9% and the Greens third on 16.2%. In comparison, the Liberal Party won 47% of the primary vote there in 2011, compared to 21.6% for the ALP and 14.6% for the Greens.

6:54pm – Another small booth in Charlestown at the northern end not used last time – New Lambton South PS. Labor on 35.9%, Greens 25.1%

6:34pm – Hamilton South was not used in Charlestown in 2011, so no swing available.

6:30pm – First booth in Charlestown is very small – Hamilton South Public, at the northern end of the seat. Labor on 44.3%, Greens second on 18% followed by independent Hope third on 11.5%. Still working on my spreadsheet so will come back with more data shortly. Only 67 votes cast at that booth.

6:00pm – Welcome to live coverage of the results of the NSW state by-elections in Charlestown and Newcastle. We should start to get results shortly before 7pm.

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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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11

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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