Queensland Archive


Increase to Queensland malapportionment on the cards?

I’ve missed a story which has been quietly bubbling along for the last few months which could see a bill introduced by the opposition Liberal National Party passed, increasing the electoral bias in favour of large rural seats in the Queensland parliament. There are stories today suggesting the legislation could be passed as soon as tonight.

Queensland (along with most states) has a history of malapportionment in the 20th century. Malapportionment (often incorrectly termed a ‘gerrymander’) is where some electorates are drawn with a larger population than others, usually putting more voters in each urban seat and less in each rural seat. This has the effect of making the votes cast in more populous seats less valuable. For most of the twentieth century, this imbalance has favoured the conservative parties, with urban Labor voters packed into a smaller number of seats.

Most of these imbalances have been removed from Australia’s electoral system, with the Western Australian Legislative Assembly moving to ‘one-vote-one-value’ last decade, but a few parts remain.

There are a series of large electorates in northern and western Queensland which have a substantially lower enrolment than the rest of the state, thanks to a policy which grants “phantom electors” to large seats in proportion to their landmass.

All seats are required to fit within 10% of the quota, but seats that are larger than 100,000 square kilometres are allowed to count 2% of their square kilometres towards the quota. So for a seat which covers 200,000 square kilometres, they are allowed to have 4,000 less voters than the average. Robbie Katter’s seat of Mount Isa covers over 570,000 square kilometres, and has less than 20,000 voters, while most seats have between 30,000 and 40,000 voters.

I previously discussed the theory behind this approach back in June, when the NSW Nationals were lobbying for smaller seats in western NSW. While it is reasonable to provide greater resourcing for MPs covering large geographic areas, and it is a good argument for adding additional seats to the Parliament, malapportionment has clear party-political impacts which cannot be justified.

While Labor is in government in Queensland, the party does not have a majority. The opposition LNP has proposed a bill which would double the “phantom voter” allowance to 4% of the square kilometres in a seat, and add up to five more seats to the Parliament. The effect of this change would be to add a sixth seat to the area covered by the five large remote seats (Mount Isa, Dalrymple, Cook, Gregory and Warrego), and add four seats in the rest of Queensland, which covers over 95% of the state’s population.

It appears that the bill has the support of the two Katter’s Australian Party MPs, both of whom represent districts which benefit from the current malapportionment. With KAP and LNP supporting the legislation, the vote comes down to Billy Gordon, the member for Cook in Far North Queensland. Gordon was elected as a Labor MP but was expelled from the party earlier this year, and also represents a very large seat.

It’s unclear where Gordon stands on the issue, but there are reports that he is considering supporting the legislation, and it could be voted on as soon as this evening.

I normally try to avoid campaigning on this website but considering this issue I’m willing to make an exception. GetUp has set up a campaign to ask Queenslanders to email Billy Gordon or call his office to ask him to vote against the legislation. If you live in Queensland or care about fair electoral boundaries, give him a call now.


Redistribution updates – ACT and Brisbane

While I’ve been focusing on other projects, two of the ongoing redistributions have been finalised.

I covered the release of draft boundaries for redistributions for the ACT Legislative Assembly and the Brisbane City Council. In both cases, the final boundaries have now been released.

The ACT boundaries were first published as a draft at the end of March 2015, and were finalised in May. No changes were made between the draft boundaries and the final boundaries. You can read my analysis of the boundaries here.

The Brisbane City Council draft boundaries were released in July, with the final boundaries release in late August. There were a series of small changes to wards, while a majority of wards underwent no changes. The newly-renamed ward of Garden City reverted to its former name of Macgregor in the final version. Read my analysis of the draft boundaries here. I haven’t made any changes to my estimates of margins on the draft boundaries, as no polling places were moved on the final version.

You can download the maps from the maps page.

Brisbane ward boundaries are included in the Queensland wards map, which is currently incomplete as a number of other councils are still undergoing changes.

In other redistribution news, we’re expecting the draft boundaries for federal redistributions in NSW and the ACT to be released this month, and then we’ll be looking to see the final versions of the NT Legislative Assembly redistribution, the WA state redistribution and the WA federal redistribution.

I’m currently collecting information on WA ward changes, and in October and November will post updates of Victorian and Queensland wards in time for their 2016 elections.


Chris Davis resigns from Stafford

Stafford1-2PPLast Friday, embattled former LNP minister Chris Davis resigned his seat of Stafford in the Queensland state parliament.

Davis had served as Assistant Minister for Health for the last two years, but had come into conflict with the Premier and senior ministers over a number of issues, and was sacked as a minister two weeks ago after speaking against government policy.

Last Thursday, Davis voted with Labor, KAP and PUP members of Parliament against the Newman government’s laws demolishing restrictions on donations and election spending in Queensland, and followed that up by resigning from Parliament the following day.

Stafford was won by Davis off the ALP in 2012 with a 14% swing, and he was left with a 7.1% margin. Stafford covers parts of the northern suburbs of Brisbane. After the ALP won the Redcliffe by-election this year, Labor’s candidate Anthony Lynham would have to be favoured to win a Stafford by-election.

While there has been speculation about Campbell Newman not calling a by-election, and leaving the seat vacant for the next nine-ten months until the general election, that would be unprecedented, and it seems most likely that Newman will follow convention and call a by-election.

I’ve prepared a guide to the Stafford by-election, which you can click through at the following link.

Read the guide to the Stafford by-election


Redcliffe results wrap

Last night’s by-election was a thumping victory for the ALP’s Yvette D’Ath. The result was largely in line with expectations, with the Liberal National government polling much more poorly than they did at the 2012 election, and due to the circumstances of the by-election.

These are the figures at the end of election night, including all ordinary booths and prepoll votes. Most outstanding votes will be postal votes.

At the time of writing, the ALP’s swing of just over 16% was slightly larger than the swing to the LNP in 2012, putting D’Ath’s result about even with the ALP’s result in the seat in 2009.

The result was decisive, but it was hardly a shock result. The result does not necessarily mean that the LNP can’t win the seat in 2015. While governments often reclaim seats they lose at by-elections, Redcliffe is not a blue-ribbon Liberal seat and was held by the ALP prior to the huge landslide in 2012. Having said that, D’Ath’s margin is still quite small after such a large swing, and she will need to strengthen her personal vote to stop any backslide in 2015.

Primary vote results as of 9:34pm – 13/13 booths reporting

Candidate Party Votes % Swing Projected
Andrew Tyrrell Independent 177 0.74 +0.74 0.74
Sally Vincent Family First 586 2.46 -2.07 2.34
Len Thomas Independent 2,513 10.57 +10.57 10.57
John Marshall Greens 950 3.99 -2.73 3.89
Gabriel Buckley Independent 230 0.97 +0.97 0.97
Yvette D’Ath Labor 10,375 43.63 +12.87 43.98
Talosaga McMahonl Independent 317 1.33 +1.33 1.33
Liz Woollard Independent 279 1.17 +1.17 1.17
Kerri-Anne Dooley Liberal National 8,353 35.13 -14.11 35.15
Total formal votes 23,780

Two-party-preferred results as of 9:34pm – 13/13 booths reporting

Candidate Party Votes % Swing Projected
Yvette D’Ath Labor 11,748 56.19 +16.29 56.39
Kerri-Anne Dooley Liberal National 9,161 43.81 -16.29 43.61
Total in count 20,909

There were thirteen booths used on election day.

The ALP won ten of these booths, and the LNP won three. The two-party-preferred vote for the ALP peaked at just under 65% in Kippa-Ring. The LNP won a slim majority in Kippa-Ring North and Scarborough North, and a solid 62.8% majority in Bally Cara.

The ALP gained double-digit swings at all booths, ranging from 11.3% in Bally Cara and Kippa-Ring North to 22.4% at Kippa-Ring.

The outstanding minor candidate was independent Len Thomas, running in opposition to the Newman government’s anti-bikies laws. Thomas polled over 10% of the vote, with his vote peaking at 13.2% in Frawley.

The Greens came fourth, with their vote dipping below 4%.

The following booth breakdown uses the same booth breakdowns used for the pre-by-election guide.

Voter group IND % ALP 2PP % ALP swing Total votes % of ordinary votes
South 10.15 60.23 +18.29 5,636 32.64
Scarborough 12.15 48.10 +14.61 4,065 23.54
Redcliffe 9.67 59.15 +16.51 3,930 22.76
Kippa-Ring 10.26 57.34 +16.45 3,634 21.05

The ALP won solid majorities of 57-60% in three of the four regions. In Scarborough, the LNP held on with a 52% majority, winning two of the three booths in the area. The ALP won the two largest booths in the Scarborough area, but with slim margins.

You can also view maps below, showing the two-party-preferred vote by booth and the vote for independent candidate Len Thomas.

Two-party-preferred votes at the 2014 Redcliffe by-election.

Two-party-preferred votes at the 2014 Redcliffe by-election.

Primary votes for independent candidate Len Thomas at the 2014 Redcliffe by-election.

Primary votes for independent candidate Len Thomas at the 2014 Redcliffe by-election.


Redcliffe by-election live

Labor wins Redcliffe by-election.

Primary vote results as of 9:34pm – 13/13 booths reporting

Candidate Party Votes % Swing Projected
Andrew Tyrrell Independent 177 0.74 +0.74 0.74
Sally Vincent Family First 586 2.46 -2.07 2.34
Len Thomas Independent 2,513 10.57 +10.57 10.57
John Marshall Greens 950 3.99 -2.73 3.89
Gabriel Buckley Independent 230 0.97 +0.97 0.97
Yvette D’Ath Labor 10,375 43.63 +12.87 43.98
Talosaga McMahonl Independent 317 1.33 +1.33 1.33
Liz Woollard Independent 279 1.17 +1.17 1.17
Kerri-Anne Dooley Liberal National 8,353 35.13 -14.11 35.15
Total formal votes 23,780

Two-party-preferred results as of 9:34pm – 13/13 booths reporting

Candidate Party Votes % Swing Projected
Yvette D’Ath Labor 11,748 56.19 +16.29 56.39
Kerri-Anne Dooley Liberal National 9,161 43.81 -16.29 43.61
Total in count 20,909

8:23pm – The final ordinary booth, Scarborough North has finished reporting. My projection has Labor with a swing of over 16%, although I’m expecting Labor’s vote lead to increase with special votes. This is where I’ll leave the results for tonight. I’ll be back tomorrow with maps and a breakdown of the vote.

8:00pm – We now also have most of the 2PP booths reporting, and it seems conceivable that the ALP swing could reach upwards of 17%.

7:58pm – We now have all of the ordinary votes, while we still wait for special votes. The ALP is on track for a swing of 12.8%, with the LNP suffering a 14.7% swing.

7:40pm – We now have five booths after preferences, plus prepoll, and Labor has a solid lead and a massive swing.

7:37pm – A result of over 62% in Bally Cara has pulled down the figures but the booth is very strong for the LNP and the ALP vote will pick up.

7:33pm – With some prepoll 2PP votes now reporting, my model has Labor on a swing of 14.5%.

7:30pm – We’ve finally got the first booth’s two-party-preferred vote in, at Woody Point South. The ALP polled 59.1% after preferences. I estimate the LNP won about 58% in the booth in 2012.

7:12pm – We still have no results after preferences, but the trend is very strong – with seven booths and some prepoll votes in, the ALP has a +11.5% swing, and the LNP is suffering a swing of over 14.5% against them. Len Thomas, an independent, is third with just under 10%, while the Greens vote has shed a third, dropping to 4%.

6:59pm – Another large swing in Frawley, with Labor up 9.5% and the LNP down 18%. Big vote for independent Len Thomas on 12.8%.

6:58pm – The total turnout in Humpybong was 80.5% of that in 2012.

6:54pm – Humpybong had the highest Labor primary vote in the electorate in 2012, with 33.2%, with many others in the low 30s. The ALP vote is now over 44%.

6:52pm – First booth of Humpybong has reported, with a swing of almost 11% to the ALP and over 11% away from the LNP. If that trend continues, the ALP should narrowly win.

6:49pm – Still waiting for the first results. I’ve decided to produce a projection based on my estimate of the two-party-preferred vote at each booth. My figures were out by no more than 0.1% per booth from Antony Green’s, so I feel comfortable using them to give us a rough projection.

6:28pm – It appears that two-party-preferred votes are being published, so I’ll do my best to include them.

6:00pm – Welcome to the live results from the Redcliffe state by-election. There are 12 regular booths in Redcliffe, and we will be covering the results over the next few hours.

Unfortunately the Electoral Commission of Queensland does not usually produce two-party-preferred votes by polling place, so I will have to produce a projection solely based on primary votes, unless something changes tonight.


Redcliffe nominations close: eight candidates running

Redcliffe3-ALPNominations closed yesterday for the state by-election in the Queensland seat of Redcliffe, scheduled for 22 February.

Eight candidates have nominated. The major party candidates are Yvette D’Ath for the ALP and Kerri-Anne Dooley for the Liberal National Party. D’Ath held the federal seat of Petrie from 2007 until last year’s federal election, when she lost her seat to the LNP. Kerri-Anne Dooley ran for Family First in Redcliffe in 2012, coming fifth with 4.5% of the vote.

Six other candidates are running. Two candidates represent the registered Greens and Family First parties, and four others have nominated as independents. One of these candidates is running for Liberal Democratic Party, who are not registered for Queensland state election.

Read the full guide to the Redcliffe by-election.


Redcliffe by-election guide posted

Redcliffe1-2PPLNP-turned-independent Queensland MP Scott Driscoll resigned from Parliament earlier this week, facing the threat of expulsion from the Parliament.

His seat of Redcliffe will go to the polls in early 2014 – meaning we now have two expected by-elections due in early 2014 in Brisbane – the state Redcliffe by-election and the federal Griffith by-election, triggered last week by the resignation of Kevin Rudd.

Redcliffe was Labor-held until 2012, when Scott Driscoll won the seat with a 10% margin, following a swing of over 15%.

The seat’s territory proved to be very close at the recent federal election, and the seat could swing either way at a by-election early in the new year.

Read more


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.


Queensland LNP takes aim at electoral law

While the rest of the country has been focusing on federal politics, two weeks ago the Queensland Attorney-General, Jarrod Bleijie, announced plans for a number of changes to Queensland’s election laws.

The package includes some innocuous proposals to improve electoral processes, but also a number of items that seem aimed to roll back the clock on election funding reforms and make it harder for some groups of voters to cast a vote.

Queensland’s election funding laws have managed to progress beyond those of the Commonwealth and most other states (arguably apart from New South Wales), with caps on donations and election spending and low thresholds for the disclosure of donations.

The Newman government plans to scrap donation and spending caps, and raise the threshold for disclosing donations to $12,400. This threshold, the same as the federal level, will massively reduce how many donations are required to be disclosed.

While making it easier for large amounts of money to be donated and spent by political parties with reduced requirements for disclosure, the LNP is planning to significantly cut back on the amount of public funding – making parties even more reliant on private donations.

These funding cuts will most severely hit smaller parties. In addition to overall amounts of funding being cut, a candidate will need to poll over 10% to qualify for funding – a massive jump from the current 4% threshold.

Most candidates in the 4-10% range come from parties like the Greens and Katter’s Australian Party, and this will deprive them of substantial sources of funding in a targeted manner.

The LNP has tried to justify this targeted assault on smaller parties on the grounds of stopping “profiteering” – but this has no basis. Queensland has long had rules requiring receipts for election-related expenses be provided for all public funding. If you didn’t spend as much as what you are entitled to, you don’t get a full share. This is very effective at stopping any candidate from making a profit from public funding.

The LNP claimed this was needed to offset the expense of the massive payrises to Queensland MPs (since reversed), ignoring the fact that most of those payrises were to go to government MPs, while public funding cuts would disproportionately hurt the ALP and smaller parties.

Perhaps the most insidious proposal is the government’s plans to introduce voter identification requirements.

Voter ID laws have been a common tactic of US Republicans aiming to reduce turnout amongst groups that often lack identification.

There is little to no evidence that impersonation voter fraud takes place in any organised way – certainly not enough to have ever changed the result in a single electorate, let alone an entire election. The government’s own green paper acknowledged that this was not a problem.

Voter ID laws only make sense if there’s groups of people who you don’t want voting – and it’s worth watching what the LNP plans to do with this idea.


Queensland councils set to de-amalgamate

On Saturday, while most attention was focused on Western Australia, voters in four regional Queensland areas voted to overturn controversial council amalgamations forced through by the Beattie Labor government in 2007.

The amalgamations caused an uproar in large parts of regional Queensland, and the Liberal National Party promised to move towards reversing some of the amalgamations.

The City of Brisbane covers most of the Brisbane urban area, and has done so since the 1930s. Because of this previous merger, the amalgamations focused on regional areas.

The former local government areas of Mareeba, Livingstone, Douglas and Noosa were merged respectively into the super-councils of Tablelands, Rockhampton, Cairns and Sunshine Coast.

All four votes passed. In three of the areas, the plebiscite passed with 56-58% voting ‘yes’. The vote in Noosa was overwhelming, with over 81% voting ‘yes’.

The restored councils will be required to pay for the estimated cost of restoring an extra local council – with the cost estimated by the Queensland Treasury Corporation to be as high as $13.65 million in the case of Noosa.

The state government refused a request from the former Isis Shire Council to break away from Bundaberg Regional Council on the grounds that the restored council would not be able to bear the costs of separation.

It’s unclear how long it will be before new councils are elected in the de-amalgamated areas, and whether the remainder of the super-councils which will be broken up will also have to face new elections. It’s also unclear if any more former councils will be offered the opportunity to de-amalgamate.

These decisions buck what has been an inexorable trend for the last eighty years. Most local councils were created across Australia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and by the 1930s and 1940s, efforts began to be made to reduce the number of councils.

In that time, councils have been amalgamated all over Australia, with very few examples of councils being broken up into smaller units.