ACT redistribution – 17 to 25


While I was away in the US, the ACT Legislative Assembly officially voted to increase the number of seats in the Assembly from 17 to 25.

The Assembly is currently elected from three electorates: one electing seven MLAs, and the other two electing five MLAs each.

The new Assembly will be elected from five equal-sized electorates, each electing five MLAs.

This will require the three existing electorates to effectively be redrawn out of existence, with the two five-member electorates shrinking to cover a smaller area, and the middle electorate of Molonglo being broken apart.

In March, I analysed the possible electoral boundaries that could be drawn with the ACT’s current population, and you can read that here.

Not a great amount has changed since then.

The ACT’s population is contained within seven ‘districts’:

  • Belconnen
  • Gungahlin
  • North Canberra (the ‘inner north’)
  • South Canberra (the ‘inner south’)
  • Tuggeranong
  • Weston Creek
  • Woden Valley

The ACT is currently developing an eighth district named ‘Molonglo’ but it does not yet contain a substantial population.

Using the population estimates for each suburb from the last redistribution in 2008, you can get a good sense of the options. Bear in mind that each electorate will need to have approximately 20% of the ACT population within it. The current legislation allows electorates to diverge from the average by up to 10% at the time of the redistribution, and by up to 5% of the estimated population at the time of the next election.

DistrictEnrolment as of Jan 2011Projected enrolment as of Oct 2012
North Canberra13.0013.11
South Canberra7.557.58
Weston Creek6.966.52
Woden Valley9.749.62

Belconnen is well over 20% of the population, so there will be an electorate based mostly if not entirely within Belconnen. The combined population of Belconnen and Gungahlin is close to, but not quite, 40% of ACT enrolment. It is possible this population will continue growing, and will allow for two complete electorates in the Gungahlin-Belconnen area, or the Gungahlin-based electorate may need to take in a small part of North Canberra.

North Canberra and South Canberra together make up between 20% and 21% of the total ACT enrolment. There will definitely be an electorate that covers most of this area – if it fits within the quota, and the northern electorates don’t need to extend into the inner north, it would make sense to have a single electorate covering all of the inner north and inner south.

Tuggeranong in the south, like Belconnen, makes up more than 20% of the population, so it seems likely that there will be a Tuggeranong electorate.

The combined Tuggeranong-Weston-Woden area make up just over 40% of the population, so there will almost certainly be an electorate covering the remainder of Tuggeranong, as well as most of Weston Creek and Woden Valley. The precise population figures will determine if it will be possible to contain this entire region into two electorates, or if the inner north-inner south seat will have to spill over into the area.

There will be some room for negotiation and discussion over the detailed boundaries – the population thresholds will allow those making submissions to choose different ways to divide the population, and there will be disagreement about which electorates should be drawn over-population and under-population.

In addition, there will be flexibility in terms of which suburbs of Belconnen and Tuggeranong are contained in the electorates contained entirely within those districts, and which suburbs are combined with the neighbouring districts.

This redistribution is scheduled to commence in October 2014, according to Elections ACT.

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  1. What I would do is combine Gungahlin with the suburb of North Lyneham (which is kind of cut off from the rest of the Inner North), plus the Belconnen suburbs of Kaleen and Giralang (which are also cut off from the rest of Belconnen). That would probably leave it under quota to allow for continued growth in Gungahlin. The rest of Belconnen makes up the other seat.

    Inner North/Inner South contains enough for one seat so that’s straightforward.

    Woden/Weston Creek plus the Tuggeranong suburb of Kambah (a large-ish suburb which is a discrete area) would be my suggestion if the numbers work. You can leave that slightly under quota as well since the Molonglo/Stromlo development will boost those numbers in time. The rest of Tuggeranong gets the other seat.

    This looks the best arrangement from an easy-to-understand point of view.

  2. From a political point of view, the 5×5 arrangement probably favours the Liberal party somewhat. They get two clear “outer suburban” seats (Tuggeranong and Gungahlin) with a weak Green vote, where they could realistically get 3 seats at a good election.

    The Greens would seem to be the big losers, as most of their vote will be bottled up in the “Inner” seat, and it would be hard for them to win more than 1 seat even there.

  3. If (granted, it’s a big If) the senate vote at the last federal election was repeated for the Assembly, the Greens could pick up two seats in a “Inner” seat plus another in Belco. I think they would be fine in Gungahlin but I didn’t check that thoroughly there.

    A bigger problem than the boundaries for the Greens is the ‘Ginninderra’ effect being repeated.

  4. The ACT Senate vote at the last election likely included, as has become usual, a significant fraction of Labor voters who voted tactically for the Greens instead.

    It would be more interesting to apply the last ACT election booth results to the new boundaries.

  5. “Ginninderra effect” = this here, named by Kevin Bonham.

    Basically ALP 1.69 / Grn 0.76 quotas (with three candidates left in the count, after ALP #1 and Lib #1 had been elected) resulted in three Labor MLA’s and no Greens. The Labor vote split fairly evenly between the second and third candidates (instead of 1.00 / 0.69, as it would be under a senate-style system), and the Green ended up behind both of them.

    It’d be a greater risk when Labor don’t have a particular star candidate (like the party leader) and candidates #2 and #3 are about as well known as each other. It’d be just as likely to happen with 7 seats as with 5. Just one of those quirky little things that can happen with Hare-Clark systems.

  6. Last ACT election results should probably be read as high-water mark for the Liberal vote, particularly in the Tuggeranong area with the subsequent departure of the then Opposition leader Zed Selselja to the Senate. He had worked that area hard and there may well be a drop off in the Liberal vote there. The current Opposition will now have to campaign against the background of a Coalition Govt at a Federal level which is not going to win them any votes.

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