Could there be a Victorian redistribution in 2010?

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There’s been an assumption that the next federal redistribution for Victoria will be delayed until after the 2010 federal election. Victoria last had a redistribution in 2002, and every seven years a state must have a redistribution. However, redistributions cannot begin in the last year of a House of Representatives term.

I was examining the relevant dates for a possible Victorian redistribution tonight, and it appears that there will likely be a redistribution, although it probably won’t take effect for the 2010 election.

No redistribution can commence in the last year before the expiry of the House of Representative, which will take place on February 11 2011. So a new redistribution would need to commence by February 11 2010. Otherwise the redistribution would be postponed until after the federal election and would take effect at the next federal election in 2012 or 2013.

The last Victorian redistribution concluded in December 2002. So seven years later would be December 2009. Thus a redistribution could commence in December 2009 or January 2010.

However, while this would mean a redistribution would take place next year, it would be extremely unlikely that the changes would be implemented in time for the federal election. The Queensland and New South Wales redistributions are currently scheduled to take a full ten months from the beginning of the process to the conclusion. Earlier redistributions took a full twelve-month period to redraw boundaries. Even if you were able to compress a Victorian redistribution down to ten months, it would not conclude before November 2010. The process would need to conclude before an election would be called, which would mean the election would need to be held in December 2010 or in 2011. This isn’t going to happen.

You would also think that no political party, including the ALP, would want to be put in a position where a redistribution would only conclude weeks before an election is called, so you would assume Rudd would call the election at a time which would avoid using redistributed electoral boundaries in Victoria.

So what do you think? Is my logic right?

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20 COMMENTS

  1. It makes you wonder why they didn’t just do the redistribution a little early, at the same time as the NSW and QLD process.

  2. I expect the election to be sometime between August and early-mid October 2010, because I would think they’d want to avoid the complication of a federal campaign clashing with the Victorian election in November, then you wouldn’t think they’d want a campaign during December-January, and after that it would clash with the NSW election. Also, it’s widely believed that having an election campaign during the ‘feel-good’ season of footy finals (ie September) is advantageous to whoever is ahead in the polls (in this case the government), as it means people are likely to be paying less attention to the campaign, and thus the side that’s trailing gets less of an opportunity to get their message across, hence why Howard went for a later poll date in 2007.

    And if there’s the added complication of new boundaries potentially being imposed just weeks before the election, yep, another reason to go earlier you’d think. Imagine trying to plan campaigns for Reps seats only to find the boundaries changing at the last minute – I’d be downright ropeable. (Or writing seat previews, only to find the seats changing)

    Your logic seems good to me, but it sounds like it’s still a strong possibility that the redistribution could occur. Makes a DD early in the year sound even better.

  3. Starting when? Have got updated info about that? I should’ve said ‘could occur in time for the next election’, if you thought I meant that there might not be one at all.

  4. The Victorian redistribution was determined on 29 Jan 2003 when the boundaries were gazetted (http://aec.gov.au/About_AEC/Publications/Newsfiles/2003/No_109.htm). The Act requires a redistribution to commence “if a period of 7 years after the day on which the State was last distributed… within 30 days after the expiration of the period of 7 years; and not otherwise.” (s59(2)) (KME, this is why they couldn’t start ‘a little early’)

    It seems to me that the AEC is allowed to choose to start the redistribution at any time between 29 Jan 2010 and 28 Feb 2010 and that they could choose a date after 11 Feb, which means they are not allowed to start until after the new Parliament sits.

    d

  5. kme – Wonder no more. The dates are set down in legislation: a new redistribution commences seven years after the finalisation of the last one. The AEC has no power to bring it forward.

    The NSW and Qld redistributions were triggered by a change of entitlements. The determination of entitlements occurs 12 months after the first sitting of parliament. I think the legislation should be altered so that all redistributions commence at this time.

    In the meantime, I think parliament should enact legislation to postpone the Victorian redistribution.

  6. The AEC has said that they are planning to begin a Victorian redistribution in 2010. I can’t provide the sources for that at the moment, but that’s the case.

  7. OK. Well in that case I have a question for your source.

    When the election comes, does the redistribution get shelved or merely postponed until after the election? i.e. Do they pick up where they left off or start from scratch with a whole new set of figures?

  8. I’m pretty sure it is just postponed. Which would be pretty dumb, since they would be drawing electoral boundaries for 2012/13 based on 2010 figures when they could easily use 2011 figures.

  9. I don’t think they can postpone or cancel a redistribution once it’s started. There’s statutory deadlines for most steps in the process and a couple of ‘as soon as practicable’ points but no explicit provision for canceling or postponing.

    d

  10. I’m pretty sure, Darryl, that any ongoing redistributions must be postponed during a federal election, so it’s not a question of the AEC deciding to postpone.

  11. Sorry I wasn’t clearer, you seem to have my point backwards. So far as I can tell, there’s no provision in the Commonwealth Electoral Act for postponing a redistribution.

    d

  12. Yep, I’ve been reading the Electoral Act as well and can’t find anything about what happens to a redistribution process if an election intervenes (except where the entitlement of seats for a state has changed), so presumably the process continues. Of course, if it isn’t finalised before the issue of the writs for the election, then the existing boundaries are still going to be in effect, and that’s presumably the issue here, they will start one, but it may not be finished before the election. Does that sound right?

  13. If election intervenes, process collapses into a mini redistribution. Meaning boundaries only change if the state is to gain or lose a seat. Then the Act provides for a rough and ready job: two largest seats mutate into three or two smallest seats combine.

  14. And here’s the answer to the question about what happens if an election intervenes:

    “If the writs for a federal election are issued before the completion of the Victorian redistribution, the election will be contested on the current boundaries. The redistribution process would continue irrespective of the election.”

    Perhaps someone from the AEC has been reading our discussion here and decided they should post some info answering our questions.

    But I guess the next question is, what is the shortest time that the redistribution process can take?

    What I’m thinking the government should do in order to bring more certainty to these processes is to amend the Electoral Act to make it that new boundaries don’t come into effect unless they were determined at least six months before the writs for the election are issued. That would make life easier for everyone as it would ensure no last minute boundary changes that will be both confusing for voters and a nightmare for parties and candidates. At the moment, it sounds as though the writs can be issued the day after the redistribution is determined, and the election would be fought on the new boundaries.

    Perhaps that’s a submission on the green paper.

  15. Hmm, I think they definitely need to change the timing, but I’m not sure your proposal would work. It would mean that a March 2010 election would use the old NSW and Qld boundaries while an August 2010 election would use the new ones, it simply shifts the uncertainty to a different point.

    Rather I suggest it would make sense for them to move all redistributions right up to the beginning of a term. At the moment the determination of how many seats states are allocated is determined one year into the Parliament (in this case early 2009). Instead you could have a determination at the beginning of the term as to seat numbers. In addition, if the seven years for any redistribution is set to come up at any point prior to the expiry of the House of Reps then the redistribution should begin straightaway. This would’ve meant NSW, VIC, QLD, WA, TAS, and NT would’ve all had redistributions in 2008, instead of spreading them out over the term.

  16. I mostly agree with Ben, all necessary redistributions should commence simultaneously, as I argued in post #6.

    But I don’t see why it should be done right at the beginning of a term. I think doing it 12 months in works well. Even the NSW and Qld redistributions commenced relatively late – since 12 months into the term meant roughly 15 months after the last election – and they’re still going to be completed well in time for the next election.

    The NSWEC got the state redistribution underway pretty soon after the 2003 state election, which was a bit early for my taste.

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