NSW redistribution, council amalgamations and SA reform


There’s been a lot of electoral news this morning! I’ll try to run through it all really quickly. I’ll be putting together the new NSW electoral map over the next week and I’ll try to find some time to cover the other issues.

NSW redistribution

The Australian Electoral Commission has released the draft map of the new New South Wales federal electoral boundaries.

The federal seats of Hunter and Charlton in the Hunter region have effectively been merged. The seat takes in more voters from Charlton, but has maintained the federation seat name of Hunter.

The seat of Throsby (covering the Southern Highlands and southern Illawarra) has been renamed Whitlam after the former prime minister. The seat of Parkes has taken in Broken Hill, while Farrer and Riverina have consolidated into southern NSW.

In inner Sydney, Grayndler has shifted north, losing Labor areas in southern Marrickville and Ashfield and gaining Balmain, Annandale and Drummoyne. The seat of Barton (currently held by the Liberal Party on a slim margin) has shifted into that gap, and presumably will become a notional Labor seat. The seat of Cook, which covers Cronulla, has jumped the Georges River to take in parts of the St George region.

I’ll be working on my map of the boundaries, which is likely to take most of the next week.

We would normally expect Antony Green to calculate the seat margins for the redistribution, but he’s currently in Canada for Monday’s Canadian federal election. I’m not currently equipped to do the calculations for such a large state but will look into it if we haven’t heard from Antony by the end of next week.

NSW local government amalgamations

We’re still waiting to hear from the NSW government about it’s plans for council amalgamations across Sydney but we’ve gotten a seemingly well-placed report in today’s Daily Telegraph with some details about the proposal, although they are in part contradictory.

In one part, it suggests that Sydney’s councils will be cut from the current 42 to about 20, and that about one third of the state’s 152 councils will be cut. But in the article and on the map there are seven council mergers proposed, which would cut the number of councils by eight – a long way short of cutting 22 councils from Sydney.

It also talks about “as many as 30 rural and regional councils” being abolished, but also suggests a reluctance to touch rural councils – 30 rural councils being abolished is a lot.

The mergers proposed are:

  • Manly and Warringah
  • Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield
  • North Sydney and Mosman
  • Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai
  • Bankstown and Canterbury
  • Randwick and Waverley
  • Auburn, Holroyd and southern parts of Parramatta (Granville mostly)

There’s an interesting mix here. Some very small councils such as Mosman, Burwood and Strathfield are on the chopping block, but other small councils such as Hunters Hill and Woollahra appear to be saved. Large councils like Warringah, Randwick, Bankstown and Hornsby are also set to merge, sometimes with reasonably large neighbours.

Considering these discrepancies, it appears these might only be some of the mergers planned.

The report also suggests a delay in council elections until March 2017, although it’s unclear if this would only be for affected councils, or the whole state.

Watch this space.

South Australian electoral reform

The South Australian government has announced plans for a raft of electoral changes, including introducing the possibility of double dissolution elections to resolve deadlocks.

Interestingly, it also involves the abolition of preference voting for the Legislative Council, moving instead to a party list system using the Saint-Lague counting method. This is very similar to how most proportional systems work in Europe.

There won’t be any preferences, with only primary votes used to distribute seats, according to a method which involves dividing the number of votes by a party by the number of seats they have won.

It’s quite a good system to use for list elections, as it is much much simpler than the way we elect our proportional houses in Australia, but it is problematic if it’s used in elections where not that many candidates are to be elected. It would work much better in SA if they also moved to four-year terms for the upper house, and thus elected 22 candidates instead of 11, but I can’t work out if that’s part of the package.

The reforms will be put to a referendum in 2018.

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  1. Auburn, Holroyd and southern parts of Parramatta (Granville mostly)


    I thought the idea was to create a super council centred on Parramatta, to give it the resources it needs to make Parramatta western Sydney’s CBD.

    So why instead would the City of Parramatta be made smaller and a large council created to its immediate south?

  2. Delaying the next LG elections to March 2017 is probably not a bad idea. The prospect of people trying to campaign for local council elections around the same time as a federal election seems rather daunting. If they then kept that same time-frame going forward we’d have elections in NSW every second March, which sounds nice and neat

  3. Sorry Ben, I’m not back to the 26th of October. Haven’t brought any NSW redistribution material with me to Canada. Lots to do when I return so I expect the redistribution will be a November job for me.

  4. lots of minor changes….. less than 2%
    major changes Eden Monaro, Gilmore, Macarthur, Patterson, Barton.
    Eden Monaro….. Gilmore Boundary looks strange, Hume takes in Camden etc as well as the normal areas like Goulburn, The Barton boundaries are strange in that Cook crosses the Georges River to collect river front areas If Barton / Cook boundary changed then Banks will also change. Cf East Hills state electorate to Banks seems funny more to come

  5. Padstow…. Revesby & Condell Park in Blaxland
    remaining “East Hills” suburbs are in Banks this is strange

  6. It seems to me that what the Committee has done is make a conscious decision to tidy up some of the “messes” in NSW. E.g. Broken Hill in Farrer, having a Division straddle Sydney and Wollongong, etc.

    The logic is fine, it just leads to some strange outcomes. It makes sense for Broken Hill to be with the remainder of the north-west in Parkes, but it means that Parkes becomes an enormous Division. Fixing Hughes’ southern boundary at Waterfall makes a clear divide between Sydney and the Illawarra, but forces Cook across the river.

    I am already coming up with a way to tidy up the inner west a bit. Basically, rotating all of Reid, Blaxland, Banks, Barton and Grayndler slightly clockwise. Hopefully that will address some of the “strange” boundaries in that area, at least.

  7. Media are reporting rather simplistically at the moment. I think there are a couple of fascinating changes if you look at long term demographic changes.

    Sydney seats like Hughes, Fowler, MacArthur and Parramatta are very interesting, but the focus is on Barton and McMahon.

    I also think the reporting hasn’t really considered the Nationals seats. Have a look at Page for instance.

  8. Page was always going to become stronger for the Nats with any of the plausible options for redrawing it. By shifting the northern half ot the Lismore LGA into Page they’ve probably made it better for Labor than it might otherwise have been, and made Richmond better for the Nats. Curiously they’ve given Page an enrolment significantly over quota and left Richmond smaller, but has meant only one LGA is split between the two seats.

  9. Mark Mulcair
    Your perseverance,& commitment is admirable. Your devotion is so meritorious i can only marvel !!
    From what has been proposed, i wonder why the AEC even bother with submissions !!!. They seem to have done what they always intended (to do). Worryingly, they seem determined not to acknowledge, let alone correct their stuff ups from previous redistributions.
    Here are my (“highlights sic”) of the decisions they avoided in 2008 , & are determined to exacerbate now.
    1/ Linking the southern highlands with Woolongong. The Illawarra Hwy is a goat track!!. It is in no way a “communication link”!!!!. Community of interest ?? Ridiculous.
    2/ Everyone agreed that having Coffs Harbour, & Port Macquarie in 1 electorate was the WORST possible outcome. What have the AEC DONE !!???. Thats right. Idiots!!! Indescribable , total FOOLS!!!!!.
    3/ It was obvious in 2008 that Page would eventually have to move NW over the Great Divide, to avoid this outcome. It is now inevitable, & the implacable,obdurate blindness of the AEC is insane.
    4/ Consequentially it is also inevitable that New England will have to move south into Muswellbrook, & Singleton LGAs.
    5/ Reid. On the positive side, There appears to have been a revelation that dividing Burwood, & Strathfield LGAs was the idiotic action, that it has been proven to be. Hallelujah !!! There has been a correction, of this unbelievably dopey move!!!. There was universal agreement that Auburn LGA be removed, in part, or whole.But no. The AEC would rather keep it in Reid, & remove a part of Canada Bay LGA (Drummoyne !!) a move that no one even CONTEMPLATED let alone suggested !!!. Can anyone seriously suggest how Drummoyne fits better in Grayndler better than hundreds of other alternatives. Not to mention the other salient issue involved in ALL the fast growing urban seats.

    6/ The AEC have AGAIN obviously COMPLETELY , TOTALLY, & INEXCUSABLY under estimated the population growth(in said fast growing electorates). This will rapidly result in huge distortions. Especially if they move their generous, ample, & lazy arses, to enrol more of the 340,000 “missing voters’ (just in NSW!!!).
    7/ It was universally suggested that semi rural areas north of the M7 in Chifley be transferred to Greenway. But no. The AEC instead made some small inconsequential adjustments to other areas. Well Done!!!. Can’t these people read ????. It was an incredibly dopey, & myopic transfer in the first place, as evidenced, simply by the population result in Chifley(that was the justification at the time). If you stuff up admit it. Correct it, immediately, & move on !!!.
    8/ Blind Freddy would have seen that Wentworth, & Sydney would be severely over enrolled in 2008. Indeed they already were!!!. Great decision NOT to change the boundaries of Wentworth(at the time) !!. So now the AEC belatedly, & inadequately decided to change them !!! . There was only ONE suggestion to remove part of Paddington/ Moore park, & that was NOT to Sydney( LGA),it was to Kingsford Smith !!!. Another little AEC brain explosion!!!.

    There is more , much more. This just the stuff related to the 2008 redistribution. So i’ll post again on the current round of idiocies,madness, & insanity when i’m less incensed !!.
    Cheers to all others , PARTICULARLY as frustrated as yours truly !!!

  10. On Whitlam/Throsby and Hume, the most bizarre issue is the way Hume covers such a large area of forest that the southern rural towns are separated from the northern rural towns and now urban fringe by another electorate. How does Liverpool and Camden have any community of interest with Goulburn?

    That said, I see the reasoning, as I tried to play with the numbers. There is no way to adjust for the 47000 that came from Macarthur into Hume easily. There are only 19000 voters in those parts of the Southern Highlands not already in Hume and the flow on effects through the Illawarra-South Coast are hard to control.

    I suspect with the growth in the southern Macarthur region and Shellharbour, this will have to be addressed in a big way at the next redistribution.

  11. Thanks Antony, I’ve actually come up with my own estimates which I will post soon based on SA1 data from the Parliamentary Library. Have fun in Canada!

    In other news, I’m editing out the list of margins and replacing them with a link to Poll Bludger, both to give him credit and because it’s too long.

  12. I think many of the decisions in this redistribution are defensible.

    Sutherland shire has always been two small for two whole divisions. Traditionally, Hughes was topped up with the eastern part of Liverpool shire. It’s always been an odd fit as that area is separated from the rest of the electorate by the Holsworthy Barracks. The last redistribution made Hughes even more disjointed by adding in the south-western corner of Bankstown shire. The road links from here to the rest of the electorate are north to M5 or Milperra Rd or east to Alfords Point Rd; all of which were in another electorate. Contrast that with the proposed Cook which straddles the Georges River where the Caption Cook and Tom Ugly’s Bridge lie. There’s only three bridges into Sutherland shire; that’s two of ’em. So this is an electorate with much greater contiguity than the old Hughes.

    I was surprised to see Drummoyne cut out from Reid in the manner it has, but its not without its logic. Drummoyne’s major transportation link to the city is Victoria Rd, giving it a natural affinity with Rozelle and Balmain. The rest of Canada Bay LGA is more oriented towards Parramatta Rd, or the inner west/lower northern train line.

    Throsby-cum-Whitlam is admittedly an awkward electorate. (Indeed, I think the real problem isn’t Whitlam itself but the way it takes a bite out of Hume, which means that travelling from one end of Hume to the other along the namesake highway means going out of and back into the electorate.) But the numbers just don’t allow for ideal boundaries. The Illawarra/South Coast/Monaro region has too many voters for three divisions, too few for four. The numbers have to come from somewhere.

    Same for the north coast. No one wants to see Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie on the edges of the electorate, cut off from their respective communities of interest. (We see a similar thing in Queensland, where many region towns lie on the edge of their divisions.) But what’s the alternative? Dragging Page west across great divide? Would you really say Inverell & Glen Innes have a greater affinity with Grafton than the northern half of Coffs Harbour LGA. Sometimes you just have to go with the least worst option.

    Finally, having a go at the AEC over population projections is churlish in the extreme. These numbers are provided to them by the ABS. Right or wrong – they are necessarily inexact – they are doubtless underpinned by a robust methodology.

  13. The thing to understand about Whitlam/Throsby (which I think David does, but for others’ benefit) is that the Illawarra is not big enough to have whole seats. If you count the Illawarra as the Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama, Shoalhaven council areas (I know Shoalhaven isn’t normally counted as Illawarra but it’s seat of Gilmore usually overlaps) you have very strong geographic boundaries on all sides, but you don’t have enough voters for three whole seats. So either Gilmore has to go south, Throsby has to go west, or Cunningham has to go north.

    Probably the most likely alternative to the current arrangements with Hume and Whitlam/Throsby are to push Cunningham further into Sutherland, which then forces Cook further into the St George area or Hughes further into Liverpool.

  14. Ben,

    I agree, that’s why I said above there’s no easy adjustment. Either way, one of the Illawarra seats goes up the range into the Sydney basin or the tablelands. It used to be Gilmore, then Cunningham, then Cunningham and Throsby, now Throsby/Whitlam. The irony of the new redistribution is that they’ll be getting rid of the only thing about the electorate (it’s name) that has anything to do with the Southern Highlands.

  15. Thanks for the kind words, Winediamond! I do try my best, although it is nothing more than a lay interest for me.

    1) You can easily put the Highlands back in Hume, which would mean Hume doesn’t need to extend so far into urban Sydney. All good so far…..But then you need to push Cunningham back up into Sutherland Shire, and Hughes goes back over the Georges River again. Maybe it could work…

    2) I actually agree with putting Port Mc and Coffs into one Division. The alternative is too messy IMHO. The north coast has traditionally been a region of strong growth, so I don’t think it’s “inevitable” that anything will happen if the growth resumes.

    5) I have found a neat way (in theory!) to fix Reid. Just trying to see if the numbers will work!

    7) Chifley, Lindsay, Greenway and Macquarie were all fairly close to quota and didn’t need massive change. There is a touch-up to McMahon I am thinking of, which might allow the semi-rural north west of Chifley to be placed in Greenway.

    8) I would prefer more of Kings Cross/Potts Point go into Sydney rather than Moore Park. I will see if I can make something work there.

  16. I don’t understand the desire to mess with Greenway and Chifley. The shapes of both are pretty pleasing geometrically with a well-defined boundary separating them.

  17. Mark Mulcair
    You sure do try your best.
    5/ Because the AEC have made such an appalling stuff up WRT population growth, i think you are absolved from needing to make the numbers too precise. So don’t knock yourself out.
    8/ Same applies to Wentworth, & Sydney. So why not all of Sydney LGA being returned to Sydney ??.
    7/ good on you !!.
    1/ i actually really liked your proposal WRT Throsby,Cunningham, Hughes Banks,Barton etc far more than any others. Very sophisticated, & elegant. Not easy either, to work it all out. Was probably too logical, & common sense, for those dumb-arses at the AEC, to conceive, let alone comprehend. The curse of a wise man dealing with fools….
    2/ With the greatest respect I’ll maintain my disagreement with you on this one.
    FWIW this is my reasoning
    1/ the locals have strenuously objected to this outcome.
    2/ it is IMHO already a mess, & made worse.
    3/ the flow on effects to the Hunter have been awful.
    4/ there is an existing (& growing) conflict of interest between the coal mining based Upper Hunter, & the Newcastle centric lower part. This is an important industry that needs to be championed, rather than under represented.
    5/ Consequentially Patterson is now a Maitland based seat. Hunter really ought to be the Cessnock,Maitland based seat.

  18. David Walsh
    Churlish !!???. Not at all. I stand by my criticism of the AEC 100 % .
    They have the luxury of not just considerable , but huge latitude in their allocations (min- max). IMO they are simply to lazy, & or stupid to engage in the most basic of (fine sic !!) tuning to these numbers.
    For example just consider this. Green Square will have an all new population of 30,000 people over the next FOUR YEARS. This is just ONE suburb, in ONE electorate. It is SEARINGLY obvious that facts such as these, need to be taken into consideration. So far they have not.
    Look at the result in Mc Ewen. This electorate is now 20% (& growing) under-represented. This is simply not good enough. Is it necessary to emphasise that this has congealed a mere 3 years after the VIC redistribution? Clearly there are many more examples

  19. Mark Mulcair
    Sorry i missed this point. It is somewhat of a mystery why the growth rate of the north coast has slowed. Given that this is unknown,how can we guess whether this can, or will change ??. What we do know is that the fastest growing electorates will continue to accelerate (&rapidly) , due to urban consolidation.
    Cheers WD

  20. Winediamond (@4:26)

    The enrolment figures are based on electors, not population. Rapid population growth isn’t always reflected in enrolment figures, since the increase might be due to kids, students, migrants, etc who are not electors.

  21. windiediamond – you contradict yourself in criticising the decision to include the Southern Highlands in Throsby/Whitlam, while calling for Page to go over the Dividing Range to include Tenterfield.

  22. Mark Mulcair
    Absolutely true. However my point is still that the weight of numbers will prevail regardless.By this i mean particularly, the increase in the numbers of dwellings in said fast growing electorates.

  23. Jimmy D
    Not at all. With Page it can only go south, or west. The result of it going south is Port, & Coffs H being in 1 electorate, which is an awful outcome.
    OTOH Whitlam can go north(& south) , with Cunningham going north), & or north west. Which IMO would produce a far less onerous outcome.
    Mark Mulcair gave some very creative , & well thought out solutions to this in his original submission of suggestion (to the AEC).
    Cheers WD

  24. David Walsh
    WRT to Chifley
    It is over quota, & needs to lose the 3000 odd voters that were re distributed from Greenway in 2008. It was a stupid move then, & not correcting it now would be even more stupid. These areas are in a well defined area north of the M2. They are of a completely, & entirely different nature, & character to the rest of Chifley. There was a wide consensus amongst the suggestions submitted (to the AEC), that this happen.
    WRT to Greenway. Also over quota , & growing very fast. It needs to lose about 7-10,000 voters. There are a number of alternatives,about where they ought to go.

  25. Re: Drummoyne (where I live) – I too was surprised by its incorporation in Grayndler…

    But David Walsh nails it. Drummoyne is orientated towards the CBD by fast transport links, and its affluent waterfront lifestyle very similar to that of Balmain. (Interestingly, the recent movie Ruben Guthrie, partially a satiric attack on affluent, materialistic lifestyles, was filmed here. Remember David Williamson’s Emerald City? That was Balmain). West of Drummoyne, Reid is very, very different – and increasingly Asian.

    Canada Bay is one of the very few councils which has volunteered to amalgamate, but its interest lies further west – out towards the so-called Olympic corridor, not inward towards Leichhardt. They’ve proposed a merger with Auburn and Burwood, two like-minded & growth orientated councils. If this goes ahead, inevitably it will include miniscule Strathfield. They dismissed any affinity at all with Leichhardt, whose anti-growth and toxic Greens vs Labor political culture has no relevance outside its insular borders.

  26. Winediamond, I don’t know where you get your numbers from.

    Chifley and Greenway in their pre-redistribution form were only trivially above the state average enrolment. Redrawn both are comfortably under quota. Chifley actually stay under quota on projected figures. Greenway only goes a percentage point above.

  27. David Walsh
    Where i get the numbers is a basic comparison. The 2008 redistribution compared to the present. This comparison reveals the true growth profile, over this time. Add future growth, which will accelerate, & the momentum of “Missing voters ” being enrolled.
    For sure i’m to as statistically precise as your good self.

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