Queensland moves to compulsory preferences


In October 2015, I wrote about an attempt by the Liberal National Party and Katter’s Australian Party to pass legislation through the Queensland Parliament which would have increased malapportionment amongst Queensland electorates.

This legislation had a chance of passing despite Labor being in power due to Labor being a minority government. The LNP and KAP were hoping to win over ex-Labor independent Billy Gordon, whose seat of Cook was one of the large rural seats which would be allowed to have a smaller population under the changed rules.

The October legislation also included some changes to the redistribution committee and a proposal to add up to five more seats to the Parliament. Earlier this month, the LNP and KAP proposed another law which made the same changes to the committee, and increased the size of the Parliament from 89 seats to 93.

Labor still strongly opposed the proposed legislation – personally it seems a lot less objectionable than the original proposal. It’s hard for me to assess who would benefit more from adding four seats – it seems likely that the new seats will be distributed around between both major parties.

It became clear that Rob Pyne (another ex-Labor independent) would vote for the opposition legislation. When the legislation came up tonight, Labor wrong-footed the LNP by amending the legislation to change the voting system from optional preferential voting (OPV) to compulsory preferential voting. The legislation was passed with this dramatic change to the voting system included. KAP and the independents voted with the government, while the LNP were left voting against their own legislation.

While the winners and losers of OPV change over time (the Liberals and Nationals were hurt by OPV in the late 1990s), at the moment OPV hurts Labor, as many Greens votes exhaust rather than flowing to Labor. Antony Green estimates that Labor would have won nine more seats in 2015 if preferences were compulsory.

While the original legislation may have had some slight benefits for the LNP, the Labor amendment will have dramatic consequences, hurting the LNP in a bunch of marginal seats, at least until there is some major shift in partisan voting patterns.

The pros and cons of OPV and CPV, and how they effect how campaigns are run, is a story for another day.

I wanted to just sum up what the current enrolment figures suggest about the next redistribution.

Region# of seatsQuota / 89Quota / 93
Brisbane North1615.8516.57
Brisbane South2019.2320.09
Central QLD1110.8111.30
Gold Coast1010.5511.03
North QLD1110.9111.40
South-East QLD1010.4010.87
Sunshine Coast88.458.83
Western QLD32.782.91

The Gold Coast gains an entire new seat, with rural parts of south-east QLD and Sunshine Coast almost gaining enough population to each gain their own seats. In southern Brisbane, the increased seat number prevents the region from losing a seat, while northern Brisbane has a half-quota more than its current seats. Overall, the south-east QLD region should gain three of the four new seats – one definitely on the Gold Coast, and the other two likely on the outskirts of Brisbane and in the Sunshine Coast.

Seats on the north and central coast of Queensland are slightly over-quota, so expect to see the fourth new seat on the coast, with seats along the coast nudged along to absorb the extra population.

I’m finding it hard to see an overall trend towards the ALP or LNP in the redistribution changes. LNP seats are already half a quota over before the changes to the quota, with ALP seats collectively 0.4 quotas under. With the reduced quota adjusted for 93 seats, the 42 LNP seats are 2.46 quotas over, while the 44 ALP seats are 1.55 quotas over.

One final thing which remains unclear to me is how this affects the timing of the redistribution. The redistribution was due in this term of Parliament, and expected to commence shortly. Queensland’s Attorney-General, Yvette D’Ath, has claimed that passage of the legislation would delay the redistribution into the next term – I can’t find any confirmation of this claim, or an explanation of why a redistribution could not be completed in time for an election due in early 2018.

If you want to see more details, the following map shows seats in relation to the new quota (for 93 seats) passed tonight.

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  1. I really can’t recall a more disgraceful process of electoral “reform” in this country than the Queensland ALP’s effort yesterday. No mandate, no public discussion, inevitable increases in informality. It’s the sort of trick in which Sir Joh specialised. And this from a party which at the federal level was only last month complaining long and loudly (and, as it happened, wrongly) about allegedly insufficient opportunities for public consideration of Senate electoral system changes.

  2. Did the LNP actually end up voting against the bill? I’m far from an expert in parliamentary procedures but it looks to me like it was an LNP member that moved for the third reading, after the amendments had been made.

  3. My original idea was to create new seats based on Caboolture, Beenleigh, and Springfield, with 2 rural seats and one Brisbane seat abolished.

    From the numbers, it looks like new seats in those 3 areas would still make sense, plus a fourth seat on the mid-north coast somewhere (maybe Gympie/Maryborough type area). And no need to abolish any seat at all.

    I assumed Labor was using the delayed redistribution as a political tool, to argue the LNP changes were a “gerrymander”. Now they forced through their own proposals, I would guess (hope?) the redistribution would take place as normal.

  4. In saying that Labor may have won nine more seats in 2015, I assume it’s also reasonable to guess that preference flows in 2015 weren’t necessarily what would normally be expected. Given the election context it seems reasonable to assume there was a higher ratio of preference flows to Labor than might normally be the case. I also wouldn’t focus too much on the Greens as the 3rd party whose votes were exhausting. At almost every Qld election there is at least one minor right party that gets at least a few % of the vote. Only in 2006 and 2009 did the Greens outpoll the combined ‘others’ (and Labor won those elections anyway). Whilst KAP may be reduced to a North Queensland party and PUP will disappear, I think it’s reasonable to assume that more minor right parties may emerge in the near future, so whilst I agree the general assessment htat Labor would be benefiting from CPV is of course true, I’m not sure it is such a great, or guaranteed future benefit that it is worth them restoring it.

    Aside from issues around the merits of either system, or the ethics of tweaking rules to the perceived advantage of your own party, I think it’s useful to consider that overall impact of CPV v OPV isn’t really that great, and not somethng that can’t be countered by campaigning. Every election after 1998 up to 2015 has been decided comfortably enough that CPV wouldn’t have made a difference to the overall outcome, and in 2015 the only difference it appears it would’ve made was delivering a Labor majority instead of a minority (when their primary vote was only 37.5%). It might’ve been good for Labor in 2015, but the real reform Queensland needs is proportional representation, if the Left is serious about ensuring a conservative blow-out result like 2012 can’t happen again, because CPV would have made little difference to that.

  5. In 2012 compulsory preferencing may have made a larger difference to the result if the KAP had not messed up with its name and thus got more votes.

  6. I am supportive of both changes. I support the increase in seats, as given Queensland’s lack of an Upper House, more members will help to make the parliament more accountable and more representative. While the LNP may have advocated this on the basis of increasing rural and regional representation, it’s clear that this will be more effective in stopping them from losing seats, rather than granting them more (with only 1 in 4 going outside of SEQ).

    Further, I am concerned that the inconsistency between OPV at state elections and CPV at federal elections causes increased informal voting at federal elections, and while others may advocate OPV at a federal level, I prefer that CPV is brought in at a state to remove this inconsistency.

    Just in general, it’s amazing that a bill which both parties opposed at one point in the process ended up passing!

  7. The Queensland parliament was long ago captured by the Brisvegian Illuminati, a secret society whose sole and nefarious purpose is to prove to the world that every parliament needs a second chamber.

  8. Excellent article in today’s Courier Mail by Doctor Paul Williams showing that
    1) OPV was not a recommendation of Fitzgerald
    2)That both ALP and LNP have supported both OPV and CPV when it supports them

    IN Doctor Williams words:

    “The truth is that Labor last week returned us to CPV because it saw a partisan advantage, just as the LNP mooted voluntary voting in 2013 because of its own perceived advantage”

    In my words neither ALP or LNP can be trusted with Voting system.

    As it stands now Electoral Act is virtually unreadable with massive changes under Newman, a reversal under Palaszczuk and now a second lot of changes under Palaszczuk.


  9. Switching between OPV and CPV just because it suits either political party at the time is a disgrace.
    This issue is too important to be left to the politicians of the day to determine.
    A single, consistent approach to lower house (or in Queensland’s case – single house) voting needs to be adopted nationally. That way it doesn’t matter which election you’re voting at; the rules are the same.
    It must be OPV for all lower houses if for no other reason than it significantly lowers the informal vote, thereby making the election of all members more legitimate by having a greater number of votes count.
    It also doesn’t force me to choose between candidates 8, 9 & 10 on my ballot paper if I have no interest in their ideologies. If that means my vote exhausts before it gets to the final 2 candidates, then that is a choice that I, as a voter, have made.

  10. A single nation approach to lower/single house preferencing would be hard. It would require a referendum to be enforceable against states deciding to leave it and such a referendum would likely not pass. I doubt Tasmania and the ACT would be too happy to be required to adopt single member seats and Queensland and WA are also big on states rights.

  11. I don’t think it’s great when the voting system is different in ways that confuse voters and make their votes informal, but variation in voting systems is important – otherwise how could we ever improve them?

    I also lay blame for the rise in informal voting at the feet of the federal system – it’s the federal law which throws those votes out, not the state law using OPV.

  12. EARC was a recommendation of Fitzgerald. Sadly Fitzgerald did not formally recommend that the recommendations of the committee he recommended be accepted, possibly because he never imagined that ALP tragic would eagerly seize on his failure to recommend the recommendations of his recommendation.

    There have to be some arguments in favour of exhaustive preferential voting, but the non-Fitzgeraldness of the OPV recommendation is not one of them.

  13. I’ve just had an email from ECQ advising the State Redistribution is expected to start within the next couple of weeks. It’s going to be a busy couple of months preparing for a federal election and a Queensland Redistribution to divide the State into 93.

  14. JW, I’ve been wondering that myself….I assumed “soon” but good to know it’s a week or two.

  15. MM, How are you going with your Queensland Redistribution proposal and where did you create your 4 new Districts?
    I’ve just submitted my proposal to the QRC. 104 pages of written submission and proposal, my SA1 worksheet that I had to convert from Excel to PDF to submit, and I’ve also printed off those SA1 maps and drawn my proposed boundaries on those and posted them back to the QRC. So they’ll need half a day to get through my submission alone!
    As usual, I’ve proposed my new Districts be named after people.
    I created the first of my new Districts on the Sunshine Coast – mostly made up of western Nicklin and northern Glass House and called it Irwin after Steve Irwin.
    The second new District was created at the eastern end of Ipswich LGA (Bundamba – Inala) and I’ve named it Macalister after Arthur Macalister, 2nd Premier of Queensland.
    The 3rd new District I’ve based around Beenleigh from mostly Waterfrod with bits of Albert and Coomera as well and named it Oodgeroo after Kath Walker’s indigenous name.
    The last one was on the northern Gold Coast to the east of the M1 which I called Bonney after the first woman to fly solo from Australia to England who was married to Bert Hinkler’s first cousin.
    I also abolished Indooroopilly, created its replacement District around Deception Bay and called it Fysh after one of the co-founders of Qantas.

  16. With the resurgence of One Nation. Labor may very well intensely regret, & rue , their move to CPV. One Nation vote exhaustion would have hobbled the LNP IMV.

  17. I’m still working on it, Jeff. Still figuring out exactly how southern Brisbane will turn out. I’m curious as to how abolishing Indooroopilly will work out? Where does Graceville/Chelmer go?

    My four new Districts seem like they’d be similar to yours (Springfield, Beenleigh, Gold Coast, southern Sunshine Coast). My new Sunshine Coast seat is Caboolture based, but it seems like your new seat would just be my redrawn Glass House, so it’s probably the same as yours but with different names.

    You have my email, so I’d be curious to see your proposal. I’ll flick you mine when I’m done.

  18. State seats really should stick to geographic names for consistency and ease of identification. Most mainland states do this, though they always tend to have a couple of exceptions. The one that doesn’t follow this rule is South Australia, which has made a complete mess of things by so much unnecessary renaming – and re-renaming – over successive redistributions. There was an attempt in WA to go down this route at its recent redistribution, but they reversed course after some pushback.

    Rural seats may be a necessary exception, as they often lack a single geographical focus. So whilst the name Gregory makes a certain amount of sense, it puzzles me why Nicklin isn’t simply called Nambour.

  19. I’ve been playing around with my own districts, from a north Queensland point of view.

    Collectively the 16 seats above the Tropic of Capricorn (excluding Callide but including Gregory) have an average enrolment of 35406 voters on 2015 numbers, and 39135 voters on 2022 numbers. That would seem to be, in my view, some justification to have one of the four new seats to be in the northern part of the state.

    Barron River being over quota currently means it would have to contract and shed electors, and therefore pull Cairns and Mulgrave further north (Cook can’t take any more electors without going over quota). Mulgrave has its own population boom forecast which means that seat could well contract as far north as Gordonvale, uniting the whole of Innisfail into one district.

    An idea of mine was to connect the southern Atherton Tablelands with the Cassowary Coast/Innisfail region in a new seat called Palmerston (after Christy Palmerston, explorer). However, that would have drastic effect on Dalrymple and – to a lesser extent – Hinchinbrook, both of which would probably move closer to the Townsville CBD. Dalrymple can’t move west or south without adverse effect on Mount Isa and Gregory. I think in one map of mine, Dalrymple and Burdekin formed the fifth “large district”, with Bowen moved into Whitsunday….

    My personal opinion is that Dalrymple is a ridiculous district on current boundaries, arguably drawn as a gerrymander in 2008 to remove a certain member for the Tablelands from the Queensland parliament. I think Atherton would have more in common with Innisfail than with Charters Towers and Moranbah, and that Charters Towers would have more in common again with Ayr and Home Hill, hence my reasoning for the Palmerston and Super Dalrymple-Burdekin proposal.

    It’s most probable though that Dalrymple would survive as it is, more or less, and it’s only the coastal seats that are nudged further north and south.

    I’m very interested to hear how people online here drew the boundaries up at this end of the state. Thanks for considering my ideas, however silly they may sound.

  20. The flow of ON preferences in federal elections is actually weak – long-term it is very stable at 55:45 to Coalition. Haven’t looked at stats on the OPV flow in Queensland from them.

  21. NQ View,

    With Northern Queensland, there are some strongly growing seats, but there are also some seats well under quota and with relative decline. So, I think they can all be adjusted among themselves.

    Callide can move northwards to take in Mount Morgan plus some more of the Gladstone/Burnett hinterland, so that absorbs a lot of the excess from the coastal seats.

  22. BTW I agree that Dalrymple is less than ideal on its current boundaries. If there hadn’t been the change to the number of seats, I would very likely have abolished it. But with the reduced quota, I’ve made only minor adjustments with Cook in the north and Gregory in the south.

  23. NQ, your proposed Palmerston sounds very much like the old Mourilyan, abolished in 1992 when one vote-one value was introduced.

  24. MM & NQ View
    I started with Cairns and pushed it south to gain the balance of Mount Sheridan, Bentley Park and White Rock from Mulgrave. Cairns gave up Edge Hill, Kanimbla, plus parts of Manoora and Manunda to Barron River.
    Barron River transfers its Mareeba LGA electors to Dalrymple and contracts to Smithfield with Smithfield split between Barron River and Cook (which I’ve proposed be renamed Mabo)
    Mabo gives up all its Carpentaria, Kowanyama, Pormpurraw, Mareeba and Tablelands LGA electors to Mount Isa and Dalrymple.
    Mount Isa gains Carpentaria, Kowanyama, Pormpurraw and part of Mareeba LGA from Cook and transfers Diamantina LGA back to Gregory.
    Dalrymple’s gains in the north mean it no longer needs to extend south of Charters Towers LGA.
    Mulgrave’s new southern boundary ties in with the southern boundary of Cassowary Coast LGA.
    I did extend Hinchinbrook south into Townsville a little further but also transferred Palm Island from Townsville to Hinchinbrook.
    MM, watch this space, I’ll email my proposal shortly. I’ll try the PDF version as G-Mail doesn’t seem to handle Microsoft stuff that well.

  25. I spent today attempting to do my own redistribution, starting with the Gold Coast. I created a new seat centred on Carrara and for the most part I was pleasantly surprised how elegant the boundaries came out.

    Now I’ve hit a wall with Coomera. I’m finding it impossible to draw a seat that falls within the permissible range of both current and future quotas. The projections here are just wild. Did those of you who’ve already undertaken this exercise run into the same problem?

  26. DW, there doesn’t appear to be a specific requirement to be within 10% at the projection time. The projection time is 6 years ahead, so all that is stated is “to the greatest extent possible”. So if a couple of Districts blow out or fall behind because you can’t keep them within quota, that shouldn’t sink your proposals.

    JW, thanks I got the email.

  27. DW, same here. And I interpret the requirement of the Act exactly as MM has explained it above. There was no way you can create the 93 Districts and have them all within 10% by the projection date.
    I think I managed to get 89 out of 93 in OK, but some of the growth numbers made it impossible to keep them all within that range.
    My versions of Bundamba, Coomera, Logan and Macalister (which I made up from the existing eastern Bundamba, western Inala and eastern Lockyer) all exceed +10% by 2022.

  28. I grouped seats into 10 sets:

    – Gold Coast. Currently 11 seats, 93-quota is 12.03 now and 12.29 projected.
    – Brisbane South & East (east of the freeway; S Bris through Springwood and bayside). Growth in the south offsets losses in the north. Currently 10 seats, the 93-quota is 10.26 now and 9.92 projected.
    Brisbane South & West (west of the freeway; Yeerongpilly down to Waterford). Currently 9 seats, the 93-quota is 8.94 now and 8.73 projected.
    – Balance of SEQ (Beaudesert, Ipswich, through to Nanango). Currently 6 seats, the 93-quota is 6.55 now and 7.48 projected.
    – Brisbane mid-Northside (everything between the Brisbane and Pine Rivers, inc Indooroopilly and Ferny Grove). Currently 12 seats, the 93-quota is 12.05 now and 11.62 projected.
    – Brisbane far-North (Moreton Bay Regional Council area sans Ferny Grove). Currently 6 seats, the 93-quota 6.59 now and 6.8 projected.
    – Sunshine Coast (Glass House through Gympie). Currently 7 seats, the 93-quota is 7.63 now and 7.84 projected.
    – South-West Qld (inc Toowoomba). Currently 5 seats, the 93-quota is 5.29 now and 5.04 projected.
    – Central Qld (Maryborough through Mirani, the latter being rename bait, and out to Gregory). Currently 10 seats, the 93-quota is 10.37 now and 10.15 projected.
    – North Qld (the rest). Currently 13 seats, the 93-quota is 13.27 now and 13.11 projected.

    For my part I’ve been playing around with the Brisbane mid-Northside, where Brisbane Central and Clayfield are growing like weeds and everything else is slowly going backwards.

    I start by lopping off as much as I can from Brisbane Central, giving it to Stafford and Clayfield, then as much of Clayfield as I can to Nudgee, and shifting everything else around clockwise.

    This works pretty well until I need to give the northern half of Mitchelton away from Everton. Ashgrove is the preferred recipient, but there’s really no good way to give an equivalent amount to Mount Coot-tha… There is one smaller pocket that can be given away, but it leaves Ashgrove still over quota now. These excisions threaten both to remove the namesake suburb and split the seat in two. Rather annoying!

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