ACT redistribution – draft maps released


The draft electoral boundaries for the next ACT Legislative Assembly election were released this morning. You can find the report here, and the map of the boundaries here.

Two of the five electorates were left untouched, while a population in the deficit in the southern seat of Brindabella caused a knock-on effect throughout three electorates.

The redistribution has strengthened the Liberal Party in Murrumbidgee but weakened their position in their weakest electorate of Kurrajong.

In this post I have included an interactive map comparing the two sets of boundaries, and I’ve calculated estimates of the vote for the three main parties for the new boundaries.

This map shows the changes to the electoral boundaries: 2024 boundaries in blue and 2020 boundaries in red. You can download this map as a Google Earth map file from my maps page, along with every ACT electoral map since the first electorates in 1995.

The southern electorate of Brindabella was projected to fall 5.6% below the quota by October 2024. All electorates are required to fall within 5% of the quota. Thus Brindabella was required to bring in population from its only neighbour Murrumbidgee, which itself was slightly under quota. Thus it was necessary for Murrumbidgee to take in some of the inner city electorate of Kurrajong, which is projected to experience the most population growth between now and October 2024.

They have done this by moving the remainder of Kambah from Murrumbidgee to Brindabella, and moving the suburbs of Forrest and Red Hill immediately to the south of Capital Hill into Murrumbidgee.

This is the second redistribution in a row which has seen this trend of these three seats creeping closer to the city. The current 5-electorate structure was first adopted in 2016, but in the 2019 redistribution Murrumbidgee lost the other parts of Kambah to Brindabella and gained Yarralumla and Deakin from Kurrajong.

At the 2016 election, the entirety of South Canberra was contained in Kurrajong while northern Tuggeranong was split between Murrumbidgee and Brindabella. As of these boundaries, almost half of South Canberra is in Murrumbidgee, while Brindabella now takes in the entire Tuggeranong district.

Forrest and Red Hill were some of the most conservative parts of a very progressive inner city electorate. You would expect that moving these areas from Kurrajong into Murrumbidgee would improve the Liberal vote in Murrumbidgee and hurt them in Kurrajong. And you’d be right.

Pre-redistribution Post-redistribution
Electorate Labor Liberal Greens Labor Liberal Greens
Brindabella 40.71 38.42 10.80 40.49 38.42 10.76
Ginninderra 40.00 26.73 12.51 40.00 26.73 12.51
Kurrajong 37.97 27.59 22.99 38.41 26.34 23.84
Murrumbidgee 36.06 35.57 11.73 35.65 35.96 11.80
Yerrabi 34.16 40.59 10.18 34.16 40.59 10.18

The Liberal vote in Kurrajong has been cut by 1.25% in Kurrajong, with the Greens vote climbing 0.85%. The Greens managed to win two seats to just one Liberal seat in 2020 despite trailing the Liberals by 4.6% in 2020. On these boundaries, that gap is just 2.5%.

The Liberals missed out on a second seat in Kurrajong by just a few hundred votes in 2020. They may rebound in 2024, but they’ll be doing so with less favourable boundaries.

The increase in the Liberal vote in Murrumbidgee is much smaller than their loss in Kurrajong, increasing by 0.61%. The Greens slightly increased their vote in Murrumbidgee, with those parts of the inner south relatively bad for the Greens in Kurrajong but quite good compared to the rest of Murrumbidgee, certainly when compared to northern Kambah.

I’ve also produced the same table based on numbers of quotas rather than percentages:

Pre-redistribution Post-redistribution
Electorate Labor Liberal Greens Labor Liberal Greens
Brindabella 2.4424 2.3049 0.6479 2.4294 2.3049 0.6453
Ginninderra 2.3995 1.6037 0.7502 2.3995 1.6037 0.7502
Kurrajong 2.2778 1.6549 1.3794 2.3042 1.5800 1.4302
Murrumbidgee 2.1632 2.1342 0.7035 2.1388 2.1571 0.7080
Yerrabi 2.0494 2.4351 0.6105 2.0494 2.4351 0.6105

At the last election, Labor won two seats in each electorate for a total of ten. The Liberal Party won nine, with two in each in all districts except Kurrajong. The Greens won six, with two in Kurrajong and one everywhere else.

If the Liberal Party were to win back power, either they or more favourable crossbenchers would need to pick up four seats. That could be a 3-2 split in three districts and winning back a second seat in Kurrajong. If they stay on one seat in Kurrajong, they would need to win three in every other electorate. They’re a long way from that goal, and the biggest change in this redistribution puts that goal further away.

There really isn’t much in the way of options when it comes to this redistribution for the Commission. With only five electorates, you don’t have as much flexibility. Canberra is also designed in a linear shape, and it means that there often aren’t that many options for which suburbs to transfer.

The reason the Liberal Party is hurt by this redistribution is fairly simple. They do poorly in the inner city of Canberra, and that is the area which is growing fastest. This leads to an inevitable result that more favourable outer suburban seats must expand to take in more voters, and less favourable inner suburban seats can shrink. The Liberal Party can’t really win power unless they can strengthen their position in Kurrajong, but densification means that some of their best areas are now out of that electorate.

That’s it for this redistribution. I expect the final boundaries will be finalised later this year.

This is one of a series of redistributions currently under way. I’m expecting the draft boundaries for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly later this month, and the draft for the Western Australian Legislative Assembly in July.

Four Queensland councils will be redistributing their electoral divisions later this year, and New South Wales councils will also be reviewing their wards. 39 Victorian councils are also reviewing their wards, with results of those reviews due in three waves. The first wave is due later this month, with the final wave due by January next year.

And of course we’re expecting federal redistributions in three states to kick off later this year.

You can check out all my analysis of these redistributions at the ‘redistribution’ tag.

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  1. It’s not a centralised process. I’ve put in a query with the NSWEC to clarify the point in time when the rules around enrolment deviation apply, and any councils that deviate will be required to redraw, but the council does it and reports back to NSWEC, it’s not done by the Commission. In the past it’s been a painful process of checking council business papers.

  2. When is the next QLD state redistribution expected? Long overdue, so many seats under and over quota.

    A federal one is also needed in Queensland but unfortunately due to the rules, the AEC may leave it untouched despite the fact Queensland is one of the fastest growing states in the country, more than WA yet WA is gaining a seat and not QLD? How is this democratic, help me understand here.

    Redistributions should be mandatory in every state and territory every cycle to keep up with population trends and demographics. Because if not it could result in a false-election outcome winner where the party who wins losses the popular vote by winning more of the under-quota seats.

  3. It’s not clear to me when a QLD state redistribution is due but it doesn’t appear to be coming before the next election. Generally their recent redistributions have usually taken place after every 3 elections but now that they have 4-year terms they should probably move to an 8-year cycle at least like Victoria and NSW.

    Queensland’s last federal redistribution concluded in early 2018 so the next one is due in early 2025, but will get pushed back until after the federal election.

    Queensland has been growing about as fast as WA as you can see in the chart in this post, but off a lower base so it still has less than 30.5 quotas of population.

    If it really was desperately in need of a redistribution it could be triggered early if more than 1/3 of seats deviated from the quota by more than 10%. But only one seat does! Which is impressive considering how long it’s been. In contrast, that’s the case in six seats in NSW.

    I think it would be preferable if the seven-year rule was clarified so we had redistributions after every two elections and lined up the schedule so they didn’t come due right when an election is scheduled.

  4. Agree Ben, having fixed three-year terms for federal parliament would be better as it means all states can undertake redistributions every 6 years simultaneously, starting on a fixed date similar to redistricting for US Congress.

  5. The QLD state redistribution will be due in 2025 under both criteria – 8 years & 3 elections. Yes, with fixed 4 year terms now, redistributions should just be due every 8 years, after 2 elections like NSW & VIC.

  6. I don’t really see why having every state redistributed simultaneously would be a good thing. The number of seats per state is reconsidered after every election so you couldn’t restrict it to once every six years.

    But I think you could align it so instead of having redistributions after 7 years, you have it after two elections have passed, and time it at the same time as the redistributions triggered by a change in seat numbers. Would avoid the problem of redistributions triggered right before an election.

  7. I didn’t realise Murrumbidgee’s population is actually decreasing – I would have thought the growth of Molonglo Valley would be boosting it, but it looks like it’s being offset by the decline in established suburbs. The ACT government really should ease planning restrictions in inner city areas (especially the Inner South) so more people can live close to the city, but that’s a debate for a different article!

    One thing the Liberals might have going for them in Kurrajong at the next election is that their leader is running in that seat, which generally seems to provide a surprisingly big vote boost (even if the leader’s not particularly popular). You can see the effects of the Liberal leader running Yerrabi in 2020 and Murrumbidgee in 2016 – there was a big swing to them in Yerrabi and big swing against them in Murrumbidgee in 2020, after a big swing to them in Murrumbidgee in 2016.

  8. @some guy – It’s growing, just not as fast as the inner north and Kingston is.

    Murrumbidgee has a lot of suburbs that are well established without much infill pressure at the moment. Woden town centre is the exception and even other areas along the eventual light rail corridor are sitting still for now. Ginninderra and Yerrabi also have growth areas to match Murrumbidgee’s Molonglo, and Whitlam may end up a better fit for Ginninderra than Murrumbidgee.

  9. @ John – according to the ACT government report linked above, they’re projecting Murrumbidgee to actually decline in total (albeit only slightly) not just relative to the other electorates. Looking at the individual suburbs mentioned on page 29, the population is projected to grow strongly in all Molonglo Valley suburbs but a lot suburbs in the Inner South and Woden are projected to shrink.

  10. Future redistributions with only five electorates are going to start wreaking havoc with the current reasonably good alignment of geography/community of interest and electoral boundaries. Brindabella will cross the open space ridges that currently define its northern edge – that will push Murrumbidgee further east & Kurrajong further north. When the debate begins on increasing the size of the Assembly it is going to be a tough call between the case for 5 electorates with 7 seats each – better on proportional grounds or 7 seats with five members each – stronger case on community representation & geographical alignment

  11. Doug, another sensible option might be 3 electorates of 11 members, giving an Assembly size of 33. With 3 electorates, you could have one southern electorate (Tuggeranong, Woden, Weston Creek and the Inner South) and two northern electorates (one consisting of Belconnen, Molonglo and half of Gungahlin; and the other one consisting of the inner North plus the rest of Gungahlin)

  12. Doug, another sensible option might be 3 electorates of 11 members, giving an Assembly size of 33. With 3 electorates, you could have one southern electorate (Tuggeranong, Woden, Weston Creek and the Inner South) and two northern electorates (one consisting of Belconnen, Molonglo and half of Gungahlin; and the other one consisting of the inner North plus the rest of Gungahlin)

  13. @Doug Brindabella taking in suburbs like Isaacs or Chapman is bad but not so bad that it requires changing the system.

    I can imagine Murrumbidgee eventually being an “Inner South” electorate, with the expanded definition of the Inner South including the light rail friendly areas of Woden, and Molonglo. Molonglo will eventually be its own area with a direct road link to the city via Parkes Way, and as much linked to Belconnen as Weston.

    Meanwhile Tuggeranong sits nicely with the other established, car-centric suburbs in Woden and Weston. Something resembling the current federal Bean electorate works fine.

    Not really sure what the breaking point will be for the 5×5 model. @Yoh An’s idea has some advantages as an alternative – with 3×9 territory electorates could match federal electorates. 7×5 is probably the next step though – the Greens used to strongly advocate for Magnitude 7 but I don’t think they ever will again after their 2020 results.

    Out of sheer boredom I did try to see what 25 single member electorates would look like in the ACT, and it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting – generally each electorate corresponded to each local shops large enough to have a Coles or Woolworths.

    @some guy – Thanks for the fact check. I had no idea that suburbs actually shrinking from empty nesters and smaller families was a real thing!

  14. @John, if you ever find somewhere to put that 25-seat map, I know at least 5 people on the internet who’d love to see it.

  15. @Josh – I didn’t make a map as such just played around with clusters that added up to 20% enrolment.

    One thing that was clear though was that Labor would have a permanent majority. There’d be one Liberal seat in the inner south (if that) and a few marginal-ish ALP vs Green seats (note that the Greens didn’t win a single booth vs ALP 2pp in 2022). Of course politics would be very different in single member land.

  16. Assuming this sticks, some speculation.

    Brindabella: In general I’ll try to avoid making it all about personalities, but wouldn’t be inaccurate to attribute much of the swing to Greens in Brindabella last time to Johnathan Davis personally. He hasn’t slowed down at all since being elected and his “base” is Kambah which will now all be in Brindabella. So while it was extremely close last time I think status quo here.

    Murrumbidgee: Murrumbidgee’s redistribution makes it seem like the most likely area for a 3rd Liberal taking in Canberra’s blue ribbon suburbs. But as Ben shows the redistribution barely moves the needle and oddly makes the Green vote go up. Ed Cocks and Jeremy Hanson are more like Zed Seselja than Elizabeth Lee, so if the shifts happening in other blue ribbon areas around Australia are happening here, not good news for Liberals. Fiona Carrick had a credible showing in 2020, so her or another independent could siphon off enough vote from majors and Greens to shake things up. But not sure who loses in that scenario to the point where I think the independent loses – the majors are not going to fall that far below 2 quotas if at all and the Greens should be able to hold enough space to hang on.

    Kurrajong: Most interesting seat. The redistribution will help Vassarotti hang on despite Lee getting a leader bonus for the Liberals. From my understanding of Hare Clark, Lee soaring to an early quota with the rest of her ticket getting very low primaries seems to make it even harder for any of them to get up. Vassarotti is also a strong candidate in her own right – outpolling Rachel Stephen-Smith in 2020. I think she hangs on.

    Ginninderra: Could be interesting as it came very close to 3-1-1 last time and Labor may be even stronger now. Labor have been able to get 3 with evenly split quotas. Kevin Bonham calls it the “Ginninderra effect” because Labor pulled it off in 2012 and 2016 through working different parts of the electorate and appealing to slightly different demographics. This didn’t work in 2020 and it will be even harder in 2024. An incumbent Green will make it that much harder for ALP to carve out that particular niche. With an imbalanced ALP vote Labor will need to get that much closer to 3 quotas to get 3 seats. Not seeing other scenarios like Bill Stefaniak either (except this time he’ll probably preference Liberals properly, making 3-1-1 even harder). So status quo.

    Yerrabi: Possible without a Yerrabi based Liberal leader, Labor’s vote goes up enough to get 3 like in 2016. But similar story to Ginninderra. Liberals are too strong for 3-1-1 and a Green incumbent makes 3-2-0 harder.

    Overall: Hard to see anything other than status quo – not just the over-all result (Labor minority government with Greens in sole balance of power), but also 10-9-6. But it’s a long time between now and the election.

  17. Is it possible for the Liberals to ever win government in the ACT? They would need a majority because they won’t work with the Greens and the Greens won’t work with them over Labor.

  18. @nether portal it is theoretically possible however improbable but it would require a major scandal in either the greeens or labor.

  19. i sometimes wonder if the ACT Assembly had single member electorates what the composition would be. It maybe the case that the Libs may only win 2-3 seats mainly in the Inner South around Deakin/Yarralumla, Far south around Isabella Plains or the small villages such as Hall outside Canberra so Labor would be in permanent government. The ACT does not really have a class divide it is really the Haves and the Have mores..

  20. @nimalan most people depend on the government for the wages so they tend to vote to the left its just like washington dc

  21. @ John, i do agree that that due to the fact that the ACT is dependent on the public service for employment it leans to the left like Washington DC. However, that is where the similarities with Washington D.C end and the differences start. ACT as a whole usually votes around 61% TPP for Labor while Washington D.C is around 92% for Democrats during presidential election elections a 30% difference. Also when we look at primaries Labor usually gets in the low 40% at a federal election while the Libs usually in the 30s so only a 10% on primaries. The ACT is still less left-wing than North/West Melbourne and the ethnic seats of Western Sydney. Also Washington D.C until recently was majority black and still has very deprived areas like Washington D.C while the ACT has virtually no deprived suburbs even what maybe said to be a bad suburb in the ACT like Charnwood, Holt would be considered average in Melbourne or Sydney. The ACT may be the most middle class and least deprived area in the world.

  22. Washington DC is more Democrat than Canberra is Labor/Green. Washington DC has had Democrat mayors for decades and has voted upwards of 90% for Democrat presidential candidates. There was a Liberal territory government up until 2001. In Canberra, there are some Liberal-leaning areas like on the outskirts e.g. Tharwa, and old-money suburbs in South Canberra e.g. Deakin, Red Hill, Yarralumla.

    @John, roughly 40 to 45% of Canberra’s workforce is in the public sector (ACT or federal). There are others who are contractors or consultants or vendors for the ACT/Fed governments. Also the education sector is a big employer.

    The high Labor/Green vote may be because of the high attainment rates of university degrees and relatively young, working-age population, in addition to the public sector and university employers.

  23. @Votante and Nimalan there are voters in affluent and middle class urban areas, and to an extent Canberra too, who would happily vote Lib but would never consider the Republican Party if they were voting in US elections. Many but not all of said voters voted Teal in the 2022 election.

  24. @Nimalan – I did a dummy map of 25 using the tool and it didn’t look as bad as I thought it would.

    Liberals would win a single seat in the Inner south and be competitive in another one. That’s it, though in this system you’d imagine the parties would morph over time to attract a lot of federal Labor/territory Liberal voters (the opposite of QLD politics basically).

    The Greens would have a single winnable seat depending on how the inner north is split, and then be competitive in other areas around there. Remember that Greens didn’t win a single booth vs ALP 2PP at the federal election. Perhaps they could be the main opposition party?

    Canberra is full of upper middle class, well educated, suburban voters. Canberra was ahead of the curve in those voters going for Labor but with the teals, Higgins, Ryan etc. the other cities may be catching up.

    Teals would do well in Canberra and could probably pick up a seat in every electorate with Pocock’s support and level of funding, though unclear at whose expense. Greens have proven themselves not to be frighteningly radical in the ACT but are still to the left of Labor.

  25. Looks like I repeated myself from earlier in the year.

    I remember Joe Hockey leaning into the stolen 2020 election narrative saying the Democrat vote in DC was unusually high. It didn’t take. Canberra is much the same way.

    But interestingly in DC the Democrats voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the primaries – pro establishment, not particularly progressive democrats. Again Canberra may be the same – Greens have hoped at several elections that people who vote Labor for non economic reasons could be convinced to vote Green instead. I subscribed to that theory. But 2022 showed even if you can overtake the Liberals there’s a very long way to go for Greens, and they might be “for lack of a real” Green voters.

  26. “For lack of a teal” Green voters I meant – evidenced by the 15% of 2019 Kooyong voters (2/3rd of Green vote) who switched from Greens to Monique Ryan, or the 7% that left Greens (a bit under half of their house or 2019 vote) in the 2022 Senate for Pocock. The votes Greens lose when literally any non far right 3rd party runs.

    Is that a real problem? If the Greens can’t do well in the ACT against a real or NIMBY independent threat with the benefit of incumbency and runs on the board, then yes it is.

  27. @ John
    Thank you for doing a map of the 25 dummy seats. i agree it is likely that it that a single seat around Deakin/Yarralumla would be Liberal where was your second seat for the Libs? I agree that is not certain whether Greens or Libs would be the opposition in such a scenario. The Teals may challenge for the inner south seat with tactical voting but may not do well elsewhere. There is a wildcard that the Teals may be Opposition if they win 2 seats. At a federal level the Libs collapsed around Deakin, Yarramulma similar to Teal seats but at a Senate Level the combined Teal vote (Pocock/Kim Rubestentin) exceeds the Labor vote. If a Teal ran in Higgins i think the PV breakdown would be 38% Lib, 22% Green, 21% ALP and 12% Teal so likely that the economically rightwing vote would still exceed the progressive vote.

  28. It’s not a coincidence that teals have only been close to successful in races for a single seat where no conventional progressive has proven to be electable. The second ACT Senate seat in that sense is much more like a House seat on the north shore of Sydney than any properly proportional election.

  29. @ Dan M
    Agree the Republican party is much further to the right that than the Libs so affluent voters can vote Lib whereas many in the US would struggle to vote for the Republicans given a more populist rhetoric, which works better in the US as many states are more decentralized with regional/rural voters playing a more significant role. In Australia, it really only works in QLD and maybe Tasmania again due to decentralization and less ethnic diversity. Also agree with Ben Raue that Teals can only win in seats where a traditional left wing candidate (Labor, Greens) cannot win so i dont believe Teals can win Macnamara/Higgins. What happens in these seats in that the Teals basically sweep up the lost Liberal voters from 2016 onward that’s what happened in Caulfield at a state level where Labor PV returned to 2014 level and the Teal Plus Liberal is now over 50% again.

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