Podcast #100: Redistributions all around Australia


Ben is joined by ABC chief election analyst Antony Green for the 100th episode of the Tally Room podcast to discuss the many redistributions currently underway around Australia: federal redistributions, state and territory redistributions and even local council ward redistributions.

We discuss the population trends affecting the drawing of federal boundaries, the process of drawing, and how we make estimates of margins in new electorates.

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  1. Thanks Ben and Antony, an interesting insight into an area I really have no detailed knowledge or expertise on. So take that as my starting point. I realise that this site is devoted to Psephology and populated by people with mathematical bents, so that will always be their area of interest – getting the maths as close to perfect as possible.

    But listening to the podcast through my experience of working in local government as a town planner, there were a few things that stood out for me.

    The concept of communities of interest is one that is often discussed in determining LG boundaries and to a lesser extent Regional Planning boundaries. I can see more of a case for CoI in regional areas where social, economic and environmental factors are more inter-related based around geography, climatic conditions and major economic industries. But in major metropolitan areas, I tend to think there is less, from an average person’s perspective, a view that they belong to a CoI rather than the wider metro area. I lived in three major LGA in Brisbane, but I never saw myself as a Loganite, Redlander, but just a Brisbanite. Then when you look at the size of some of those Federal and State rural electorates, you could hardly saw that the physical distance between towns / places within the same electorate would represent CoI.

    So as an intellectual / mathematical exercise, if you did away with CoI as a starting point and then plotted population distributions across the country. You could possibly start with the greatest concentration of population as your initial starting / central point and then work your way outwards to get to the required fair distribution. I would also put in a word for taking into account planned growth areas, which are currently undeveloped, but are planned for future population growth into this calculation.

    I realise there is more complexity to this (i.e. constitution and State boundaries) than what I have suggested and I am probably speaking complete gibberish. But occasionally you need to think outside the box.

    If I was completely honest, I think these redistributions are only a “problem” for a very small percentage of the population (i.e. political operatives and maths purest). For the vast majority of the population, we just shrug our shoulders and say – “I am in a new electorate” and just move on.

  2. @Neil Flanagan

    One possibility of why you personally feel like there isnt much reason to be serious about city area redistributions is that Brisbane is much smaller than Sydney or Melbourne making it somewhat safer to bunch up the Brisbane area electorates (including Bowman and Rankin, which I think totals to 9 seats), whereas Sydney and Melbourne would be 20+ seats which is a bad idea to treat like a monolith. Another possibility is that Brisbane is far less class-stratified than Sydney (hence the latter has a bit clearer distinction between communities)

    Thats NOT to say I am DEFINITELY correct (I probably have missed a few things myself) but that MAY be something you forgot to take account of.

  3. Agree Leon, having lived in both Sydney and Brisbane the class structure is less clear cut for Brisbane with it also being more culturally monolithic having fewer communities with non-white majorities.

  4. @ Yoh An, i agree with you. One other point i think about Brisbane unlike Melbourne for example there is very little manufacturing. In Melbourne the North, West and parts of the South East are heavily industrialized this had attracted a lot of working class ethnic communities such as refugees and historically post war Europeans. A greater unionized workforce so much more loyal to Labor and class identity is more firm than for example a tradie. To illustrated my point if we compare both the NSW 2011 and QLD 2012 state elections both used OPV at that time the NSW Labor primary was actually slightly worse but they ended up with much more seats given how seats are distributed. If Victorian Labor got 24% of the primary vote and lets say for arguments sake they used OPV they will likely get at least 25 seats.

  5. @Nimalan interestingly the LNP won 78 seats (+45) at the 2012 Queensland state election and had a primary vote of 49.7% (+8.1% swing) and 63.8% TPP (+13.7% swing) whereas Labor won just seven seats (–44), winning 26.7% of the primary vote (–15.6% swing) and 37.2% TPP (–13.7% swing). In contrast, at the 2011 NSW state election, the Coalition won 69 seats (+32), 51.15% of the primary vote (+14.16% swing) and 64.22% TPP (+16.48% swing), while Labor won 20 seats (–30), 25.55% of the primary vote (–13.43%) and 35.78% TPP (–16.48%). So the LNP won 78/89 (87.64%) seats in the Queensland Legislative Assembly, while the Coalition won 69/93 (74.19%) seats in the NSW Legislative Assembly, despite the Coalition having a higher vote in NSW in 2011 than the LNP did in Queensland in 2012.

    On a side note, in allusion to the World Cup match tonight (which as a soccer fan I will be watching), I should note that if QLD Labor after the 2012 state election had a soccer team entirely composed of QLD Labor MPs, then I’m pretty they would only need to lose one player and be required to forfeit given that Queensland has no upper house, only a lower house (the Legislative Assembly). This just shows how big Newman’s 2012 victory was from a different point of view.

  6. Nether Portal, that would indicate that Labor’s vote in Queensland is more diluted or spread thinly compared to that for NSW.

    This is partly because NSW has two large industrial centers (Newcastle and Wollongong) which are rock solid for Labor whereas Queensland only has one (Gladstone) and that is not considered a true hub.

  7. Furthermore, in the respective capital cities (Sydney vs Brisbane) – Labor has a stronger base of support in many ethnically diverse communities although that is showing some signs of weakness with loss of vote in places such as Liverpool and Cabramatta.

  8. @Yoh An – Labor lost most of those Newcastle seats in the 2011 election and won them back in the next election. Newcastle has a diverse economy and it is not just mining and the port. The biggest employers are the University and the Hospital. Having spent a lot of time in Newcastle people get caught up in the industrial base, but this has changed over the past 10 – 20 years

  9. Nether Portal/Yoh An
    You have correctly pointed that the NSW state result on all metrics (swing, TPP, primary vote) was actually slightly worse than the QLD result but Labor managed to win far more seats. It shows how the concentration of vote is important in elections. QLD simply has less high ground when there is a Coalition deluge for Labor. Victoria has even stronger higher ground because NW Melbourne is so strong for Labor with a few exceptions such as Niddrie, Sunbury etc so if they had the same situation as i mentioned Victorian Labor can win more seats. The Ethnic communities like Yoh An said is part of Labor’s base i do agree with Yoh an that Labor needs to look at addressing the emerging weakeness in Liverpool and Cabramatta as that has been an area very loyal to Labor until recently.

  10. it’s also interesting that there’s really not many places on a federal level in queensland which consistently vote >65% tpp for labor. inala and parts of logan such as woodridge remain very safe labor areas but brisbane is so socially mixed compared with melbourne and especially sydney that labor (and indeed the liberals) don’t have large swathes of the city that vote safely and consistently for them. sydney has the red rooster divide and melbourne has the yarra social divide but brisbanes north and south aren’t really distinctly different from each other.

  11. @ Louis
    Good points. Agree Inala is similar to many of the working class ethnic suburbs of Melbourne Sydney like around Springvale-Dandenong, St Albans, Cabramatta etc. However, at a federal level it is in the same seat as the Upper Middle Class Centenary Suburbs so Oxley is not rock solid Labor seat. I agree Brisbane North and South are not really different and you can find affluence and disadvantage both sides of the river. Just one point about the Yarra River in Melbourne is it not really a socio-economic divide as you move East for example Eaglemont is wealthier than Bulleen and Eltham, Lower Plenty are Upper Middle Class like most of Manningham although Jagajaga is more socially progressive. The Monash Freeway and Dingley Bypass are probably stronger social divides in Melbourne.

  12. @Louis Labor’s safest federal seat in Queensland as of 2022 is Oxley, a safe seat with a margin of 11.59%. In comparison, the Greens’ safest federal seat both nationwide and in Queensland is Griffith in Brisbane on a 10.94% margin and the Coalition’s safest federal seat both nationwide and in Queensland is Maranoa on a 22.12%, while Bob Katter’s seat of Kennedy is held by the KAP on a 13.10% margin (you’d think it’d be higher but no, however that is KAP v LNP so if it was KAP v ALP the margin would be much bigger).

  13. @Nimalan @Yoh Anh we can see the anti-Labor swings in Cabramatta and Liverpool on both the federal and state level, plus maybe on the local level next year. To elaborate:

    2022 federal election: Fowler:
    Labor: 55.72% (–8.27%)
    Liberal: 44.28% (+8.27%)
    Dai Le: 51.63% (+51.63%)
    Labor: 48.37% (–15.62%)

    2023 state election: Cabramatta:
    Labor: 61.8% (–7.5%)
    Liberal: 38.2% (+7.5%)

    2023 state election: Liverpool:
    Labor: 58.3% (–9.0%)
    Liberal: 41.7% (+9.0%)

    I should note though that even if multicultural communities in Western Sydney and in Melbourne are strongly Labor-voting, migrants are still often at least somewhat socially conservative and many Asian communities in Sydney are Liberal-voting areas. The electoral district of Ryde, for example (in the federal seat of Bennelong, a Labor seat), is normally a Liberal stronghold given how Liberal-voting Ryde is, same goes for Epping (another Liberal seat, held by former Premier Dominic Perrottet). According to the ABS, here are the ancestry stats for the state electorates of Drummoyne, Epping, Lane Cove, Oatley, Ryde and Willoughby (all Liberal seats in Sydney), as of the 2021 Census:

    English: 19.8%
    Australian: 18.2%
    Italian: 16.2%
    Chinese: 15.7%
    Irish: 9.0%

    Chinese: 31.0%
    English: 18.4%
    Australian: 16.3%
    Indian: 8.7%
    Korean: 5.9%

    Lane Cove:
    English: 26.0%
    Australian: 23.1%
    Chinese: 14.4%
    Irish: 10.7%
    Scottish: 7.6%

    Chinese: 20.0%
    English: 19.9%
    Australian: 19.4%
    Greek: 8.0%
    Irish: 6.9%

    Chinese: 30.9%
    English: 14.9%
    Australian: 14.2%
    Korean: 5.7%
    Indian: 5.2%

    English: 26.8%
    Chinese: 22.5%
    Australian: 21.8%
    Irish: 9.9%
    Scottish: 8.0%

    So it seems the NSW Liberal Party has a good relationship with the Asian and European communities of Sydney.

  14. @ Nether Portal
    I agree with you that migrant communities even those who are working class are often socially-conservative especially LGBT issues etc a part of this is due to greater religiosity among ethnic communities compared to Anglo-Celtic Australians. I also agree that NSW Labor is good at reaching out to ethnic minorities i would also add Winston Hills to your list of seats which has very large South Asian Community same with the suburb of Oran Park which actually had a swing to Libs when it was moved into the electorate of Badgerys Creek. They also held onto Riverstone and Parramatta which are also quite diverse ethnically for 12 years and is on their path back to power. The case of Liverpool and Cabramatta is quite interesting when compared to how well Labor did in other working class Ethnic seats such as Granville, Auburn, Mt Druitt, Bankstown and even nearby Macquarie Fields.

  15. @Nimalan – regarding Cabramatta and Liverpool – 2 long serving Labor Members retired at the election, but that still does not count for 7 – 8% swings in safe seats, even is Labor won Fowler it would have had a swing against them of 8% and Werriwa margin has been reducing considerably over the past 10 years or so. So Labor has issues in this region.

  16. @ James, agree i am not sure how much of a personal vote the two long serving Labor members would have had, rock solid seats dont generally get much attention especially when the two members were in opposition for the last 12 years so i am not sure how much they achieved for the community. Getting such big swing against Labor in an election year where there is a big swing to the party statewide is perplexing. Labor had a swing against it in Franklin with a retiring member in 2007 despite a statewide/nation wide swing to it but Franklin is a seat where personal vote is important and has been held by Libs before. This is not the case in Cabramatta/Liverpool where the low SES suburbs are not swing areas. You are 100% correct about Werriwa i feel it has been a neglected seat since 2005 as it had a series of low profile members where in the past it was held by senior Labor members such as Whitlam, Kerin and Latham. Werriwa should really be represented by someone who will be a future minister or leader.

  17. i think swings to the liberals in liverpool and cabramatta are indicative of deteriorating class differences in voting pattern. though i think very low ses postcodes and multicultural enclaves in sydney and melbourne (i.e., broadmeadows, lakemba, mount druitt etc) will remain in labor’s hands for the foreseeable future, more middle class areas with higher proportions of european migrants compared with south asian, middle eastern and african migrants (i.e., parts of liverpool council) will likely shore up support for the coalition. likewise, i believe parts of sydney’s north shore and melbournes east will firm up for labor, especially with densification due to respective transport projects (metro north west line and suburban rail loop). i’ll be particularly interested to see how srl, and the significant densification that occurs around each station, shapes victoria’s political landscape. if box hill is anything to go by i believe pockets of melbournes east can become solidly labor voting areas while the liberals can dig into labor’s margins in the outer north, east and western suburbs.

  18. @Nether Portal, while Griffith is technically the Greens’ safest seat by 2CP measure, it’s marginal on a 3CP basis vs Labor. I believe the 3CP margin vs Labor is only 3.3%. It’s a bit like saying Macnamara is a safe Labor seat on a 12.2% 2PP margin when the 3CP margin vs the Greens is only 0.32%. I’d say Melbourne is the safest federal Greens seat on current numbers.

  19. @Nimalan I should point out a mistake you made: you put NSW Labor instead of the NSW Liberals. Just thought I might point that out.

    Anyway, about Winston Hills: it is in a surprisingly multicultural region: the Hills. Many people know it for its large Christian conservative upper-middle-class population in northwestern Sydney but there are actually many Asians (particularly Asian Christians) in the Hills (Castle Hill, Kellyville and Winston Hills on the state level, Mitchell on the federal level). So yes it does have many multicultural communities but not to the extent of Drummoyne, Epping, Lane Cove, Oatley, Ryde or Willoughby, which I specifically pointed out to illustrate how the NSW Liberals are still getting the support of Asian Australians in Sydney even without even holding the federal seats of Bennelong, North Sydney or Reid (to be fair they do hold Banks and Bradfield though). Same-sex marriage is something that many Asians in 2017 did not support due to it being untraditional/unorthodox. Many non-White people support same-sex marriage (myself included, I was born in Australia but have mixed heritage and identify as non-religious) but many ethnic communities who came from countries with more socially conservative views on the issue were against it (without being homophobic). Having travelled to other countries before I am well aware that the social views of foreigners are often quite different to those in the West or even from other non-Western(ised) countries.

    You also mentioned the seats of Auburn, Bankstown, Granville, Macquarie Fields and Mount Druitt (let’s also add in Blacktown to expand): these seats have larger Middle Eastern populations which seem to be more Labor-voting, especially among Muslims (being part-Lebanese and with a largely Catholic background (British, German, Lebanese, Romanian, a lot for a bloke born in regional NSW), I am well that there are Middle Eastern Christians too, which may be a bit more likely to vote Liberal than Muslims who are relatively new to Australia).

    Parramatta and Riverstone are interesting because the federal seats of Greenway and Parramatta are Labor-held (despite both being Liberal held many times in the past, in fact the 2004 election was the first to be won by the Coalition without them winning Parramatta as well). Plus Riverstone is in the City of Blacktown LGA and Parramatta is in the City of Parramatta LGA, both Labor-dominated councils (though the Liberals had a majority in Parramatta until 2021 when they endorsed no candidates in Parramatta amongst other councils they previously did, e.g Kiama). Yet on the state level they stuck with the Liberals for 12 long years and could absolutely fall to the Liberals in 2027 should the Liberals win (I personally think at the moment there is a 50/50 chance that either Chris Minns and Labor or Mark Speakman and the Coalition will win the next state election especially given that Labor has only got a minority government). Riverstone borders Kellyville, which just shows how diverse Sydney’s political and demographic landscape is even when you drive under 20 minutes from one place to another; the Hills is a wealthy, conservative and largely white-collar region of Sydney while Blacktown is a working-class, socially-democratic and largely blue-collar suburb/area. Riverstone and nearby suburbs such as The Ponds are in the midst of it all.

  20. @ Nether Portal, Apologies i meant to write NSW Liberals, like you pointed out is good at reaching out to ethnic communities. I also agree with you that many Middle Eastern Christians are more Liberal leaning especially as many of the community are more affluent these days. I think the Assyrian/Chaldean community is one that the Libs should reach out to longer term as the community becomes more affluent integrated especially ones who live in suburbs like Middleton Grange, Cecil Hills West Hoxton etc

  21. @Nimalan I have never understood why Muslim voters have often voted Labor. Do have any clue as to why? Is it just simply because they mostly live in Western Sydney or is there a reason for it?

  22. It’s mostly because of there policies in relation to Israel and immigration and such. The left like to pander to them so they vote that way

  23. @ Nether Portal,
    I think it mainly due to the fact that the areas with large Muslim Communities such as Watson, Blaxland, Rankin, Calwell and eastern part of Swan tend to be low SES and these areas were rock solid Labor even before 2001. However, i do agree with John that there is some specific issue such as Middle Eastern geopolitics which became more entrenched during the War on Terror years and probably greater feeling that they were a Minority community made them feel closer to Labor. We actually had a discussion on this before the NSW state election comparing the Lebanese Christian community and the Lebanese Muslim Community see link below in the Bankstown thread. i stated that many in the Christian Middle Eastern community often feel part of the cultural majority, In the US there is a debate on whether Middle Eastern people are white or people of colour and views vary according to Religion.


  24. Never realised how weird Hume was until you described it here. I drive that highway a lot and agree the west side us mostly barren. Fixing this seat up in the redistribution makes sense.

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