Queensland’s (lack of a) redistribution


We’re now one year out from the next Queensland state redistribution. Queensland was the last state to extend its parliamentary terms to four years, and probably doesn’t hold redistributions often enough for the new term lengths.

State redistributions are typically held in Victoria and New South Wales after every second election. Redistributions are held after every election in Western Australia, South Australia, the ACT and the Northern Territory. Federal redistributions must be held at least once every seven years, but can theoretically be held after every election if a state’s seat entitlement changes. Tasmania’s lower house boundaries are redrawn on the federal schedule, while Tasmania’s upper house generally undergoes a redistribution roughly once a decade.

Throughout the 21st century, Queensland state redistributions have generally taken place after every three elections. The first redistribution applied in 2001, 2004 and 2006. The next covered 2009, 2012 and 2015. The current boundaries were used for the 2017 and 2020 elections, and will be used again for the upcoming 2024 election.

This is a long gap! So for this post I thought I would look at how enrolment trends in Queensland have deviated since that redistribution.

For this post I’m using enrolment data from the end of September 2023.

I have calculated how much each electorate deviates from the statewide average, but it’s worth noting that there are four large electorates in northern and western Queensland which are allowed to be drawn well below the average. For seats with over 100,000 square kilometres of land mass, 2% of those square kilometres count as “notional electors”. In the case of Gregory, this amounts to over 9,000 imaginary electors, compared to a quota of just over 39,000.

This special allowance collectively adds up to about 70% of a seat’s quota, so the quotas calculated for each region don’t cancel each other out.

Nine seats exceed the quota by more than 10%, while four others are more than 10% under the quota.

The 61 seats in the urban parts of south-east Queensland are collectively 70% over quota, but the large electorate allowance means that the remaining parts of the state are roughly in line with the quota.

When we get to the map, you’ll see a big divide in Brisbane. Seats south of the river tend to be under quota. The 20 seats in southern Brisbane are about a quarter of a seat under quota, while the 17 north of the river are about half of a seat over quota. Ipswich and Sunshine Coast are both about a quarter of a seat over quota. Interestingly the Gold Coast collectively is roughly on track, but there are tremendous variations within the region.

Most Gold Coast seats are under quota, with Gaven and Oodgeroo about 11% under the average, but Coomera is a gob-smacking 35% over quota. No other seat is more than 18% over quota.

Central Queensland is generally above average, but this is mostly due to Gympie and Wide Bay being 11-12% over quota.

All but one seat along the coast from Gladstone to Townsville are under quota. Mundingburra is quite a long way below the quota, while the other two Townsville-area seats are just slightly under.

The Cairns-area seats are all over quota, if not by much, which creates the potential for the large-area Cook electorate to shrink slightly when a redistribution eventually comes along.

Traeger, Gregory in western Queensland are both very reliant on the notional electors but are still well below quota. Roughly a quarter of the “electors” in these two seats are imaginary. Applying the current redistribution rules, the two seats are about 16% under quota, but that would be 60% under quota if you just counted actual electors – or 80% under if you also include Warrego.

Queensland will not be holding a redistribution prior to the 2024 election. Presumably a redistribution will commence in the following term to cover the 2028 election. It would be a good idea if Queensland now moved to holding redistributions after every second election, now that the state has four year terms.

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  1. John, Mundingburra is already more than 10% under quota. If it’s pushed back to the Ross River, it has to take a big chunk out of Burdekin to get back within tolerance. Burdekin itself is 7.5% under quota and would then have to take chunks from Mirani and Whitsunday and so on. And there really isn’t any significant excess over quota in any electorate to the south until reaching the Wide Bay-Burnett region.

    I don’t think the deficiency is enough to remove an electorate from North Queensland, but I also doubt the ECQ is going to give itself extra problems by trying to cut voters from an electorate that is already below tolerance. Perhaps if there’s an increase from 93 members, the quota will drop low enough to fix Mundingburra being outside tolerance, but even then I can’t see it losing any territory.

  2. John, since Hinchinbrook and Townsville are both under quota, I’m going to assume you’re meaning Hill with its 6.5% excess over quota will give territory to Hinchinbrook, and Hinchinbrook will in turn give territory to Townsville and Thuringowa. That makes sense. What I’m confused about is how Townsville or Thuringowa are going to give territory to Mundingburra if the Ross River is set as Mundingburra’s boundary. Neither Townsville nor Thuringowa cross the river so they have no territory on the southern side to give.

  3. SEQ Observer, I agree that Labor would never support a reintroduction of the Legislative Council. They wouldn’t want to become dependent on the Greens to pass legislation like they are federally.

    Would the LNP support it? In a single electorate system, they’d be unlikely to ever get a majority outside of true landslide like 2012 which happens maybe once in a generation. Since the Katters have a vote that’s very concentrated, but not high across the state, they probably wouldn’t elect many MLCs, but One Nation would. I can’t see the LNP wanting to become dependent on One Nation either, because it will hurt their image in Brisbane just as much as Labor’s dependence on the Greens hurts them in rural areas.

    So I imagine they’d probably only support a new Legislative Council if it’s in a model similar to the one WA just abandoned, divided by provinces with some level of malapportionment for regional and rural areas. That might get the Katters on side and reduce One Nation’s bargaining power. But it would only happen if the LNP are in government and are willing to reduce their own electoral power to hamstring Labor when they’re next in power. It’s a lot of ifs.

  4. @wilson another option to keep them either side of 5he River is to transfer any excess north of the river to traeger and that can give some to burdekin

  5. Aside from crossing the Brisbane river they will need to redistribute the at or near quota seats as they effectively bridge the below quota seats south of the river and the over quota gold Coast seats

  6. Based on what I’ve done draft wise at least 3 of the district’s with ghost electors should be able to shrink in size while bringog them closer to quota

  7. I will be making a formal proposal this time for Queensland. This could be the first time I do a formal redistribution proposal to an electoral commission since I missed the date for the federal redistributions.

    The Queensland Legislative Assembly has 93 seats, equal with the New South Wales Legislative Assembly (both are equally the largest state parliaments in Australia). The seat total could potentially either increase to at least 94 seats, it could decrease to at least 92, or it could just stay at 93. If the number of seats increases (even if it’s by just one seat), then it’ll become the largest state lower house in Australia. However, if the number of seats decreases (again, even if it’s by just one seat), then NSW will have the largest state parliament in Australia. If it stays at 93, it’ll still be equal. This is despite NSW being by far the most populous state, with Victoria being second and Queensland being third.

  8. It makes sense for the QLD parliament to be larger than the other states despite its smaller population given the lack of an upper house. I would expect it to get expanded again sometime in the near future to 95-99 seats given they like uneven numbers and added 4 new seats last time.

    I believe NSW had a 109 seat lower house for a brief period in the late 80s/early 90s before it got reduced to 99 again, and then to 93 where it is today.

  9. That can only be done by an act of parliament and given there has been no movement on that front I doubt it will. I to will be and have already begun doing draft boundaries especially in northern Qld for the 4 division getting ghost voters 1 is over quota and will shrink and 3 are under. My goal for these 3 is to increase voters whilst reducing or staying at current territory in terms of sqkm. I’ve already come up with something for traegar

  10. @laine youll find all states have uneven numbers because that removes the possibility of a deadlock in parliament cause if both sides won an even amount of seats there would be no way to form governement

  11. i believe cook, traegar and gregory can be reduced in size while coming up to quota. cook has to reduce territory as its over and i believe traegar and gregory can shed territory wile increasing elector numbers. warego can robably stay they same or have a slight boundary adjustment given its close enogh to quota

  12. @np il be proposing Hill takes in parts if mareeba shire from cook and barron River and barron River gain a small part of northern cairns. Hill will lose part or all of cassowary regional council to Hinchinbrook. Which should be able to shed hopefully all of Townsville while gaining palm island given its part of the lga and has a ferry link. Townsville will take territory from mundingburra up to the Ross River. Given thuringowa also meets the Ross River any excess territory from city of Townsville can be moved into treagar.and given it may then push traegar over I was thinking of moving Mt Isa into Gregory which can then shed central highlands regional

  13. Palm Island is it’s own LGA, and has far stronger transportation links to Townsville (a daily ferry) than Ingham via Lucinda (a barge five times a week). The vast majority of residents would access services in Townsville, not Ingham.

    Placing Palm Island LGA in Hinchinbrook, while well-intentioned and tidy on a map, wouldn’t work. It would be like placing K’Gari in the Burnett electorate, or North Stradbroke Island into Redcliffe.

    It’s also worth pointing out that even though the federal electorate of Herbert has decreased in size significantly since the 1990s, to effectively become a Townsville-urban seat, it has always contained Palm Island. This underlines even further that Palm Island doesn’t belong in Hinchinbrook.

    Weipa into Tragear, or Mount Isa into Gregory, won’t work either.

  14. Care to explain. Even so on palm island it won’t matter cause of what I assume are small numbers but il do it anyway as it would be nice to tidy up the map

  15. Why does Mt Isa not work into gergory? As I have explained traegar needs to gain voters but nor territory if it takes in excess parts of Townsville once cook, barron River, Hill and Hinchinbrook retract north it increase voters and its size reduces by about 40000 km2. The status quo in those seats would remain with no direct benefit to any party other then just a reshuffle of territory. It also takes care of Gregory’s deficit.

  16. Given the strong western boundary of Townsville il be suggesting it takes what it needs from mundingburra on the north side of the river. Which can in turn extend along the southern side. In regards to Burdekin I think a major renovation is needed. It should take in the entire Whitsunday lga from Whitsunday and shed what parts of issac council lga it needs to.i thin k collide is gonna get split between the deficit in the north and the surplus on the Sunshine Coast. Mackay will shed some territory and then make a better looking “whitsunday” which would need a rename along with a better looking mirani

  17. So il be proposing mundingburra locality bebmoved into Townsville and renaming mundingburra to Ross. Similarly il proposing mundingburra move in thuringowa which will in turn take in the surplus from the far north qld seats. Then il propose that be renamed Bohle after the river or Halifax after the bay

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