The suggestions from members of the public, MPs and political parties for the current redistribution of federal electoral boundaries in New South Wales were released yesterday. Unfortunately I was a bit preoccupied on my way back from Malaysia so it’s taken some time to respond.
Antony Green has written a good summary of the major submissions from parties and MPs, so instead I’m going to go through the submissions by region, looking at how they differ in particular areas.
For this post I will sometimes refer to the enrolment projections – you can check out this post from late September which covered the official enrolment numbers used for the NSW redistribution. That post now has over 350 comments, but you can now move the conversation here.
This is quite a long post but if you’re only interested in one region you can scroll to that region.
I did find some general trends.
Understandably, parties generally left seats they hold alone and were more willing to chop and change in their opponents’ areas. There isn’t much common ground between the Liberals and the Nationals – they have their own agendas and don’t concern themselves too much with giving the other an advantage.
One of the most interesting elements was how independent seats were treated.
There was no choice on the north shore except for at least one teal seat to be pushed out of the teal heartland, and the general consensus is that Kylea Tink in North Sydney is that victim. But the differences come in what they do with what is left of her seat. Most of the major submissions generally support holding the remainder of North Sydney together and then adding some areas from Bradfield or Bennelong, but the Liberal submission instead dismembers her seat.
Labor likewise dramatically change Dai Le’s seat of Fowler. Their version of “Fowler” only contains a little of the old seat and shifts a long way south, while Le’s strongest areas are added to Chris Bowen’s McMahon.
And then the Liberal Party also dismembers Andrew Gee’s seat of Calare – the western end is added to the Blue Mountains in a likely Labor seat, while the town of Orange is bizarrely added to Riverina.
One of the key areas requiring change is the northern suburbs of Sydney, where seats are both significantly under quota, but also options for change are limited by the presence of major bodies of water to the east and south.
The three teal seats of Warringah, Mackellar and North Sydney are collectively about 40% short of the projected quota, and get no relief from neighbouring seats. The shortage adds up to 76% of a seat if you extend out to include Bradfield, Bennelong and Berowra.
For those three teal seats, the crucial decision is which direction you move to bring them up to quota – do you extend North Sydney north into Bradfield, west into Bennelong or do you extend Mackellar or Warringah west into Bradfield.
Labor and Liberal both suggest the same direction – they push Mackellar and Warringah south, with North Sydney most severely affected.
Indeed Labor and Liberal each draw a very similar seat overlapping the current seats of Warringah and North Sydney. The only difference seems to be on the border with Mackellar – Labor has moved areas on the eastern edge of the Mackellar-Warringah border, while the Liberal Party has moved areas on the western edge.
Labor calls this seat “Warringah”, while the Liberal Party calls it “North Sydney”. The Liberals suggest abolishing the name “Warringah”, since North Sydney is a federation seat name, but this seat looks more like Warringah than it does North Sydney.
The Liberal submission effectively dismembers the old North Sydney, with the seat split three ways between Bradfield, Bennelong and Warringah. While the news has focused on Warringah being abolished, I think it makes more sense to say that North Sydney was abolished and its name transferred to Warringah.
Labor does not abolish any seats on the north shore, so instead they have to continue pushing the seats further west. North Sydney pushes into Bradfield and Bennelong, pushing Bennelong further into Parramatta and Bradfield into Berowra, which pushes Bradfield right up to the Hawkesbury River. They then move Berowra into the Hawkesbury region.
The three teal independents all make submissions. They don’t generally provide full maps of suggestions, but their arguments imply a certain direction of travel.
Mackellar MP Sophie Scamps argues that Mackellar should remain contained in the Northern Beaches council, which implies an expansion south into Warringah, not west into Bradfield, and also makes it less likely that Warringah could expand to the north-west into Bradfield, and thus suggests that North Sydney should bear the brunt of the changes.
Warringah MP Zali Steggall provides two specific recommendations, both of which expand Warringah slightly into both Mackellar and North Sydney. She doesn’t suggest further changes, but this would force both of her teal colleagues to expand into Bradfield.
North Sydney MP Kylea Tink instead suggests minimal change to North Sydney, expanding it slightly north and east into Bradfield and North Sydney. This would imply more dramatic changes to Mackellar, but it’s not said explicitly.
It’s worth noting that clearly identified “teals” ran in Warringah, North Sydney, Mackellar and Bradfield in 2022.
Steggall held her seat by a much larger margin in 2022, while both Scamps and Tink were elected with margins between 2.5% and 3%, although to be fair they were new candidates defeating sitting MPs, so you’d expect that difference to shrink in 2025. Fellow independent Nicolette Boele managed to cut Paul Fletcher’s margin to 4.2%. So you’d assume that expanding Mackellar or North Sydney into Bradfield would add less friendly areas for the independent MPs, but not completely hostile areas. It’s hard to see where Boele could run again, despite her continuing to campaign as the “shadow member for Bradfield”.
The Greens recommended abolishing Bradfield, with Warringah expanding both east into North Sydney and north into Mackellar, with North Sydney, Mackellar, Bradfield and Bennelong expanding to take in parts of the abolished Bradfield. They also suggest renaming North Sydney to “Cammeraygal”.
The Nationals also suggest abolishing North Sydney, with Bennelong, Warringah and Bradfield expanding to fill the space. Their proposal is relatively similar to the Liberals, but they maintain the name of Warringah.
There are two main political implications here:
- Those who suggest Mackellar expands south and thus forces North Sydney to push north are likely drawing a safer seat for Sophie Scamps than Kylea Tink, and potentially result in Tink having to run in a notional Liberal seat.
- The Liberal and Nationals proposals pull Bennelong east and make it easier for the Liberal Party, while Labor, the Greens expand Bennelong in other directions.
Central and Eastern Sydney
All of the submissions start from Wentworth, with a choice of changing it either on its western boundary with Sydney or its southern boundary with Kingsford Smith.
The Liberal and Greens submissions expand Wentworth in both directions, while the Labor and Nationals submissions shift Wentworth into Kingsford Smith and actually loses a small area to Sydney.
Allegra Spender considers both an expansion west into Sydney (as far as Hyde Park) or south into Kingsford Smith but doesn’t endorse either option. She does specifically argue against Kingsford Smith expanding north into Wentworth, but no-one else suggests such a change.
Pretty much everyone has recommended Kingsford Smith take in part of the City of Sydney from the seat of Sydney, but Labor and the Nationals go further, moving Erskineville in to Kingsford Smith, while Liberal and Greens are more modest, moving Rosebery, Beaconsfield and Zetland.
This becomes relevant when we look at the seat of Sydney. Pretty much everyone agrees that Sydney has to expand west to take in suburbs from Grayndler.
At the moment the Greens’ best areas in Sydney are split between the seats of Sydney and Grayndler, and I think most versions of Sydney become stronger for the Greens. Cutting out Erskineville takes a very strong Greens area and neutralises it by combining it with a very weak Greens area, as in the state seat of Heffron.
Labor and the Greens both move Balmain, Annandale and Newtown into Sydney. The Nationals focus on adding Balmain and Leichhardt, while the Liberal Party doesn’t add Balmain, but instead adds in Newtown and Marrickville.
Every party then pushes seats further west. The Greens recommend abolishing Watson, while the Liberal Party does a similar move as they did in North Sydney, by applying the name Watson to a seat that more resembles Blaxland. The Nationals recommend abolishing Grayndler. Labor manages to avoid abolishing a seat until much further out.
The Labor and Liberal submissions take quite different approaches to the seats in the St George and Sutherland area. The Liberal seats experience little change – Banks expands a little towards Kogarah, while Cook becomes a Botany Bay-based seat, taking in the Botany Bay shoreline all the way to edge of their airport along with the Cronulla area.
Labor meanwhile still has to abolish a seat, and they’ve chosen Hughes. Cook retreats to the south side of the Georges River and takes in more of the Shire. Barton is based entirely in the eastern parts of the St George area, losing the southern parts of Marrickville. Banks takes in western parts of the Sutherland Shire.
Those parts of Hughes in the Liverpool council area are moved into Fowler. Labor’s proposal dismembers Fowler into four parts, moving Fowler quite a long way south to take in parts of Campbelltown and Liverpool council areas from Werriwa, Macarthur and Hughes. Such a change would be very inconvenient for Dai Le.
Labor’s proposed changes to Fowler then trigger flow-on effects across the western suburbs. Parramatta shifts west, pushed that way by the population deficit on the north shore. Changes to Greenway and Chifley are relatively minor, but Lindsay shifts quite a long way east due to changes to Macquarie, which I’ll address next.
The Liberal proposal seems to make some choices about which marginal seats they make more competitive and which ones are lost. They move Parramatta south, with Mitchell gaining parts of Parramatta which would undoubtedly make Mitchell less safe, but still safe enough. Greenway, on the other hand, is pushed into the fast-growing northern suburbs of the City of Blacktown which would likely make it more competitive for the Liberals.
Fowler is still substantially changed in the Liberal proposal, but Dai Le’s best areas stay in the seat.
The Liberals had already abolished two seats – Blaxland and Warringah – so they now have a spare seat to create, which they do by creating Bird Walton as a new south-western seat covering the new airport and high-growth suburbs previously contained in Hume, Macarthur, Werriwa, Lindsay and McMahon.
The seat of Macquarie is a critical linchpin which is worth mentioning on its own.
The seat currently is about 9% under the projected quota, and is made up of two distinct parts: the entire Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury council areas. To bring it up to quota, you’ve gotta branch out to another area.
Labor has chosen to split the Penrith area, giving about a third of the council to Macquarie and thus pushes Lindsay further into the Blacktown council area. Labor also takes the Richmond and Windsor urban fringe suburbs and puts them in Berowra. Bizarrely the Labor proposal still leaves the vast rural parts of the Hawkesbury council area paired with the Blue Mountains and western Penrith.
The Liberal proposal is very different. They split the Mountains away from the Hawkesbury, instead pairing the Blue Mountains with the central west of NSW. This arrangement has been true multiple times in history. Ben Chifley represented Macquarie when it covered Bathurst, and was also the case at the 2007 election, when Bob Debus won the seat. Macquarie then reverted to covering the Hawkesbury in 2010.
The Liberal Party drew a new Macquarie covering the Blue Mountains as well as Blayney, Bathurst, Lithgow and Mudgee. This seat is a replacement for Calare, which they’ve abolished, while they created a new seat called Reibey out of the Hawkesbury and northern parts of the Hills Shire.
The Nationals opt for a much more modest change than Labor or Liberal, transferring those parts of Penrith west of the Nepean River to Macquarie and otherwise leaving the current borders intact. I’m a fan of this simple approach. The Greens don’t make a specific suggestion, beyond saying that they propose leaving Macquarie alone and expanding it slightly into either Lindsay or Berowra.
Hunter and the North Coast
Labor makes no changes to Page, Richmond or Cowper. The Liberal Party also don’t change Page or Richmond but make a very slight change to the Cowper-Lyne border.
Labor also leaves Lyne alone, while the Liberals extend Lyne to take in parts of the Upper Hunter previously contained in the seat of Hunter. This then frees up part of Lyne to take in the rural areas on the north side of Port Stephens, which begins a cascade of changes through the Hunter.
Labor’s map of the Hunter shows minimal changes. Dobell, Robertson and Shortland appear to be unchanged. Hunter loses its most rural fringe to New England, but is otherwise left alone. Newcastle needs to expand so stretches north and takes a chunk out of Paterson, which is otherwise untouched. This leaves Paterson as quite elongated and strange, connecting Kurri Kurri and Maitland to the Port Stephens peninsula through Raymond Terrace.
The Liberal proposal doesn’t have anywhere near as much respect for the existing boundaries in this area. Robertson is mostly left alone, while Dobell shrinks to the urban parts of the seat along the coast. Newcastle expands south into Shortland, pushing Shortland to take in rural fringe areas of the Lake Macquarie and Central Coast regions from Dobell and Hunter. The seat of Hunter is then pushed to take in more urban areas from Paterson and Newcastle. Paterson would be much stronger for the Liberals, having lost Kurri Kurri and big parts of Maitland.
The Nationals proposal for the area actually looks more like Labor’s proposal than the Liberal proposal. The Greens don’t give specific proposals, except to recommend no changes to Richmond and Page.
Illawarra and the south-east
The Liberal proposal is much less dramatic in this area. Cunningham, Gilmore, Eden-Monaro and Whitlam are left mostly intact – there are small changes on the Cunningham-Whitlam and Gilmore-Eden-Monaro boundaries.
Hume does shift further out of Sydney, losing the newer parts of Camden Council (although it still definitely contains parts of the Sydney urban fringe). To compensate, Hume gains Yass from Eden-Monaro and Cowra and Young from Riverina.
Labor makes more dramatic changes. We already discussed Labor’s abolition of Hughes, which pulls Cunningham up to take in a few developed suburbs in the Sutherland Shire. This triggers a cascade where Whitlam and Gilmore also shift north, and eventually Eden-Monaro takes in the remainder of the Eurobodalla council area from Gilmore. Eden-Monaro thus needs to lose the areas west of the great dividing range to Riverina – specifically the Yass Valley and Snowy Valleys council areas.
Labor also takes some of the Camden council area out of Hume around Narellan, but also then swaps that for some newly-developing areas further north which switch from Werriwa to Hume, which still leaves Hume with quite a substantial part of the urban fringe.
The Nationals are the only party to actually deal with the split nature of Hume, pushing it towards Sydney and taking away Goulburn and the areas further west.
The Nationals (like the Liberals) largely leave the Illawarra untouched, but like Labor they take out the western parts of Eden-Monaro and give them to Riverina. Instead of compensating Eden-Monaro with coastal areas, they stretch Eden-Monaro north to take in Goulburn. Hume becomes a seat composed of south-western Sydney suburbs and the northern end of the Southern Highlands, but that’s it. The other rural parts of Hume go into Riverina.
New England is mostly left alone by Labor and Liberal. Both parties add the Muswellbrook council area from the seat of Hunter, and the Liberal proposal also adds in the remainder of the Gwydir council area from Parkes (Labor just adds a small part of it).
The Nationals make more dramatic changes. New England loses the remainder of the Gwydir council area and northern parts of the Inverell council area (but not Inverell itself) to Parkes. At the southern end, New England gains Muswellbrook council area as well as part of the Singleton council area from Hunter. It appears the boundary ends at the Hunter River, with Singleton just narrowly left inside Hunter.
Labor is much less dramatic in western NSW. They leave Farrer entirely alone, and simply add Parkes and Forbes council areas to Parkes which makes Riverina much more compact. Calare appears to be entirely untouched. Riverina, having lost parkes and Forbes, gains the remainder of the Hilltops council area from Hume and Yass Valley and Snowy Valleys council areas from Eden-Monaro.
The Liberal Party effectively abolishes Calare, leaving the central west completely changed. Macquarie stretches as far as Mudgee and Blayney. The seat of Parkes gains the Parkes council area from Riverina, the remainder of Dubbo council area and part of the Cabonne council area from Calare, and part of Carrathool from Farrer.
Farrer loses part of Carrathool and gains Lockhart from Riverina.
The Liberal Party really messes around with Riverina. Having lost Parkes to Parkes and lost Young and Cowra to Hume, it stretches up and just manages to take in Orange.
The Nationals add Lockhart to Farrer. Parkes (in addition to the gains from New England) loses part of the Lachlan council area to Riverina and gains the former Wellington council area from Calare.
While the Liberals carve up Calare, the Nationals mostly leave it alone – it just loses the former Wellington council area to Parkes and gains Cowra from Riverina.
Even the Nationals have to make some significant changes to Riverina but the core is left alone. It expands to the ACT border, taking in the western edge of Eden-Monaro (including Yass and Tumut) along with the rural western end of Hume. It loses Lockhart and Cowra and gains the southern part of the Lachlan council area.