What a fascinating post-election wash-up they are having up Brisbane way, with the Courier Mail leading today with talk of Lord Mayor Campbell Newman’s "plumbers" setting to work on election night "plugging leaks" in a potential scandal just begging to be dubbed "Brisbane Water-gate". All way more interesting than hair-splitting over council ward boundaries and preference distributions, but unfortunately such is the Poll Bludger’s brief that he shall have to leave the Woodward and Bernstein-type digging to the hard-heads at the Mail.
Further to earlier excited talk about a council ward "gerrymander", the Poll Bludger is pleased to have received correspondence regarding the matter from Griffith University senior law lecturer and electoral law enthusiast Graeme Orr. Bearing in mind that Orr adds the qualification that his comments are "quick and not fully researched", he has the following points to make:
"Rather than internal (ward) boundaries, the Liberals’ predicament may have more to do with the city’s definition – i.e. the external boundaries … The real problem seems to me to be the Liberals’ support over-concentrating in OUTER wards (by which I mean acreage towards the boundary of the city) – The Gap, Bracken Ridge, Pullenvale, McDowall, Wishart. They have only two concentrations in denser urban areas, ye-olde blue-ribbon Hamilton by the river and the Sylvan suburbs (Toowong and Walter Taylor) … The Liberals’ battle then is against the very definition of the City itself. Labor holds almost all of the traditional wards defining the City – i.e. areas more than sparsely settled until a generation or so ago. The Liberals’ uber-support blends into the Shires (Pine Rivers to the North, and the semi-rural shires to the west) – obvious conservative territory. Redefine the city north and west, and the Liberals then control the city. But one may as well say, redefine it to the south (which is more obvious expansion, in the sense of being a clear urban contiguity with Logan ‘city’) and the BCC is even safer for Labor.
"I doubt anyone supports redefining the city boundaries simply to achieve a more proportional democracy. For the boundaries reflect a sense of ‘Brisbaneness’, both historical, practical and imagined. Labor is in the majority across the major sweep of the city geographically and community-wise (especially south and east, but also the inner north, north east and – the Sylvan suburbs aside – heavier settled parts of the south-west). In a funny way, a significantly more proportional result for the Libs would have been even odder in one sense of representativeness.
"In saying this, I don’t mean to marginalise the well-off ‘fringe dwellers’! Nor do I think as you suggest that one can fault the Libs’ machine for not adopting a ‘marginal ward’ campaign – they outcampaigned the ALP all over, hence the swings across the region. They just don’t appeal enough at present to a majority of ‘city’ dwellers. If it came down to community of interest, the acreages and the older city may be so far apart (from transport to water/waste needs) that a community of interest definition of the city would see the BCC boundaries shrink, and the ALP unassailable. But over time the demographics will keep changing – whether in the Lib or Labor’s favour, who knows?
"Perhaps there is an analogue with the boundaries between states being used as boundaries in Federal elections? But I can’t think of one, as no significant population area but Albury-Wodonga lies close enough to state boundaries".