Banana bending

Such has been the scale of Queensland’s population explosion in recent years that the state’s share of House of Representatives seats is set to increase for the second election in a row. That means Queensland MPs are once again experiencing the excitement of a redistribution, a process which reached a milestone with yesterday’s release of the Australian Electoral Commission’s preliminary boundaries. Should the proposal proceed without substantial revision there will be a new electorate called Wright (named in honour of poet Judith Wright on the recommendation of the Greens), a peculiar looking beast extending from Winton deep in central Queensland all the way eastwards to Gladstone on the coast. However, the AEC report points out that the redrawn electorate of Hinkler could just as easily be said to be the “new” electorate, as Wright will contain fractionally more voters from the old Hinkler than the new. It was determined that the interior electorate should get the new name on the sensible basis that the name of Hinkler is “intrinsically linked to the City of Bundaberg”, which remains part of Hinkler.

For reasons the Poll Bludger can’t understand, the Nationals don’t sound happy. Maranoa MP Bruce Scott told the ABC the Wright proposal was “crazy”, raising commendable objections about roads and communications, communities of interest and local government linkages. He also said he hadn’t “looked at the political impact”; normally such a claim would have me in hysterics, but I really do think he may be telling the truth. Nationals state director Brad Henderson calls Wright “a classic Nats versus Labor seat” due to Labor’s strength in Gladstone and hinterland mining towns, but it looks very much like a Nationals seat to me. By my count, Labor scored only 51.8 per cent on two-party preferred from the 11,606 votes in Gladstone in 2004, and it seems clear the remaining 76,000 would tip the scales in the Nationals’ favour (UPDATE: See below). Furthermore, the removal of Gladstone has weakened Labor’s position in Hinkler, which Paul Neville held for the Nationals by 4.8 per cent in 2004. Hinkler will be compensated for the loss of Gladstone with Hervey Bay and its surrounds, which split 60-40 in the Coalition’s favour. The resulting electorate is smaller, more coastal and at greater threat from the Liberals in the long term, but that shouldn’t become an issue until Neville retires.

Elsewhere, no seat has moved from one party’s column to the other, although there are as always a number that have been made more or less interesting. By far the biggest loser from the redistribution is Liberal member for Blair Cameron Thompson, whose win upon the seat’s creation in 1998 put an end to Pauline Hanson’s parliamentary career. Blair is in an interesting position, having originally covered the conservative hinterland of safe Labor Ipswich. Unfortunately for Thompson, the last two redistributions have drawn the seat into Ipswich itself, from which it will now absorb more than 20,000 new voters. The corresponding loss of territory comes in the Kingaroy-Nanango area – Joh country – which split 67-33 in Thompson’s favour in 2004. By my rough reckoning, that could cut his margin from 11.2 per cent to as little as 4 per cent (UPDATE: See below).

The electorates on the Sunshine Coast have been substantially shuffled around, but the only one of interest to non-psephologists (UPDATE: See below) is Mal Brough’s dicey seat of Longman, where the Liberal margin inflated from 2.5 per cent to 7.7 per cent at the 2004 election. Longman has been sucked into Brisbane’s orbit with the loss of its territory in the Glasshouse Mountains and to the west of Caboolture, which it has traded in for the outer Brisbane centre of Kallangur and its surrounds. This area produced more modest Liberal majorities of around 4 per cent, so their addition should add slightly to Brough’s discomfort. The better part of this area from Brough’s perspective, around North Lakes, comes at the expense of party colleague Teresa Gambaro in suburban Petrie to the south. The 11,500 voters Gambaro is losing here split about 59-41 in the Liberals’ favour in 2004, compared with an overall margin that was up from 3.5 per cent to 7.9 per cent. Petrie was over quota going into the redistribution and will only be compensated for its loss with a few thousand voters in the neighbouring Labor-held seats of Lilley and Brisbane, which will have a small but potentially significant drain on her margin.

The Liberals’ other three naturally marginal seats in Brisbane, Bonner (0.5 per cent), Moreton (4.2 per cent) and Dickson (7.8 per cent), are a mixed bag. Bonner will be wholly unchanged, while Dickson will be made safe by the addition of the safely conservative Shire of Esk, a development which has made the seat largely rural. However, it has not been a good redistribution for Gary Hardgrave in Moreton, who is set to trade more than 12,000 voters in one of his best areas, Algester in the south-west, for 4000 voters in inner-city Annerley to the north and 5000 around Karawatha to the south-east. Given that the respective two-party Liberal vote in the three areas in 2004 was about 57 per cent, 38 per cent and 47 per cent, my rough estimate is that his margin will be cut to 2.5 per cent.

In terms of the Labor-versus-Coalition contest the only electorate of interest in the remainder of Queensland is the Townsville-based seat of Herbert, held for the Liberals by Peter Lindsay on a margin of 6.2 per cent (up from 1.5 per cent in 2001). The electorate has undergone small changes with the addition of just under 3000 voters in Thuringowa and the loss of about 5500 in Townsville, which I do not believe are likely to affect the margin much. Labor’s only seat outside of the Brisbane area, Capricornia, has undergone significant changes, providing Wright with 17,000 of its voters and gaining 14,000 new voters just outside of Mackay. These changes are a mixed bag and are unlikely to account for Labor’s 5.1 per cent margin, in a seat where Rockhampton remains the decisive factor.

UPDATE (25/6/06): I may have spoken too soon when I said the Sunshine Coast boundary changes were unlikely to matter: according to the ABC, Fairfax MP Alex Somlyay is suggesting the Liberals might run a candidate against senior Nationals MP Warren Truss in Wide Bay now that it’s moving into Noosa. Also, earlier generalisations about likely margins can now be clarified. Sacha in comments, who has done the numbers properly, says the new Liberal margin in Blair is 6.4 per cent. I have now crunched the numbers in the booths that will make up the new electorate of Wright and concluded that the Nationals margin from 2004 would have been 5.2 per cent, which compares with a statewide result of 7.1 per cent. Labor could therefore be expected to win the seat if the statewide result was 50-50, although as this graph at Mumble makes clear, that doesn’t happen very often. Other things being equal, there would have been 15 wins for the Coalition since 1949, six for Labor and two cliffhangers. I hope you enjoy the following figures, because they did not come easily. Bear in mind that this does not include pre-polls, postals and the like (not that this should make too much difference), and no doubt contains a few errors.

  LNP # LNP % ALP # ALP %
Hinkler 18,297 53.3 16,033 46.7
Maranoa 9,087 64.6 4,974 35.4
Capricornia 7,581 50.1 7,545 49.8
Wide Bay 561 70.6 234 29.4
TOTAL 35,526 55.2 28,786 44.8

UPDATE (26/6/06): Turns out I’m not totally stupid after all. According to Mark Vaile, "early indications suggested (Wright) would, based on the last election, deliver a Nationals candidate about 55 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, compared to 45 per cent for a Labor candidate".

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

35 comments on “Banana bending”

  1. The Nationals should be thanking god for this redistribution; it’s given them a good chance at an extra seat. Had it been created in the south-east, it would have been either a Labor gimme near Ipswich or some variety of obviously-Liberal seat elsewhere.

  2. The booths in the new Blair go to the libs by 56.4%.

    Just a thought about Wright – there may be labor areas just south and to the west of Rockhampton, which might make it marginal, but I havn’t looked at it. You should add the figures together and see what results.

  3. the nat party vote is Gladstone would have been increased in 2004 by troubles with the alp candidate but even on existing figures it appears to
    average 54% across the 4 Gladstone booths I suspect with no sitting member the nat party vote would be lower. possible 60/40 alp way.
    Wright would be very marginal.
    Also if you took away the 2004 swing Blair would be line ball.

    could approx 2 candidate preferred for each seat be on the proposed boundaries be listed on this site?

  4. Wright on a first glance benefits Labor by taking Labor voting areas out of Maraonoa where they are wasted for Labor. Remember that that the central Qld coalfields are good for Labor and are the sort of area where you would expect Labor to make up ground.

  5. With that margin, Wright as the new Hinkler looks about right. Blair also looks fascinating. Wright, Blair and Herbert should be where the action is if it’s close. Bonner and Moreton you could see changing hands this side of a Labor loss.

    Geoff R – as the numbers above suggest, there isn’t really a lot on offer for Labor in that Maranoa-turned-Wright area. I can only see one 2004 booth with an ALP majority. Remarkably there are another three that split precisely 50-50. All very small booths however.

    That Fairfax 1998 contest would appear to set a very dangerous precedent. But would the Liberals really stand against the deputy Nationals leader? If so, perhaps the way out is for Warren Truss to hop over to Hinkler and for Paul Neville to contest the new seat.

  6. Just to let you know how I got my figures for booths for Blair:

    Votes from 2004 (2PP)
    from Oxley: 7240 ALP, 4460 Lib
    from Forde: 1330 ALP, 3749 Lib (I included 1/2 of Flagstone as in the street directory Flastone is right on the boundary (or close to it) between forde and blair on the new boundaries)
    from Blair: 19067 ALP, 27527 Lib

    Total booth votes: 27637 ALP, 35736 Lib (43.6% to 56.4%)

    2004 Blair votes: 26631 ALP, 42055 Lib (38.8% to 61.2%)

    Cameron Thompson did very well in the Ipswich booths, considering that Ipswichians are usually Labor voters.

    The Forde votes in the draft Blair are from Boonah shire, which is very conservative territory (on the state level it’s part of the Lockyer electorate, which returned One Nation MPs 1998 and 2001, although now it has a National MP). Thompson also does well from the Brisbane Valley votes (Gatton and Laidley shires).

  7. I would be very surprised if either Warren Truss or Paul Neville got voted out in favour of Liberals. Once they’re gone though it could be a different story, which perhaps explains the Nats’ displeasure – in the long run they might end up losing Wide Bay and Hinkler to the Libs and Wright to Labor. But there will surely have been a further redistribution before that scenario comes into play.

  8. I agree with you William.

    Next redistribution, SEQ will probably gain a seat, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s somewhere in the Sunshine Coast to Pine Rivers area. In this redistribution that region gained 1/3-1/2 a seat (part of wide bay). If this happens, Wide Bay will move north of Noosa again and either the Libs or Labor will pick up the new seat. Wide Bay will probably be a national seat for a while.

  9. Has anyone calculated the margins for Longman on the 2004 and 2001 figures? My gut feel is that Labor has a chance at winning Longman if they’re having an ok election. If I were Milton Dick I’d be looking carefully at it. (No doubt he has!)

  10. If these Boundaries are accepted, I think Blair will become the sort of seat that would go to who wins Government, but I suspect will fall to the Libs thanks to incumbency, and strength of Conservative vote away from Ipswich,

    No real change within Brisbane, Petrie and Moreton still marginals, Hargraves is seen as a Moderate which will help with the Inner City types,

    Seats like Wright, Hinkler and Herbert will still be interesting come Election day, the ALP will more than likely hold Capricornia, same reason as why Libs should hold Blair.

    The seat that crabbed my attention was Dickson, the ALP would need something major to pick that seat up, but in saying all this, I wonder how the state of the Beattie Government will impact on the next result.

    Overall, I can’t see any real reason for anyone too be unhappy, NSW will be more interesting, mainly because the ALP have never won a Federal Election without half the seats in NSW

  11. The Nats are miffed with the redistribution because they see the writing on the wall. Those re-drawn coastal electorates in Queensland, as in NSW, become less rural in character and in the long-term are gimmes for the Libs: Hinkler, Wide Bay (if it holds on to Noosa), Lyne (in NSW, based on Port Macquarie). At the last fed election Labor picked up Richmond from the Nats for much the same reason. Bit by bit, the eastern seaboard is turning against the Nats as it becomes increasingly developed and urbanized – and they know it.

    In 2007, the Nats should be able to take Wright and the Libs should hold Blair, given that the federal ALP is at low ebb in Qld. Neville should be safe in Hinkler, just as Vaile is cruising in Lyne. But after these blokes retire, the Libs will steal both Hinkler and Lyne from the Nats (who are lucky to have Lyne after a tough 3-cornered contest in ’93). Maybe Wide Bay too, depending on its boundaries. It’s no anti-Nat conspiracy, just demographics.

    If Wright stays anchored on Gladstone, and its western boundaries drift eastward in future redistributions (e.g., if it loses Winton, which gets thrown from pillar to post in these shuffles) then the Nats would be in trouble here too, improving Labor’s chances.

  12. Does anyone know what is happening in terms of demographic changes around Ipswich. It would make sense to me if it is growing quite quickly, and if the voters moving in are also Labor voters it might add a couple of percent to Labor, making the seat really interesting. If not then 6% may just be beyond them.

  13. Matching polling booths is difficult unless some one lives in the area concerned, maybe the AEC should do this to show approx 2 candidate preferred for each proposed electorate
    Anthony Green does compare matching booths on election night so I presume
    he has this data in some form already available
    There are still problems in comparing data across different contests
    eg Wright includes parts of Capricornia usually Labor, Maranoa safe
    non labor, Hinkler most times closely contested.
    Also I do not know how to compare CCD districts which is often used

  14. “Matching polling booths is difficult unless some one lives in the area concerned,”

    Yes – a priori, you don’t know which of the people who voted at a booth are enrolled in the same seat – you could do surveys and get some sort of probability distribution function – eg how far are people likely to vote from where they live or where they usually vote? It probably doesn’t matter too much though. Maybe people like Anthony Green have a fairly good rule of thumb about this.

    “maybe the AEC should do this to show approx 2 candidate preferred for each proposed electorate”

    The AEC does this when the redistribution is complete.

    “Also I do not know how to compare CCD districts which is often used”
    You can’t compare the CCD districts in terms of vote as votes are only aggregated on the district level.

  15. I have all the polling place data from 1993-2004. I’ve built data sets that let you track polling place change over time; that part isn’t hard (scrape from the AEC website or the CDs they publish now and then). What I was looking for is a way to (roughly?) assign polling places to new electoral divisions; Sacha, have you built that list? If so, I/you/we could knock out rough (but decent) estimates of the notional 2PP of the proposed divisions. Yes, the AEC will publish this when the redistribution is finalized, but it would be nice to be ahead of the game…

    My contacts at the AEC used to tell me that the vast majority of votes cast on election day are actually at the nearest polling place, or that a vast majority of the votes at a given polling place draw from what the AEC research people called “polling place catchment areas”: the contiguous set of CCDs with a given polling place lying close to the centroid etc… I think this notion of a polling place catchment area is used for resourcing/logistics etc, but also very valuable for research purposes.

    So, somewhere inside the AEC (and possibly elsewhere, Antony?!?) there is a table linking CCDs to polling places (and polling places to lat/long co-ords and divisions, actual and proposed) and it would be lovely to have that in the public domain. They’re a Commission, not a Corporation, and while are generally pretty good on publishing data (at least to the web), they could always do more for us…!

  16. Simon, as you’re working on this stuff professionally, I can understand why you really want this information!

    When I was an undergrad in the first half of the nineties one of my interests was in electoral politics (it still is) and electoral systems, and at one stage I spent a fair bit of time looking at margins on redistributed seats and the (potential) effects of redistributions.

    I didn’t use any shortcuts – I used essentially the system I referred to above except that there was no internet at that time (well there was, but I didn’t know of it!)

    However, a good start for you might be to look at all the polling booths and allocate them to local government regions. I imagine that CCD boundaries are aligned to local government boundaries where appropriate. CCD boundaries may also be aligned to suburb boundaries, but suburb boundaries can change and so this might not be appropriate and electorate boundaries do not necessarily follow suburb boundaries. Also, local govt boundaries can change which is something to be aware of.

    So, I suggest allocating each booth to a local government. Oftentimes, the local governments form the units of the new seats, so you can just use them. Otherwise, you have to be more careful – eg looking at which suburb the booth is in, which seat the suburb is in, seeing whether the suburb is split.

    eg To calculate the margin for the proposed Wright should be easy, as it’s mostly made up of local government units. To calculate the margin for the draft Oxley involves carefully looking at the booths removed in Ipswich etc…

  17. Ipswich is in process of being gentrified. The relatively low cost of heritage homes and the availability of public transport brought an influx of tradespeople and middle class people over the past 5 years, most of them more likely to be Liberal voters than Labor, which is why Cameron Thompson did quite well in the last election on inner-city booths such as Blair Primary School where the bulk of those older homes are situated. The city appears to be one of the (becoming) classic vote Labor at State level, vote Liberal at Federal level. The one big issue that Thompson remains vulnerable on is the lack of funding for the Ipswich Motorway – which becomes a 15km parking lot of a morning and costs him some votes on every accident. On the other hand, the RAAF base has been growing substantially and is more likely to vote conservative than Labor. I think I’d regard Cameron as a fairly safe bet unless the final distribution takes in a lot more of Ipswich down towards Oxley.

  18. Wonderful stuff- “Banana Bending” indeed

    What I want to know is what happened to the booth of Banana, formerly in Hinkler and candidate for Australia’s cutest voting booth name.

    Geoff Lambert

  19. Banana was in Capricornia in 2004, with the ALP getting just 42 of the 203 formal votes cast there… (from, a scrape of the AEC virtual tally room site…)

    Capricornia;Banana;Banana State School;Dawson Hwy;BANANA;QLD;4702; 42; 55; 203; 6; 209;28/02/20
    05 2:12:38 PM

  20. Given population turnover spending too much time on estimates of voting behaviour for new electorates is a case of diminishing marginal returns. The sitting National for Maranoa seems to have a personal vote. Maranoa was the last seat before Cunningham that the Labor Party lost at a by-election whilst in opposition; it was also the only seat Labor lost in 1943. A couple of years ago the AEC gave out free CD-ROMs of the 1996-2001, 2004 elections by polling place and a CD-Rom for the republic referendum that included electorate level figures for all referenda since 1901, don’t know if they have any left. In 1984 the AEC produced a breakdown of Senate voting by electorate which did reveal the massive incumbency advantage of the National MP for Riverina-Darling. Are the Senate electorate figures available?

  21. As I was told by someone who lived around there, it’s not pronounced ba-nan-a (as in the fruit), but rather, ban-an-a. I prefer the former pronunciation.

    The core of Ipswich has generally been more Liberal than the rest of it – and Sir Lew Edwards, the former Liberal leader in the Qld Parliament, represented Ipswich until 1983, when he retired. Although it’s now ancient history, Bill Hayden won Oxley in 1961 (1960?) from the Liberals.

  22. Further to what Kevin wrote, homes in Ipswich are (or were) much cheaper than in Brisbane – and it’s barely an hour or 40 minutes away from Brisbane on the train. Also, there are many new houses being built on its southern fringe (I don’t know about whether houses are being built in other parts of it). I wouldn’t be surprised if quite a few young people/couples are buying houses in Ipswich. Traditionally, if they wanted to buy in Brisbane they’d often buy a place in a suburb that’s not too expensive and not too far out from the CBD (eg the suburb Oxley), but maybe Ipswich is fulfilling that role now.

  23. For quite a while, Sir Lew held the state electorate of Ipswich, while the ALP held the state seats of Ipswich West and Wolston. Wolston essentially was the area between Inala and Ipswich.

  24. re the comment about the personal vote. yes… in a way that is precisely the point. redistributions let us see the personal vote up close as voters get shifted to and from incumbents. hence my interest in knowing which booths go where.

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