Musical chairs (part two)

The New South Wales federal electoral redistribution that was unveiled yesterday is of more than usual significance, at least if one school of thought regarding the prime ministerial succession is to be believed. It had been widely surmised that the Prime Minister was awaiting its impact on his precarious electorate of Bennelong, which he carried by an uncomfortable 4.3 per cent in 2004, before deciding whether to lead the party into the next election. Some hypothetical redistribution scenarios had Bennelong either being abolished or shifting westwards into Labor territory as part of a wholesale shake-up of Sydney electorates. The more dramatic of these scenarios were predicated on the assumption that a metropolitan seat would be abolished, but former Nationals leader John Anderson’s electorate of Gwydir has instead been nominated for the chop, cancelling out the good turn done to the Nationals by the Queensland redistribution. This means that adjustments in Sydney have been relatively modest, but they have been sufficient to make life somewhat less comfortable in Bennelong. According to an early estimate by Malcolm Mackerras (cited by Imre Salusinszky in The Australian), the electorate’s absorption of the Ermington area from Labor-held Parramatta will cut Howard’s margin to about 3 per cent.

Another leading Liberal to feel the pinch is Malcolm Turnbull, whose electorate of Wentworth will now extend westwards beyond blue-ribbon beachside suburbs and into the green-and-red inner city, reducing the return on his not inconsiderable investment. Turnbull won the seat with a 5.6 per cent margin in 2004, although the result was distorted by Peter King’s attempt to hold his seat as an independent (King won by 7.9 per cent in 2001). The addition of Woollomooloo and Kings Cross is reckoned by those in the know to have cut his margin to about the same level as Howard’s. It has been a much better redistribution for another Sydney Liberal newcomer, Greenway MP Louise Markus, who trades Labor-leaning outer urban areas for the Shire of Hawkesbury, formerly part of Macquarie. After winning the seat at Labor’s expense in 2004, Markus should now be fairly safe. Jackie Kelly has not done well out of the adjustments to her seat of Lindsay, where a move east into St Marys (formerly in safe Labor Chifley) will bite into her 5.3 per cent margin.

On Labor’s side of the ledger, Parramatta has been substantially redrawn so that the Parramatta town centre is now in neighbouring Reid. Opinion seems divided on who this will benefit, so it seems safe to conclude that Julie Owens’ 0.7 per cent margin will be little changed. Labor should get a boost in its other precarious Sydney seat, the southern suburbs electorate of Banks, which expands northwards to take Bankstown from Blaxland. Their other loseable seat, the inner west electorate of Lowe (3.3 per cent), has undergone a number of adjustments that should largely cancel each other out. Member John Murphy will suffer slightly from the loss of more than 10,000 voters in the Ashfield area to Grayndler to the south-east, and perhaps make a net gain from extensions to the south that add Liberal-voting Strathfield South and Labor-voting Croydon Park.

All of Sydney’s electorates have been altered to some degree, but the decision to abolish Gwydir means that the biggest changes are in country seats that are off Labor’s radar. Most of Gwydir’s geographical area has been absorbed by the already substantial seat of Parkes, which now accounts for about half the state’s territory and has only Dubbo for a large population centre. The most significant knock-on effects are on Calare, which moves inland beyond the Bathurst base of independent member Peter Andren (UPDATE: Andren’s electorate office is in Bathurst, but as Mountainman notes in comments, he is more closely associated with Orange which will remain in the electorate), and Macquarie, which fills Calare’s void by moving west beyond Sydney’s outskirts. Poll Bludger comments regular Geoff Robinson notes on his blog The South Coast that this roughly returns these electorates to the areas they covered before 1977, when Calare was a safe seat for the Nationals and Macquarie mostly held by Labor. Macquarie has since been won by Labor only in 1980, 1983 and 1993 (the current member, Kerry Bartlett, won by 8.9 per cent in 2004), while Calare was held by Labor from 1983 until Andren’s debut in 1996. Robinson notes that Andren must now decide “whether to go for Macquarie and hold it against Labor or to fight the Nationals in the new Calare”. It should not be inferred that Macquarie is out of bounds for the Coalition, but Labor won the corresponding state seat of Bathurst by 6 per cent more than the state average at the 2003 election, and the consensus view is that it’s a Labor-leaning marginal.

The redistribution has inevitably brought changes to the state’s rapidly growing and electorally sensitive north coast, though none are headline-grabbers. The northernmost coastal seat, Richmond, was one of three Labor gains at the 2004 election, when Nationals member Larry Anthony was voted out by the narrowest of margins. The redistribution has reunited the electorate with the northern part of the Shire of Lismore, which it last contained before the 1993 election. At the centre of this area is Nimbin, and it is accordingly noted for its strong counter-cultural element. This area has been added in exchange for Wollongbar and Alstonville in the electorate’s south, which split nearly 60-40 in the Nationals’ favour in 2004. While these areas only account for about 7000 voters each out of a total of 94,333, Labor member Justine Elliot will presumably enjoy a slight boost to her margin. However, this is a case of swings and roundabouts for Labor, since both areas have been exchanged with its very marginal neighbour Page, held for the Nationals by Ian Causley on a margin of 4.2 per cent. Page also gains about 5500 voters around Yamba from its southern neighbour Cowper, which is unlikely to make much difference. Cowper itself is potentially winnable for Labor, currently being held for the Nationals by Luke Hartsuyker with a margin of 6.4 per cent, which will not be much changed by its exchange of Yamba in the north for Kempsey in the south. The Hunter region seat of Paterson, where the Liberal margin inflated from 1.5 per cent to 7.0 per cent in 2004, exchanges a Labor area north of Newcastle for an even more Labor area further along the Hunter Valley, which should cut the margin slightly.

In a potentially bad omen for Labor, the famously marginal seat of Eden-Monaro has extended westwards into Farrer in exchange for the loss of its anomalous territory to the north of the Australian Capital Territory, a knock-on effect of Farrer’s gain of Broken Hill at the expense of Parkes. With the addition of the Shires of Tumut and Tumbarumba, Liberal member Gary Nairn should enjoy some extra padding on his current margin of 2.2 per cent.

UPDATE: Malcolm Mackerras has posted his calculations of post-redistribution margins at Crikey.

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.

76 comments on “Musical chairs (part two)”

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  1. Just out of interest,
    Grayndler: Obviously this seat will remain a very safe labor seat, but what will the alterations do to the margins? I’m especially interested in the minor party margins.

  2. Actually, what are the thoughts out there on the changes to the boundaries of Sydney? It absorbs part of the Left-Labor/Green area in Grayndler and loses the slightly more conservative Labor/Liberal areas of Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay and Paddington South. Despite the very safe nature of this seat for Tanya Plibersek, if it were to go to a Labor-Green contest at the next election the Liberal preferences would probably follow the inner-Sydney state election pattern of flowing against Labor and towards the Greens, making it more marginal but most likely not changing Labor’s hold on the seat. The actual numbers of electors changing electorates are quite small because of the movements of non-residential areas like Moore Park, but the difference between Liberal (28.46%, 23419) and Green (21.61%, 17784) in 2004 is slight enough for the combined effects of the redistribution and a potential anti-Liberal swing in 2007 to create a genuine contest for second place on 2PP.

    Or is this just hope over all evidence to the contrary? 🙂

  3. You would need the Liberal vote to increase quite a bit – the greens poll pretty well in Potts Pt/Elizabeth Bay so it wouldn’t change things dramatically.

  4. Here’s a tip. Despite the redistribution the real action in 2007 will be in Victoria. Melbourne, described by Beazley as the only European city in Australia, (ie. the only civilised portion of the continent) will split 55-45 in favour of the ALP. Howard has only won the 2pp vote in Victoria once, 2004, mainly because Latham was even more ‘Sydney’ than Howard.

  5. I don’t know why you say Andren is Bathurst based – his base is actually Orange. That’s where he was a broadcaster, and it’s where he still lives and runs most of his business from. He does well in Bathurst, but wouldn’t do so well in the Labor stronghold of the Upper Mountains.

  6. I disagree with Mackerras’ assessment of Bennelong – Ermington isn’t that Labor (the three Ermington booths broke down only 53-47 in Labor’s favour in 2004). Bennelong also gains a slice of Beecroft south of the M2 from Berowra – and the Berowra portion of the nearest booth, Roselea, voted 63% Liberal. Howard’s final margin will be much closer to 4% than 3%.

  7. I guess that makes sense. Usually find Wikipedia falls down on the issue of politicians.

    I think this redistribution is going to shock a lot of people who have spent a lot of time working on the assumption that Macquarie was going to come east, and swallow up parts of Lindsay. A lot of work has gone into raising profiles of union and Young Labor activists in western Sydney, in Lindsay and in Greenway, and now it seems to have come to naught. What will they do? Greenway looks pretty yuck for Labor right now, and Lindsay is barely affected, though pretty winnable. Who will try to oust Jackie Kelly?

  8. Lindsay is barely affected, though pretty winnable. Who will try to oust Jackie Kelly? How about Steve Waugh.

  9. If Labor can persuade Steve Waugh to run for Lindsay I would say that not only will they win the seat, they will instantly jump to (soft) favourites to win the election – the effect on morale and their vote in across the country, particularly in neighbouring seats would be that large.

    Getting him to run for a safe seat would give them a boost, but nothing like the show of confidence involved in him running for a seat like Lindsay.

  10. Above comments re Steve Waugh and Lindsay bemuse me considerably. The man has zero connections with the area. He would however be a very viable candidate for the following seats:

    Banks: he gre up in the area and would most likely be far more electorably saleable than Daryl Melham. Mind you, Melham’s fuedal grasp on ALP party branches in that electorate would mitigate against him gaining pre-selection.

    Hughes: he lives in the electorate and would probably be a viable candidate. Methinks the Lib margin in Hughes is well inflated (mind you the ALP held this seat far longer than demographics would have suggested) and the move into Liverpool should cut this appreciably. Danna Vale has proven a total congenital idiot whenever she opens her trap in public and this seat COULD move should a wider swing be in play. Let’s not forget that ALP holds the State seats in this electorate with reasonable margins and could well still hold them in 2007.

  11. “Above comments re Steve Waugh and Lindsay bemuse me considerably. The man has zero connections with the area”

    I think that hardly matters with a man who was Captain of Australia. But then again if you got him to run for Lindsay, or anywhere, why not Bennelong? Now that would be something.

  12. Hughes goes from a 11% to 8.5% seat. Need to factor in some sort of figure to allow for effect of zero campaigning in the area last election plus Latham.

    A 7-8% figure is my arbitrary guess. Waugh could win it.

  13. If Waugh went up against Howard I can just picture the campaign. Posters of little kids behind razor wire, with IT’S JUST NOT CRICKET! emblazoned above. Steve Waugh, a man who doesn’t need to lock up children to prove he’s tough.

  14. Hughes is unwinnable for Labor from opposition baring a total Liberal collapse (no evidence of this). If Labor is to win in 2007 it will have to win seats like Page etc. Labor might in the future be able to win Hughes from government as Carr won Ryde etc. Shouldn’t Labor recruit people who know something about progressive public policy and would be good ministers? Garrett was Latham’s best decision. What about Larissa Behrendt?

  15. Yes, consider Kernot and for that matter her 1998 Lib opponent Rod Henshaw (Qld ABC radio & TV identity), and also David Hill (Hughes 1998) in comparison with Garrett. You don’t run your “high-profile” candidates in ‘winnable’ (aka ‘marginal’) seats. You put them in somewhere safe where they can add to the broader campaign. Otherwise, they’re spending all their time trying to win the division (and probably losing)

  16. I think the margin in Hughes makes it appear safer for the Liberal Party than it really is. The ALP would easily hold that seat based on state election results. Miranda, Menai and Heathcote are all held by them with reasonable margins.

  17. David Says:

    Re the ALP’s impressive performance in NSW state seats like Ryde, Miranda, Menai, Heathcote, Penrith etc… you have to take into account the appalling performance of the state Libs at the last few NSW elections. The NSW Libs are really not worth a crumpet these days. Also, many voters switch parties between state and fed elections. There are parallels between NSW and Qld here (and I suppose SA and Vic too). The stranglehold that Labor has on state and territory govt has more to do with the strengths of Labor (and the weakness of the Coalition) at this level and a desire on the part of many voters to maintain a ‘balance’ between the fed and state governments. It has less to do with any innate voting patterns per seat: pragmatism wins out over party loyalty. You only have to compare the booth results in Penrith, Ryde etc between state and fed elections.

  18. Yes, there are obviously big differences between voting patterns for state and federal elections in Ryde, Sutherland Shire, western sydney and Qld.

  19. Hughes’ soul is in the Shire (well, it would be if it had one). Steve Waugh’s isn’t. While the Federal/State voting split is well established, the NSW ALP is also going to take a big hit in Miranda and Menai at the 2007 state election, and could easily lose both.

    Waugh v Howard in Bennelong would be the greatest thing to happen in Australian politics since… well, probably forever.

  20. How has Mackerras calculated the vote for Macquarie given Andren’s vote? You would have to use the Senate figures for the current Calare to get a sensible estimate.

  21. I noticed that too. Which is why I’ve spent the last few hours trying to piece together the polling places in the new Macquarie. End result? I get a seat that goes 52-48 in the ALP’s favour.

    Below are the figures I get. I won’t vouch for 100% accuracy. But this should be close enough.

    from Macquarie – Lib 17565 ALP 17628
    from Lindsay – Lib 2076 ALP 1862
    from Calare – Lib 13524 ALP 16366

    Total – Lib 33165 ALP 35856

    As I said, that works out to ALP 52-48. Which might close to something like 51-49 on pre-polls & postals. But I remain even more convinced that Macquarie is a notional Labor seat.

  22. Could be a stoush between Kerry Bartlett & Louise Markus over who gets the nod in the new Greenway..? From an electoral point of view, the Libs should use the benefit of incumbency and get Bartlett to run in Macquarie and Marcus in the new Parramatta. Parramatta now takes in the Seven Hills end of the old Greenway and this would give them a real chance there. They can then use Greenway to bring in some new blood…perhaps a new home for Prue Goward? Any takers? After all Windsor’s no further from Yass than Epping.

  23. I disagree with the posts above re the contest Howard vs. Waugh. Firstly, I doubt Waugh would ever consider such a run against Howard (Howard, one of Waugh’s biggest fans) and secondly, I think the success of high profile candidates has been mixed, and generally have only succeeded against unknown candidates, and often in vacant seats and not against sitting members.

    Admired and successful sportspeople and celebrities soon lose their gloss once they enter the political ring and start having to make a stand on issues or at least start having to sell the party line. Howard will hold his seat.

  24. On the ex Calare areas now in Macquarie I doubt the predictive value of the AEC procedure. Most voters for Andren would have simply followed his how to vote card. To whom did he allocate preferences or did he have a split ticket? Mackerras’ Labor vote for Macquarie seems too low. Bathurst is generally a Labor town.

  25. On rechecking my Macquarie numbers, I get almost the same outcome as David – my only quibbles are that St Albans shouldn’t be there, and Bilpin appears to be just outside Macquarie on the map. I agree the margin is close to 2%.

    I also think the final margin (with absentees etc) will be closer to 2% to 1%, as Labor did notably better in absentee and pre-poll votes than ordinary votes in Macquarie in 2004, losing absentees only 47-53, compared to 41-59 in ordinary votes. Of course, that might just mean that there were disproportionately more of those votes cast by electors from the mountains than the Hawkesbury, but still, absentees don’t appear as bad for Labor as in other places.

    And for what it’s worth, I remember the Liberals complaining the day after the map came out that Macquarie was now notionally Labor. I wonder if Antony’s had a go at preparing a notional margin.

  26. Zach – I noticed those as well. I’ve now fixed the page. Looking at my notes, I simply forgot to excise St Albans from the spreadsheet. Not sure why I had Bilpin as part of the electorate though.

    Geoff R – good point, I assumed Andren issued a split ticket HTV card. It was a marginal Labor seat before he arrived, and on current figures would be a marginal Coalition seat. That sounds about right.

  27. While all this focus on expected margins is useful, has anyone put their mind to thinking what the Latham factor to all of this is?
    Remember, Latham managed to take the ALP backwards. The coalition gained 1.8 per cent on the two party preferred back in 2004. What are the chances of that occuring again?
    Might the current margins, or expected ones in the case of NSW and Qld, be slightly inflated because of the anti-Latham factor that ran last time round?

  28. Shane, I’m not sure about your idea of an anti-Latham factor in the 2004 election, but you could look at the results in the 2001 election to gain some idea of how the new seats would have been in 2001. This is only 5 years ago, so demographic changes might not be so great as to invalide this.

  29. Howard could always switch seats. Maybe jump to Mitchell or Berowra if either Cadman or Ruddock choose to retire. Both have been in Parliament seemingly FOREVER. Then again, so has Howard (Cadman and Howard were elected the same day I believe – talk about chalk and cheese career-wise). I also think Ruddock might be the longest-serving MP still in Parliament. Ruddock was first elected to the seat of Parramatta – the boundaries of these seats have changed so much over the past 20 years that Howard would have some justification in claiming that Bennelong is not the same seat it used to be. After all, Beazley changed seats, so there’s a lot of precedent here.

  30. Howard could shift, but oh the humiliation! It’s one thing to run away from a seat that was drastically redistributed to be safe for the other side, but to do a bunk from a seat that is still notionally Liberal would undermine all his carefully groomed image as a “man of steel”, “conviction politician”, “someone who does not run away from a fight”. He’ll run for Bennelong or retire.

  31. If people are interested, I’m currently working on a notional margin for Werriwa.

    Having counted the booths transfered from Macarthur to Werriwa:
    -Eagle Vale
    -Eschol Park
    -Robert Townson (Macarthur)

    Out of 9300 votes cast there, the Libs hold 53.55% 2pp, suggesting a slight swing towards the Libs on the new margins.

  32. I’ve crunched a very primitive bunch of notional figures for Werriwa.

    Basically, the ALP sits on 57.02% of 2PP, down from 59.31% in 2004.

    While not quite a marginal seat, I think that it is a surprisingly high result for the Liberals, considering their low-level campaign in the seat in 2004.

  33. I get a notional Liberal seat for Parramatta. A bit above 51-49.

    The calculations are somewhat rough-and-ready, as I deliberately avoided the messy task of splitting booths between electorates. But it looks like Julie Owens may have to pry back a slight Liberal margin all over again.

  34. Ben- I think alot of those booths in Werriwa snapshot you have done will swing back to ALP. I really do think there is a ‘Pat Farmer’ factor in some of those figures.

  35. If anyone’s interested, I have calculated the new Greenway electorate to be around 64% to 36% 2PP in favour of the Liberals. As its only a rough figure, is there actually a proper formula for calculating 2PP margins?

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