New South Wales redistribution: take two

The New South Wales boundaries have now been finalised as well. Geographically dramatic changes have been made to the large electorates in the west after the original proposal had Parkes occupying the entire north-western quarter of the state. It has now traded in more than two-thirds of its total area as originally proposed for the Wellington and Mid-West Regional shires to the east of Dubbo. The state’s north-western vastness will instead be divided between Calare and Farrer, the latter of which loses the Murrumbidgee shire to Riverina. All affected electorates are safe for the Coalition except independent MP Peter Andren’s seat of Calare, whose centre of gravity has moved still further from his home base of Orange.

Elsewhere, a small amount of rejigging has been done around the junction of Paterson, Newcastle and Hunter; changes have been made to the boundary between Parramatta and Reid after the original redistribution deprived the former of the Parramatta town centre; and various adjustments have been made affecting the boundaries of Wentworth, Kingsford-Smith and Sydney. The comments thread of the previous entry contains much productive discussion of the likely effect of these changes.

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.

180 comments on “New South Wales redistribution: take two”

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  1. Kim, it wasn’t Mackerras’s pendulum that was at fault – he wrongly tipped that there would be a big swing to the Coalition and used his pendulum to determine how many seats such a swing would deliver them. In fact, there was no swing at all, and also very little change in seat outcomes – which is consistent with what Mackerras calls “pendulum theory”.

  2. Response to Andrew Bartlett: Western NSW has been a big headache for the commissioners at every redistribution since 1977 when the old seat of Darling was abolished. There aren’t enough voters in the west any more to allow the creation of a seat which makes any sense on community-of-interest criteria. First we had Riverina-Darling (1977-84) which linked the west with the Riverina, then we had Parkes (1984-2006) which connected it with Dubbo. The original boundaries this time split the west between Farrer, which now runs from Albury to Broken Hill, and the proposed Parkes, which linked the rest of the west with most of the old Gwydir. Now, in effect, Gwydir has been renamed Parkes, and the west has been split between Farrer and Calare. No-one has been happy with any of these arrangements. The only solution is to enlarge the House so that western NSW gets its own seat again. And as others have pointed out, that is unlikely to happen because the nexus clause makes it impossible to enlarge the House with creating 12 new Senators as well, which no government will contemplate – nor will they put up a referendum to abolish the nexus clause, which would fail. Anyway, coming back to Senator Bartlett’s original point, Andren will win Calare in a canter on these or any other boundaries.

  3. William, I don’t know about Pauline having chosen the wrong seat to run in. The 2 candidate preferred vote had her winning by a large margin in the non-urban parts of Blair, but the Libs won in the urban area. In Oxley the One Nation candidate could only manage about 17%. I think she should have run for the Senate – she would have easily won a seat. (Although personally I’m very happy she failed to be re-elected!)

  4. hey evan – im a fellow bewora person myself… pity good old phil cant be booted out – perhaps he’s trying to beat Billy Hughes record! Billy probably said ‘I won’t leave office until they have to carry me out dead’ – since he died at 91 in parliament [for memory] and had a service of 51 years! what a machine.

  5. I don’t like Victoria’s quota being pointed out as falling below 37! Look at how quickly NSW is falling. Bloody Queensland is eating the rest of the country!

    Melbourne: the centre of Australian civilisation.

  6. William,
    Thanks very much for the answer to my question!
    Much appreciated!

    According to today’s SMH: Peter Andren is considering standing for Macquarie next election, because the redistribution has effectively made Calare National Party territory. The ALP is apparently going to protest against the redrawn boundaries: on what grounds, I don’t know!

  7. David Walsh – I know the differences between the US and Australia’s electoral system (in this case, re-districting vs redistribution). I’m well aware that if a state loses a seat in the Oz HoR it’s because of a net decline in population. In the US, a decline isn’t always necessary, becasue fast-growing states gain seats at the expense of states with negative, stagnant or slow population growth. That’s the “tough system” I was referring to The Oz system is fairer, since there is no upper limit to the number of seats: as the population grows, so do the number of seats.

  8. David Havyatt asked: “Finally, on the subject of names – which is the only Prime Minister up to and including Holt not to have a Federal electorate named after him?” McMahon, I think. Gorton had a Vic seat named after him (was it the old Burke?) fairly recently.

    Andren was definitely screwed.

  9. What Labor should do is reduce the size of parliament so there are 10 senators a state. That would be popular although it would never be supported by Labor MPs, it might strike a fatal blow to the Nats. John Anderson is personally a pleasant person but it was he I think who complained after the Wik or Mabo decisions about ‘country people’ (=white people) being alarmed. How effectively did he represent the 10.4% of Gwydir residents who are indigenous?

  10. “…since there is no upper limit to the number of seats: as the population grows, so do the number of seats.”

    A state gains MPs if its *relative* population increases and it loses a seat if its relative population declines – it’s not related to the state’s absolute population.

  11. Geoff R – that would be a popular election promise, although I wonder if it’s good thing to do. Speaking theoretically about HofR election results, with (24) fewer seats, the election outcome is less fine-grained – it might be less likely to pick up small differences in what people think, and I’d be inclined to support a system which more carefully reflects what people think. Personally, I’d be happy for there to be 14 senators per state, but that’s probably a minority view!

  12. Sascha,

    did I enjoy the Greenslopes campaign? Sort of. The biggest problem is being unable to plan for an absence from work, and during the campaign I had ‘job-on-the-line’ deadlines to meet at work and bits of assessment due for my MBA studies. Fixed election dates is what I want to see! (and some sort of Proportional Representation somewhere in Qld, but I digress). I do like being out on the streets handing out leaflets and talking to people and waving to peak hour traffic in the morning is a great way to start the day – lots of smiles and returned waves to get me in a good mood. Polling day was pretty rewarding, 10 hours of saying ‘Put a Green in Greenslopes. Vote one the GReens. Vote for me. Please” every 15 seconds takes it out of you, but I got 18.2% at my booth, which was nice.

  13. In relation to the NT having 2 seats, I seem to recall that the last parliament varied the act to ensure that the NT kept its 2 seats. Mainly because each side thought they could win both seats.

    I too favour decoupling but would prefer the Senate to have 9 seats, elected at the same election doing the same term as the H of R

    I would then set a target of 75,000 people per H of R seat

  14. The “reason” for the situation for seats in the NT is that it was just on the margin for losing one of the two seats, and people argued that the small population of the NT meant that there was some larger margin of error in “calculating” the real population – so they made the margin for keeping a seat larger. It was something like this.

    I recall reading that Dave Tolner (?) originally just wanted a bill to ensure 2 seats, rather than having some sort of process behind it.

  15. Good for you Darryl – yes fixed polling dates would be pretty good. I’ve handed out how-to-votes a few times, and it can be a long day!

    (I was chuffed that that in one election, my candidate’s vote in the booth where I handed out how-to-votes was higher than in other booths – not that it mattered in the end.)

    Havn’t stood in an election so I havn’t experienced being on the hustings.

  16. My dad handed out ALP How to Vote cards wherever he lived at every Fed election from 1969 to 1998 – i handed out How to Vote cards in Deakin in ’04
    (now i live in Lyons)

  17. Nevertheless… the number of seats in the House has increased since Federation. The Constitution only requires that the number be, as nearly as practicable, twice that of the Senate. There is no constitutional limit that sets the upper number of seats to 150. That is legislative.

  18. Whether it’s a constitutional or legislative limit is neither here nor there. That hardly matters to the AEC, who have no power to pass legislation or change the constituion. And besides, US HoR size is also a legislative limit.

    The only difference is that the US has a hard limit and Australia has a soft limit. The US HoR has a strict 435 seats. The Australian HoR can vary up or down by small amounts. That’s because anomalies created by roundoffs, the consistutional 5 seat minimum, and the method of dealing with the territories’ population. But both the US and Australia dole out seats according to relative population sizes.

    Yes the size of the HoR has increased since federation. No one is arguing otherwise. Parliament has twice legislated to do so; in the last term of the Chifley govt and first term of the Hawke govt. The key point being that it’s determined by the parliament and NOT the AEC’s method of apportioning the seats between the states. Since the last such increase, the size of the HoR has been always fallen somewhere between 147 and 150 seats.

  19. When the Labor party are next in power, they will legislate for a increase in number of senators in each state to 13 or 14. If they can pass a referendum for fixed 4 year terms for both MHR’s and Senators. The Liberals would be the only political party opposing such a referendum, but if they ran a good campgain they would sink such a proposal. Means 14 senators in each state, 7 being elected in each election would be the most likely option.

    The house of reps would be increased to 172 members, The National Party would support such a increase because it would extend their party’s lifespan a little more, plus any minor parties would support it as well for purely self interest reasons. If there is say 13 senators elected from each state during a normal half senate election or 7 senators elected from each state. The quota for a party to get a majority of senators in a single state would probably be set around 50%. The quota to win a senate seat would go down to 7-12.5%.

    The next redistribution is going to see either Victoria or Western Australia (Victoria is more likely) lose an electorate and Queensland gain another one.

  20. Before 1984, the seats may have been allocated in a slightly different way, as there was at one stage about 127 members of the House of Reps. (this is from memory so forgive any lapses!)

  21. A few points to be made on the recent postings from Tristan and Sacha

    1. It would not be in the ALP’s interest to increase the size of the senate as it is much easier to get a majority when an odd number of seats is up for grabs 50% for 4/7 compared to 57% for 3/6. If we had had 14 senators pers state, it is quite possible that the Howard government would have had a senate majority since 1996 (except 1998). As the ALP has not had near to 50% of the vote in any state for a very long time, it is just handing senate seats to either the coalition or the minor parties.

    2. Victoria may not lose a seat at the next redistribution round as the Victorian population has been growing at or around the national average. Remember approtionment is based on population , not voters. SA has a much higher average age, hence though it may lose seats at a redistribution, its seats have mucher higher numbers of voters than QLD seats where there are more younger voters. Where Victoria and NSW, and to a lesser extent WA pick up is that in those states, there would be a higher number of non citizens, counted as population but not as voters.

    3. The interesting aspect of the next Vic redistribution even if no seats are lost is that there are defined areas of fast growth – inner Melbourne, outer suburbs (Casey – lga not electorate, western suburbs, Geelong, and the corridors through to Ballarat and Bendigo) but other areas esp. parts of western victoria are emptying out fairly fast. It is possible at some stage that the commissioners will have difficulty keeping Ballarat and Bendigo especially inside their seats as both now are extending toward outer Melb.

    4. There was a high court case in the ’70s – why I am not sure – which defined the definition of the nexus as we now know it. in other words, territory seats could not count toward the nexus. This is why the house was reduced from 127 (1974) to 125 (1977).

  22. 1. I’ve addressed this point. 4/7 is a tougher ask than 3/6. Especially when single seat quotas are only 12.5%. It’s a recipe for 3-3-1 splits, ensuring the Coalition is in a minority in the Senate.

    2. Victoria is more likely than not to lose a seat at the next election. Yes seats are doled out (unfairly I might add) on the basis of population instead of registered voters. But so what? Recent determinations show Victoria in relative population decline.

  23. hey, have any of you noticed the redistribution confirms that Malcolm Turnbull is in deep trouble? particularly with his desperate attempts to lurch to the right to curry favour with the boss. Will we now see him “rediscover” his inner city trendy socially progressive inner self?

  24. Those engaged on this thread in discussing the relative merits of proportional representation contests for 7 v. 6 v. 5 seats should watch the Victorian elections on 25 November.
    The Bracks Government produced the new Legislative Council voting system – eight electorates of 5 members each. As I understand it, the consensus view is that this will lead to 2-2-1 (Labor/Liberal-NP/Green) or 3-2 (between the major parties, the “3” depending on the region), or less likely 3-1-1 (Labor/Liberal/Green in some metropolitan districts.
    Note that the Labor Government has produced two (maybe 2.5) desirable (in the eyes of most non-partisan observers) “reforms – fixed terms and a PR Upper House, with reduced numbers – 40 cfd.44 at present.
    Bracks thus virtually ensured that Labor won’t have a majority after this election, nor is likely to do so in the forseeable future. As well, the stoush over Legislative Council safe seats in the Labor Party has been a particularly vicious and unedifying affair.
    His “sacrifice” of his Upper House majority, the reduction of MPs and foregoing the right to choose the timing of the election appear to have gone unappreciated among both political tragics and the politically apathetic.

  25. Victoria shouldn’t lose a seat, for it lost one at the end of the 1980s and the 1994 retributions, the last one after 2001 made very few changes to inner melbourne, while quite big changes to the South Eastern suburbs,

    now if Victoria was to lose a seat then the AEC will have a problem for Melbourne’s South East is one of the fastest growing areas in the country as well as inner city seats will need to get smaller, with Melbourne Ports over quota while Kooyong is well under,

    so which seat would they remove?

    While on Victoria, a Question for Anthony, why do you allway say Mt Martha is in Dunkley when it is in Flinders and why say Landwarrin votes ALP when its a Liberal area?

  26. The next Victorian redistrubtion will see a seat removed, My bet would be an electorate in the Eastern suburbs. Melbourne Ports will lose the Liberal voting areas around Caulfield and become safer for Labor. Bendigo and Ballarat will move further into the Metro area, although the cities of Bendigo and Ballarat will remain in the electorate of course. That would make the electorates in question safer for Labor.

  27. I wondered if Wills is earmarked to be re-named ‘Hawke’ one day, far in the future. Or maybe He’s immortal, I dunno.

    NSW has a Blaxland and Wentworth, but hasn’t had a Lawson for a long time (which I’m not happy about).

  28. Paul – yes, I got the joke. 🙂 But it did get me thinking if indeed this would happen, some time in the future. The complication is that there is an ACT seat by that name.

    It would be a shame if Chisholm was abolished, considering the worthiness of the woman it’s named after.

    Yes, it’s a darn shame that Tassie hoards 5 seats, even though a strict population-based calculation entitles it to maybe 3. That’s 2 seats that one or more mainland states is deprived of. I love Tassie, but the 5-seat thing is a constitutional relict.

  29. Peter Fuller – the view that Labor has sacrified its majority in the Vic upper house is a short-term one – given that the Labor has only ever had a majority in the upper house for a few months in the 80s, and since the last election, I’ve always thought (and thought that it would be good for Bracks to do before they did it) that the reforms were about making it less likely that a party will hold a majority in the upper house. Politically, I support this.

  30. I agree with David Walsh about the 7 vs 6 Senators discussion. The key point is that you only need about 42% of the primary vote in each state over two elections to win half the senate and thereby have a bloc of senators that can vote down any resolution. Politically, this is advantageous to the coalition as there isn’t a minor party which siphons off its primary votes, unlike Labor (in a sense the Greens do this as usually about 80-90% of greens votes preference Labor in compulsory preferential voting – and the Democrats used to sort-of be like this although the preference flows were far less one-sided).

    A recent complication in this recipe is the emergence of family first, the voters for which probably would otherwise vote for the coalition or one nation (although one nation has almost disappeared electorally). Given the media attention garnered by family first since the election of senator Steve Fielding (despite his tiny primary vote) and its relative success in the Qld election (in terms of winning a non-trivial fraction of the vote), I wouldn’t be surprised if family first wins half a senate quota in some states, and it that case it’s conceivable that the coalition might only win 2 senate seats instead of the usual 3.

  31. If Family First were to do well in the next election in the senate vote, they would be just as likely to take senate seats that would have gone to Labor or the Greens, especially if the Coalition are preferencing them ahead of the Greens.

  32. You can make a pretty good guess on what the senate results since the 1990 half-senate election would have been with 7 senators elected per state – just look at the results from the AEC.

    The point about family first is whether they would win an otherwise coalition seat, or a labor/greens seat. Last time they won a labor/dems/green seat through good fortune. I’d put $5 on family first taking most of its votes from the coalition and one nation and only very few of its votes from labor, dems or greens.

  33. I do not think Family First are going to win more than 5% (more like 3% at most) of the vote, large minority of it’s support come from Labor, the rest from the Coalition. They only won the Victorian senate seat and came close to winning the Tasmanian one because Labor directed preferences to them over the greens which will not happen this time around and the Coalition won enough of the vote to win 3 senate seats. Family First would have a good chance of winning a senate seat over the Greens, if the Coalition polls only enough to win 2 senate seats and give the remainder of their vote to Family First.

    I have a feeling Labor’s vote will not be enough to win 3 senate seats in any state in 2007, The Greens will be preferred by remaining Labor vote over family first and win Senate seats in Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales, bringing their senate numbers to 6. Queensland and South Australia will spilt 3-3 between the Coalition and Labor.

    Coalition 39, Labor 30, Greens 6, Family First 1

  34. Removing Caulfield from Melbourne Ports would be wished for by the living and conscious members of the ALP in Melbourne Ports. I agree Families First won’t elect a senator.

  35. Why should we suppose that Labor would prefer to have wacky Green senators as opposed to Family First senators. I suspect that Family First are far more likely to do deals with Labor (and demand more respectable concessions) than with the Greens.

  36. A lot of people in the Labor Party objected to their’s party’s decision last time to preference Family First ahead of The Greens.

  37. How does Labor know that family first senators would be less whacky than green senators? I remember hearing Senator Shirley Walters (Lib) from Tasmania who would have fitted into family first beautifully, and she was pretty wacky.

  38. Removing Caulfield from Melbourne Ports would be logical for the growth in population is mostly around South Bank.

    Maybe the AEC might remove Melbourne Ports and have all of South and Port Melbourne put into Melbourne with the rest going into Goldstein, Hawthorn go to Higgins Camberwell go to Kooyong this would then drag the south east seats toward Melbourne and better match the inner areas up

    I don’t see many changes in the northern or western suburbs for most of Melbourne’s growth is in the south east also last time the AEC by pushing McEwen out of Cragieburn and matching Werribee and Melton into Lalor appeared to be saying that they were trying to create a clearer boundary between rural and suburban Melbourne

    it would make greater sense to push Corio into Corrangmitte Ballarat into Corio, Bendigo into McEwen, McEwen into Indi, Indi into Gippsland, Gippsland into McMillan McMillan into Holt and therefore pushing the Southeast toward Melbourne

  39. Family First will definitely win another senate seat, maybe two or three. Labor will give them senate preferences in exchange for a few lower house marginal seat preferences from FF. Greens preferences can’t be directed by the party so they have no bargaining chips. Read the research on mumble.com.au

    Not having ALP preferences will mean the Greens suffer preference starvation similar to One Nation.

    Also the ALP don’t mind FF. They’ve only voted against them on one bill, the VSU legislation.

    Family First will have the balance of power come 2008.

  40. You can’t push Indi into Gippsland as there’s almost no access across the mountains in that region.
    Removing Caulfield from Melbourne Ports would favour Labor in the short term, but the demographics are changing so much that it will become a Liberal seat eventually (on those boundaries).

  41. Speculation about a possible redistribution is completely idle – who predicted the abolition of Gwydir? Certainly no-one I know of. It used to be assumed that the commissioners would not abolish federation seats, so no-one would suggest the abolition of Melbourne Ports, but after Gwydir, who knows?

    Someone asked before which deceased ex-PMs don’t have seats named after them, and mentioned McMahon as one. The other is Joseph Cook, who has the misfortune of having the same surname as Captain Cook, after whom the seat of Cook is named. I believe the commissioners said this time that Cook should be regarded as being named after *both* of them.

    Quiz question: which PM had a seat named after him while he was still alive?

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