The luck of the draw

Assuming this parliament runs its full term, there are likely to be redistributions in every state except South Australia before the next election, as well as the Northern Territory. A Western Australian redistribution is currently in its early stages, resulting from the rule requiring that states and territories be redistributed at least every seven years. Tasmania and the Northern Territory will follow for the same reason later this year; Victoria is also due in January 2010 (UPDATE: Or possibly not – see David Walsh in comments). It is also very likely that population changes will result in New South Wales losing another seat to Queensland when the determination is made in February 2009. The following table shows the states’ entitlements at the last determination in November 2005, entitlements based on ABS population figures from June 2007, and a projection to February 2009 based on growth rates in the 2006/07 financial year. Note that the constitution prevents Tasmania from falling below five seats, and that a dubious law passed in 2004 allows the Northern Territory to retain its second seat even if its entitlement falls a little below 1.5.

2005 2007 2009
(m) seats (m) seats (m) seats
NSW 6.765 49.38 6.889 48.51 7.041 48.23
VIC 5.013 36.59 5.205 36.65 5.362 36.73
QLD 3.946 28.8 4.182 29.45 4.368 29.92
WA 2.004 14.63 2.106 14.83 2.204 15.1
SA 1.540 11.24 1.584 11.15 1.616 11.07
TAS 0.485 3.54 0.493 3.47 0.500 3.42
ACT 0.326 2.38 0.340 2.39 0.352 2.41
NT 0.206 1.5 0.215 1.51 0.224 1.53

In the meantime we have a redistribution in train for Western Australia’s existing 15 seats, which despite the state’s rapid growth will not need to increase before the next election. Population volatility has led to substantial variations in enrolment across the electorates, with growth trends confounding the projections used to conduct the last redistribution in 2000. The following table shows actual enrolment at that time; the projections then arrived at for May 2004, three-and-a-half years hence; actual enrolment figures from the October 2004 election; and enrolment as of last month.

2000 2004
Brand (Labor 5.6%) 74,528 88,665 84,223 93,011
Canning (Liberal 5.6%) 72,045 86,896 84,388 95,439
Cowan (Liberal 1.7%) 77,235 88,638 85,393 94,233
Curtin (Liberal 13.6%) 83,424 85,898 84,216 86,447
Forrest (Liberal 5.8%) 79,009 90,070 87,145 94,504
Fremantle (Labor 9.1%) 78,079 86,479 83,698 89,558
Hasluck (Labor 1.3%) 78,596 86,772 80,554 82,779
Kalgoorlie (Liberal 2.6%) 82,701 89,775 81,987 81,148
Moore (Liberal 9.2%) 72,538 84,988 75,923 77,541
O’Connor (Liberal 16.6%) 82,894 86,790 82,841 85,032
Pearce (Liberal 9.1%) 73,868 87,148 84,574 95,474
Perth (Labor 8.8%) 81,391 87,859 84,178 88,859
Stirling (Liberal 1.3%) 86,076 88,758 86,965 91,751
Swan (Liberal 0.1%) 78,145 84,956 79,549 82,511
Tangney (Liberal 8.7%) 83,529 87,310 83,108 84,591
MEAN 78,937 87,400 83,249 88,192

It is particularly notable that Moore, heretofore the quintessential growth corridor electorate, has fallen well short of the AEC’s projections at the time of the 2000 redistribution. Enrolment in the electorate took seven years to grow 6.9 per cent, against a projected 17.2 per cent in three-and-a-half years. This is a similar rate of growth to other Perth suburban seats, which came in between 1 per cent and 10 per cent. The real action has been in semi-rural Canning (32.5 per cent), Pearce (29.2 per cent) and Brand (24.8 per cent), along with outer metropolitan Cowan (22.0 per cent). Growth in the state’s south-west has boosted enrolment in safe Liberal Forrest by 19.6 per cent, but further afield O’Connor and Kalgoorlie have remained stagnant.

It will thus be necessary for the redistribution to cut upwards of 10,000 voters from Canning, Pearce, Brand, Cowan and Forrest, paring back existing over-enrolment and accounting for projected growth over the next three-and-a-half years. Significant expansion will be required not only for ever-declining Kalgoorlie and O’Connor, but also for Moore to correct for its over-estimated growth prospects last time. In the metropolitan area, Curtin, Swan and Tangney will need to take in new areas, but little adjustment will be necessary for Perth, Stirling and Fremantle (which is not to say that these electorates will not be redrawn due to knock-on effects).

While it never pays to second-guess redistributions, it’s tempting to draw a scenario in which Kalgoorlie absorbs all or part of Geraldton from O’Connor, which can easily be compensated by taking some of the territory that Pearce and Forrest need to lose. The need for cuts to adjoining Forrest, Canning and Brand will tempt the commissioners to make most of this required transfer from Forrest, resulting in knock-on transfers to the other two. The required growth in Moore can be accommodated either at the expense of Pearce to the north or Cowan to the east, both of which will need to be cut.

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.

51 comments on “The luck of the draw”

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  1. Once I put together a pretend seat which may be acceptable in terms of population I wonder who would win the seat.

    All of Kew & Hawthorn (East of Burke Rd), All of the City of Yarra south of the Eastern Freeway, all of Stonnington plus Southbank and the Domain part of South Yarra

    I’ve found my paper with the stats written out and i’ve mistakenly included Southbank and the Collingwood areas for they would put it over quoter.

    I also wouldn’t mind seeing all of Port and South Melbourne placed in the seat of Melbourne

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