WA redistributed

Proposed new electoral boundaries for Western Australian are available for your perusal. Commentary to follow.

Big surprise: a radical redrawing of the remote areas divides them evenly between O’Connor and Kalgoorlie, the former taking the entire northern half of the state and Kalgoorlie most of the south. I don’t imagine Wilson Tuckey will be too happy this morning.

Stirling (Liberal 1.3%): Nothing too radical has occurred in the metropolitan area. Stirling has gained the salient south of Beach Road on the coast from Moore, lost Scarborough to Curtin but gained Joondanna, gained Coolbinia from Perth but lost the west of Morley. My rough calculation is that this cuts the Liberal margin to 0.8 per cent. CORRECTION: Sorry, made an error there: it actually looks like the margin hasn’t changed at all.

Cowan (Liberal 1.7%): This was one of two seats in the country that went from Labor to Liberal at the last election. The electorate has been brought down to size through the loss of the Noranda area south of Reid Highway to Perth and the new suburbs around Tapping in the electorate’s north-west to Moore, cutting the margin by about 0.8 per cent.

Swan (Liberal 0.1%): The other seat in the country that went from Labor to Liberal. It has gained extra territory in the south including Ferndale, Lynwood and Langford, which by my reckoning damages Liberal member Steve Irons 0.7 per cent and puts the seat back into the Labor column. Furthermore, the new areas swung quite heavily to Labor at the election.

Hasluck (Labor 1.3%): The one seat in WA that Labor won from the Liberals has gained Huntingdale and Southern River in the south from Canning, while losing a very small number of voters in the north to Pearce. I estimate that this has knocked 0.2 per cent off Labor member Sharryn Jackson’s margin.

O’Connor: Going on booths alone, I calculate O’Connor has a Liberal margin of 7.2 per cent.

UPDATE: Antony Green explains all. In a nutshell, the metropolitan amendments are of only marginal interest. The big deal is that Kalgoorlie has gone from being a potentially loseable Liberal seat to a very safe one, which has been achieved by cutting the margin in O’Connor from 16.6 per cent to 7.3 per cent (on Antony’s initial calculation). I might venture that this overstates the Liberals’ safety in O’Connor due to Wilson Tuckey’s personal vote (which is especially high in the part of O’Connor that carries over to the newly drawn seat: the southern coast end was only added to the electorate at the previous redistribution), and the fact that Labor have played dead in O’Connor lately to aid the Nationals. For example, the Allendale Primary School and Geraldton Primary School booths in Geraldton respectively split 59-41 and 56-44 in Tuckey’s favour at the 2007 election, whereas Labor won them 51-49 and 55-45 at the 2005 state election. Nonetheless, the new O’Connor still looks more comfortable for the Liberals than did the old Kalgoorlie, so they have reason to be pleased.

The changes are also significant in intra-Coalition terms. Normally it might be assumed that a 72-year-old member would have retirement in mind, but Wilson Tuckey might be rated an exception. If he’s not in the mood to go quietly, he will have a much harder time now he has to persuade preselectors from the unfamiliar Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne. Then there’s the Nationals, who have been hoping O’Connor might give them their first WA House of Representatives seat since 1974. Their hopes, if any, must now be pinned on Kalgoorlie, which takes not only Albany and half their Wheatbelt heartland from O’Connor, but also Manjimup and Bridgetown-Greenbushes from Forrest and areas as near to Perth as Wandering from Pearce. The latter areas are not strong for them, so it can be expected that they will lodge a fairly spirited objection.

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.

84 comments on “WA redistributed”

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  1. Does this make O’Connor a Labor seat? It would certainly make it more marginal. On the other hand Kalgoorlie is probably safer for the Liberals.

    Nips and tucks all around Perth but doesn’t look like any major change. Changes to Cowan and Swan seem to have favoured Labor, while Stirling and Hasluck look better for the Liberals.

    From a political POV doesn;t look like either party will be too unhappy, although the O’Connor/Kalgoorlie business will surely generate some protest.

  2. Does the redrawing of O’Connor and Kalgoorlie really change the likelihood of who would hold the seat though? I don’t see how it would… both seats were relatively safe so I can’t imagine that redrawing them in this way would change that.

    I’m obviously missing something…

  3. LTEP, don’t quote me on anything yet, but Kalgoorlie is Liberal because of the city of Kalgoorlie, Esperance, and the farming areas to the south: the northern part which has gone to O’Connor has lots of mining towns and Aboriginal areas.

  4. I think most of the ALP vote in Kalgoorlie and O’Connor is in the north- with most of the mining towns and especially Aboriginal communities there. The real conservative strength is in the south. So by linking all of northern WA in one seat makes it at least more winnable for Labor. Whether there’s enough of the old O’Connor in the new seat to keep it in Liberal hands, I don’t know. What’s certain is that the 20%-odd margin will be cut back quite a bit. The flip side of this is that Kalgoorlie, normally a Labor seat, would be much safer for the Liberals.

  5. The change to Swan is a little odd and will probably be objected to- they propose moving it west across the Canning River, which would seem to be a pretty strong boundary. The original Liberal suggestion proposed moving it eastward into areas that were previously in Swan; at face value that looks more sensible than jumping the river. Whether you can draw a sensible boundary between Hasluck and Tangney in that scenario I don’t know.

    With such a strong Labor area added to such a marginal seat, that alone guarantees there’ll be plenty of tit-for-tat objections between the major parties.

  6. No doubt Swan will be objected to. The trouble it’s very hard to come up with anything satisfactory in that part of the city. I had a few attempts and struggled.

    I think on the whole, the boundaries in the metro area seem pretty well drawn.

    Major change to O’Connor and Kalgoorlie was eventually inevitable, to me it was just a question of whether they were going to bite the bullet this time or leave it for next time.

    I imagine that this change will produce a lot of objection though.

  7. At least the proposed boundaries for Kalgoorlie and O’Connor reflect geographic “communities of interest” more closely.

    In the old Kalgoorlie, the North was lumped in with the Goldfields, with thousands of kilometres of desert in between. Now there’s one seat for the North, and one seat for the Goldfields – with each seat having the northern and southern part of the Wheat Belt respectively.

    Also, keep in mind that the main avenues of transport and communication in WA tend to radiate out from Perth, and it starts to make sense.

    The new boundaries are actually pretty close to the telephone directory boundaries (which can sometimes be a good indicator of “communities of interest”) – O’Connor for the “Great Northern” (08) 91 and (08) 99 phone book, and Kalgoorlie for the “Central Country” phone book (08) 90 and (08) 96.

  8. William,

    I though the result in O’Connor in the last election ended up being Lib v Nats on TPP rather than Lib v Lab. Is that correct or am I dreaming something random up?

  9. The new boundaries for O’Connor and Kalgoorlie do seem to make sense, but I can’t see why Labor wanted them. Last time the Nationals fell .7% short of overtaking Labor to have a TPP with the Libs. Had they done this my guess is they would have been 2% short of beating Tuckey once you allow for leakage from Labor.

    On the other hand Labor was less than 3% off winning Kalgoorlie.

    So Labor had a chance of winning one seat and could at least make trouble between the coalition partners in the other.

    On the new boundaries I’d imagine the Nationals will be stranded in both places, and I would think that Labors vote in O’Connor was so low that they won’t be competitive in either seat.

    From a party perspective Tuckey should be very happy, although his preselection might be more difficult now that he’ll have to run in areas he hasn’t represented before.

  10. William,
    Just from a quick look I would say that both the new O’Connor and the new Kalgoorlie are fairly safe Lib under a “normal” voting pattern.
    I think that the new Kalgoorlie will be objected to, though – for example, adding Manjimup into Kalgoorlie makes (to me at least) little sense. The community of interest between the tall trees and the eastern desert is difficult to spot.
    The metro changes are fairly sensible – I would think that the changes to Swan may stick as the suburbs do actually have a similar outlook.
    I would have thought that the addition of Southern River and Huntingdale into Hasluck would make it better for Sharryn – but I will have to go back to my numbers to confirm.
    The rest I can’t see making much of a change. I would think that the Kalgoorlie change will be at least partially undone, though.

  11. Swing Lowe, that almost happened – there was a bit of excitement after the election that maybe the Nationals would overtake Labor and then at least give Wilson a run for his money. Didn’t quite play out that way though.

  12. Contrary to some, I expect Tuckey will be delighted by these boundaries. He can retire, safe in the knowledge that the Nationals won’t get his seat when he goes. Probably most of what has kept him there.
    Probably whatever was done in this huge part of Aus was going to be difficult.There are now 2 very big seats that contain huge variations. The new Kalgoorlie stretches from Bridgetown to the Ngaanyatyarra lands on the state border, and the new O’Connor from near Perth(Victoria Plains) to Wyndam.
    Fascinating. Watching it all unfold will be very interesting.

  13. Hi Antony,

    I am aware that a savvy young good looking female Lawyer (And former Student Union President) is considering running for Mount Ommaney for the Qld State Election for the LNP. This is my electorate. There is also chatter that Julie Attwood, the ALP Sitting member might pull the pin. Do you think the LNP could snatch the seat? The Liberals gained an 8% in the Jamboree Ward that is in Mount Ommaney at the Council election. Did the redistribution affect Mount Ommaney? I would like to know your thoughts?

  14. I concur with Buster. The Kalgoorlie/O’Connor configuration looks great for the Libs.

    Previously Labor and the Nationals were a threat in Kalgoorlie and O’Connor respectively. Not anymore.

  15. #22

    Agree about Kalgoorlie, not as sure about O’Connor. Labor would never have put any effort into so safe a seat, and recently have probably played extra-dead to help the Nationals. So, assuming a more active Labor campaign, there’s some room for a boost in the parts of the old O’Connor now in the new seat.

  16. The Lib/Nat thing is easy. Every Nat spends most of their time out in the bush annoying hell out of any neighbouring Libs. They don’t have any shadow responsibilities and have no trouble getting pairs. Thus they tie up considerable Lib resources that would otherwise be directed to taking seats off Labor. Thus in WA McGinty has always looked after the Nats like a protected endangered species.
    The interesting thing about the O’Connor/Kalgoorlie realignment is if Tuckey retires, which seat will Barry Haase decide to stand for? In both Labor and Liberal, you have to have a firm base in the city of Kalgoorlie, to get the seat. Haase has this, but also is well known through the north. Thus I wouldn’t be surprised if the new member for O’Connor turned out to be the current member for Kalgoorlie, which will make choosing a new candidate for Kalgoorlie very interesting. Hardly anybody would be well known both in Kalgoorlie, and through the southern strip.
    Watching this lot work through the system will be as good as the olympics.

  17. I looked up:


    which gave last name origin & meaning:

    Dutch, German, and Jewish (Ashkenazic): from Middle Dutch, Middle High German hase, German Hase ‘hare’, hence a nickname for a swift runner or a timorous or confused person, but in some cases perhaps a habitational name from a house distinguished by the sign of a hare. As a Jewish name it can also be an ornamental name or one of names selected at random from vocabulary words by government officials when surnames became compulsory.

    I rate this particular Haase is not a swift runner, not timorous and definitely not random. I suspect he is a Tuckey with a thin veneer of civilization but would welcome further info.

  18. My understanding of WA politics is that the post-1998 Labor decline was most marked in Perth. If Labor’s vote were to bounce back it would probably be most significant in Perth, O’Connor would probably remain well out of reach.

  19. The proposed O’Connor has very similar boundaries to the seat of Dampier that existed between 1913 and 1922. It was held by Harry Gregory as a Liberal/Nationalist/Country MHR through this period (first narrowly, then safely from 1917). In 1922 Kalgoorlie extended north and southern Dampier was renamed Swan (the pre-1922 Swan became Forrest).

  20. William, the shire of Boddington has been added to Canning, not taken from it.

    If these proposals remain unchanged, Australia no longer has the world’s largest electorate.

    The old Kalgoorlie was 2,295,354 sq km.

    The proposed O’Connor is 1,587,759 sq km. I can find at least two larger single member electorates:

    Nunavut (Canada) 2,093,190
    Alaska 1,717,854

  21. Brad @ 10 suggests that the new Kal/O’Connor reflects community of interest better – I’d suggest it does the exact opposite. The old O’Connor pretty much was exclusively the wheatbelt plus the regional centers at either end in Albany and Geraldton, while Kalgoorlie and the Pilbara had a lot of community of interest as the mining sector and centres of the pastoral district. Notably that division is closer to the way the state is divided up into regions for the state upper house.

    The new divisions make two electorates which are half agricultural and half mining and pastoral – nowhere near the similarities within the electorates that previously existed. And as someone mentioned, there’s little in common between the western desert and the Shire of Manjimup.

    Either way the area will continue to be represented by two Libs, no matter what.

  22. MDMConnell @ 8,

    The change to Swan is a little odd and will probably be objected to- they propose moving it west across the Canning River, which would seem to be a pretty strong boundary.

    It looks like a pretty clean change to me. The Canning River isn’t particularly wide here and the new state seat of Cannington also crosses it at the same point. The Canning River is also crossed by Hasluck.

    The original Liberal suggestion proposed moving it eastward into areas that were previously in Swan; at face value that looks more sensible than jumping the river. Whether you can draw a sensible boundary between Hasluck and Tangney in that scenario I don’t know.

    Yes, this looks to be the problem. Swan only had those areas before Hasluck was created. Any eastward expansion of Swan would likely have gutted Hasluck, dislocating its north end from its south end and probably necessitating a radical redrawing of Hasluck. In addition, the airport between Hasluck and Swan makes for a pretty strong boundary.

  23. I am not so sure that there can be any substantial objection to the O’Connor – Kalgoorlie division.

    If you look at the current boundaries, O’Connor is squeezed along Great Eastern HIghway. As Kalgoorlie has to expand and it can only expand into O’Connor, it must take area either from the north or the south (it can’t take it from the middle).

    Any action then will result in O’Connor shifting – either into Pearce or into Forrest.

    What we would end up with is something looking like an American congressional district which is stretched and distorted and looks designed to join voting areas. If you look at the submission made by the Liberal Party, it screams odd!

    The committee has decided to stop the bit by bit approach and make a determination that works on the figures.

    If we did not have any previous distributions to go by – on the figures we have, these electorates are good divisions in terms of WA. It is always hard to make electorates outside of Perth and the South-West that contain really good communities of interest.

  24. Just a minor point. But the proposed Swan DOESN’T cross the Canning River, rather it is it’s southern and western boundary.

    In addition to the point made by David Walsh, where Hasluck crosses the Canning River is in the City of Gosnells. The river flows through this council and is not a major barrier at all, rather it is a feature of the community of interest around the river at this point.

    The move of the seat of Swan is down through the City of Canning, which is already partly in the electorate and also travels down Albany Highway which is the major road.

    Although going up the Swan towards the Helena River would have merit, it crosses the airport and this is a major barrier.

    I don’t see any success in an objection here.

  25. Oops – shouldnt be doing this at this time of night. I do see the crossing now over the Canning River – apologies!

  26. I agree with you about Stirling, William. It’s swings and roundabouts. Stephen Smith won’t be too devastated about losing Coolbinia to Keenan, and Keenan won’t mind coughing up Scarborough to Julie Bishop. Can’t see any reason for Peter Tinley (who shaved a bit off Keenan’s margin last November) to be celebrating yet -though he did say he was keen to have another go in 2010. It’s bound to be another nailbiting night here in Stirling come next election.

  27. David Walsh @ 31

    I remember seeing on Lateline a couple of months ago, the Italians had their parliamentary elections, and they have MPs representing the Italian diaspora. The ABC reported that there is one electorate which covered Italian emigrants in Australia, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

    Now THAT would be the biggest electorate in the world! 🙂

  28. After looking at the numbers, I concur with Michael Proud. It’s very difficult to maintain Kalgoorlie and O’Connor in their present form without seriously eroding the integrity of one or the other.

    Here’s two approaches.

    1. The minimalist approach: Kalgoorlie in its present form gets up to quota by picking up a number of small agricultural electorates.

    Problem: It completely destroys the shape of O’Connor. The Liberal Party tried this approach and ended up redrawing O’Connor as a ghastly looking shovel shape. The electorate covers a wide area around Albany, but then goes north along a narrow corridor of shires with the shovel handle getting particularly thin once it reached Geraldton.

    2. The Geraldton approach: Kalgoorlie in its present form picks up Geraldton and then sheds southern shires to get it back down to quota.

    Problem: Excising agricultural shires (e.g. Merredin) from Kalgoorlie makes a lot of sense. But you actually end up having to go further than that in order to compensate for the big surplus of voters Geraldton brings in. This was the approach Labor took in their submission and they ended up excising the southern goldfields from the electorate. Cutting them off from their natural community of interest: the city of Kalgoorlie. This gave O’Connor an eastern tail that extended all the way to the SA border.

    If you add back in the Shire of Dundas to the ALP’s proposal that puts Kalgoorlie right near the upper limit of its permitted projected tolerance.

  29. Brad – ah yes, the peculiar Italian international divisions.

    I knew there was a reason I used the “single member” qualifier.

  30. “What we would end up with is something looking like an American congressional district which is stretched and distorted and looks designed to join voting areas.”

    Oh, you mean a ‘gerrymander’. 🙂

  31. Kakuru, I hated to use that term as one reason for strange American congressional districts is the Voting Rights Act which means that there need to be congressional districts that allow for minority majorities and not for minority groups to be split among districts.

    As David Walsh has pointed out the various shapes proposed, the Commissioners have done a better job.

  32. Sacha.

    Hard to argue with that one …Although do diaspora Italians get to vote for the Italian president? That might be bigger.

  33. The President of Italy is not elected by the populace, but by a joint session of Parliament with the participation of representatives chosen by the regional councils.

  34. the Kalgoorlie/O’connor boundary makes no sense
    there is absolutely nothing in common between kalgoorlie and Albany
    nor is there anything in common between the remaining wheat belt area of
    O’connor and the Kimberly and mining areas
    just as a point of interest it would be very interesting to apply the last state election
    figures to the proposed boundaries

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