Queensland redistribution thread

Work commitments will prevent me from being early off the mark with analysis of the federal redistribution in Queensland, for which the Redistribution Committee’s initial proposal is scheduled to be published today. Antony Green has an analysis of Labor’s submission to the committee.

Please note that this thread is expressly for discussion of the redistribution. If you would like to discuss something else, please do so on the thread below.

UPDATE: The report from the AEC can be viewed here. Quick as a flash, Antony Green has posted estimated new margins.

UPDATE (26/7/09): Here’s an overview of the redistribution proposal. I don’t pretend that this makes riveting reading, but having done it will make my life easier when I get around to compiling my federal election guide.

The proposed new electorate of Wright is the commissioners’ solution to the problem of the Gold Coast’s ongoing population explosion, taking the interior areas from the Gold Coast trio of Fadden (6,200 voters), Moncrieff (5,100 voters) and McPherson (5,600 voters). It also takes most of the geographical area of both Forde (38,600 voters), which previously played the role of buffering the Gold Coast on the inland side, and Blair (30,500 voteres), which provides the Lockyer Valley and Scenic Rim rural areas. At previous elections Wright would have been a safe seat for the Liberals, but the force of the swings to Labor here in 2007 (14.4 per cent in Forde) was such that the current notional Liberal margin is 3.5 per cent.

The creation of Wright has required Forde and Blair to be redrawn dramatically, the latter for the third time since it was created at the 1998 election (at which it was contested unsuccessfully by Pauline Hanson). Blair has effectively lost its least populous areas in the south (centred around Boonah) to Wright, in exchange for the least populous areas of Dickson and Fisher in the north (respectively the old shires of Esk and Kilcoy, home to 11,600 and 2,600 voters, which have been merged into Somerset Regional Council). The changes render Blair virtually unrecognisable in geographic terms, but it maintains the area around Ipswich which provides most of its voters (76,900 out of 94,600). However, the strongly conservative nature of the area transferred to Wright and the relatively marginal Somerset areas have boosted the Labor margin significantly, from 4.5 per cent to 7.4 per cent.

Forde is now concentrated on the gap between the Brisbane and Gold Coast urban areas, including 18,700 voters around Upper Coomera who have been transferred from Fadden. The changes have slightly reduced Labor’s margin, from 2.9 per cent to 2.4 per cent. This northward expansion has produced knock-on effects through southern Brisbane, Rankin in particular to be rationalised from an awkward east-to-west orientation to an almost square-shaped electorate centred on Woodridge. Shailer Park in the east and Park Ridge in the south are to be transferred from Rankin to Forde, while 8,100 voters at Browns Plains, Greenbank and Boronia Heights in the west go to Wright. To the north, Rankin swaps territory with Moreton, gaining 10,400 voters in Calamvale while losing 3,000 in Underwood further east. Further territory adjacent to the Calamvale transfer, accounting for 14,700 voters from Algester south to Parkinson, are to be gained from Oxley. Oxley’s dramatic growth has been further reflected by the loss to Moreton of two substantial areas accounting for 11,800 voters around Acacia Ridge and Oxley itself. These are strong areas for Labor, contributing to a handy boost in marginal Moreton from 4.8 per cent to 6.1 per cent and a harmless cut in safe Oxley from 14.1 per cent to 11.3 per cent. Oxley also loses 5,500 voters at its western end, around Collingwood Park and Springfield Central, to Blair. In the north, the rationalisation of Oxley’s boundary with Ryan along the Brisbane River sees it gain 17,100 voters at Middle Park and Jindalee.

The seats at the coastal end of southern Brisbane remain unchanged, namely Kevin Rudd’s seat of Griffith, the Labor-leaning marginal Bonner and the knife-edge Liberal-held Bowman (although the latter loses 934 voters in Carbrook to Forde, allowing it to be contained entirely within the City of Redland). North of the river, significant changes have been made to Ryan, which due to low enrolment growth and the aforementioned loss of its territory south of the river has acquired the western part of the electorate of Brisbane, taking 23,200 voters in Ferny Grove, Keperra and Ashgrove. This amounts to a transfusion of Labor support from Brisbane, where Labor member Arch Bevis’s margin is cut from 6.8 per cent to 3.7 per cent, to Ryan, where Liberal member Michael Johnson’s margin is cut from 3.8 per cent to 1.2 per cent. Brisbane has in turn been compensated by absorbing 27,400 voters to the east in the Liberal-leaning Clayfield and Ascot area, previously in Lilley, and 2,500 voters around Auchenflower from Ryan. However, it also loses 5,000 voters in a strip from Stafford Heights and Everton Park to Lilley.

Wayne Swan’s seat of Lilley has undergone further radical change due to a rationalisation of its northern neighbour Petrie, formerly an over-elongated north-south electorate combining two sharply distinct areas. This has been effected through a swap of 38,000 voters in Petrie’s southern spur, from Carseldine south through Aspley to Stafford Heights, in exchange for 12,800 voters in Lilley’s coastal suburbs north of Cabbage Tree Creek, namely Bracken Ridge, Deagon, Sandgate and Brighton. The latter transfer largely accounts for a cut in Labor’s margin in Lilley from 8.6 per cent to 5.9 per cent, and a boost in Petrie from 2.1 per cent to 7.5 per cent. Petrie also gains 24,900 voters in the Labor-leaning Deception Bay area from Longman in the north, contributing to a cut in Labor’s margin in Longman from 3.6 per cent to 1.3 per cent.

Longman has been compensated for this loss with the southern part of Fisher, accounting for 17,000 voters in the outskirts of Caboolture and semi-rural areas to the north-west, as well as a lightly populated area from Dickson (3,700 voters) immediately to the south. The former transfer has produced a series of knock-on effects in electorates to the north: Fisher gains 12,700 voters around Eudlo from northern neighbour Fairfax; Fairfax gains gains 2,100 voters from its northern neighbour Wide Bay; and Wide Bay gains two lightly populated areas from its northern neighbour Hinkler, home to 2,700 voters. Hinkler loses further interior territory around Biggenden to Flynn (1,200 voters) for no corresponding gain, reflecting rapid population growth around Hervey Bay (Hinkler’s other population centres remain Childers and especially Bundaberg).

Flynn has also undergone significant changes resulting from the ongoing relative decline of the remote parts of the state, which see the already expansive electorate of Maranoa absorb Flynn’s western geographical half (the local government areas of Barcaldine, Blackall Tambo, Longreach and Winton, home to 7,200 voters). This increases Maranoa’s share of the state’s area from 31.5 per cent to 41.8 per cent. Flynn has been compensated with 8,200 voters around the substantial population centre of Mount Morgan. This previously formed a salient near the coast in the south of Capricornia, which gains a countervailing transfer of 4,300 voters west of Mackay from Dawson (to which it also loses 300 voters in a negligible transfer further south). The changes in Flynn are good news for Labor member Chris Trevor, whose margin is up from 0.2 per cent to 2.0 per cent.

Population growth in Cairns has required the Cairns-plus-Cape York electorate of Leichhardt to shed territory to its only neighbour, Kennedy, the boundary of which is shifted north to conform with the Tablelands Regional Council for a transfer of 3,400 voters. Kennedy also awkardly acquires the southern Cairns suburb of Edmonton, adding 6,400 voters. Further south, it also gains from Dawson 1,300 voters in the southern hinterland of Townsville and a stretch of Flinders Highway including Ross River. This has been offset by the loss of 7,400 voters in Townsville’s northern outskirts to Herbert. Herbert in turn loses 7,400 voters in the southern Townsville suburbs of Annandale and Wulguru to Dawson. This has produced a small but decisive change in the margin in Herbert, from 0.2 per cent Liberal to 0.4 per cent Labor. The cumulative changes in Dawson reduce Labor’s margin from 3.2 per cent to 2.4 per cent.

Finally, the Toowoomba and Darling Downs electorate of Groom is unchanged.

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.

185 comments on “Queensland redistribution thread”

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  1. If the current relevant number of Senators is 72, there is nothing “impracticable” in reducing the size of the House to 144, as the Constitution would seem to require.

  2. Yes there is. The formula in Section 24 might give you more than 144 members so there would be no requirement for it to be reduced.

  3. That’s true, so let’s put it this way. It was clearly the intent of the authors of the Constitution that the House should be twice the size of the Senate. It doesn’t have to be exactly twice the size because as you say the formula may not give that precise result. But it can’t be any bigger than 144 plus whatever extra seats the formula makes necessary. As you said earlier this *might* be one per mainland state, which makes 149, but that is not very likely. It will usually be somewhere between 144 and 149. So if the territory House seats are to be counted, we have 150 seats and are already over. If they are not to be counted, we have 146 and are within the acceptable range.

  4. But the Commonwealth under Section 122 has the power to create Territory seats, but can this be done given what Section 24 says about the House being twice the size of the Senate. The High Court would have three ways of resolving the conflict between 24 and 122. It could re-interpet the formula, but how? It could deny the Territory representation, but how? Or it could take a loose historical view of the House being twice as large as the Senate on the basis that the Constitution was written when there were no Territories and the Commonwelaht was given power to resolve those.

    If the Territories were given 20 seats each by the Commonwealth the High Court might intervene as this would be diluting the representation of the states. As long as the Territories are not over-represented compared to the states the High Court is unlikely to have a problem.

    I could also point to the First and Second Territories Representation cases. Section 7 clearly states the Senate shall consist of members representing the states. No mention of Territory Senators, but Section 122 allows the Commonwealth to create representation for the Territories in either house. Another case of conflict between sections that the High Court had to rule on.

    The case on Section 24 is called McKinlay’s case and it ruled the 1964 rules invalid, determined that Territory Sentors can’t be in the formula, and also instructed the Commonwealth that if a state’s entitlement to seats changed, then there had to be a provision specifying how a state would elect its new representatives if a redistribution was not in place in time for an election.

  5. Another interesting point was made by Gleeson in 2001.

    [The Constitution provides for representation of the Territories in the Senate on such terms as the Federal Parliament thinks fit (s 122). It is left to Parliament to decide what that representation, if any, will be. In that respect, the rights of residents of the Territories are less than those of residents of the States. This is a clear form of inequality.]


  6. 158

    That Northern Territory statehood proposal would have enlarged the Senate and the House of Reps as it would have added more state Senators. The proposal was to give them 3 wasn`t it? This would have meant that they elected two at one half-Senate election and one at the other. This would have been silly. They should have been offered an even number (so the same number would be elected each time), at least 4 but probably 6 so that an odd number would be elected each time.

  7. Both territories should be abolished IMHO. The NT can choose between statehood and becoming part of any one of the three neighbouring states. The ACT should be returned to NSW, except for the parliamentary precinct. Australia has far too many governments.

  8. Tom, it never got that far. But the NT would be a “new” state, not an ‘original’ state. It is covered under Section 121 of the Constitution which states “The Parliament may admit to the Commonwealth or establish new States, and may upon such admission or establishment make or impose such terms and conditions, including the extent of representation in either House of the Parliament, as it thinks fit.”

    Entirely from memory, I think the floated idea was 3 Senators elected on the same terms as currently, that is tied to the terms of the House and not split into two halves. Only the original states have all the rights to Senate equal representation, and all new states have their representation determined by the Commonwealth.

  9. There is some interesting discussion on the McKinlay case here:

    [Rich suggested that “an opposite resolution to the McKinlay case could now follow in an incremental fashion from the principles and values which underlie the Constitution as identified in the Political Speech cases.” He noted that, “the Australian Constitution, like its US counterpart, is built upon democratic principles; [and] that the High Court’s task is therefore one of ‘representational reinforcement’.”

    The High Court did consider the question again, but in the context of State electoral laws, and the Western Australian State Constitution. In McGinty, there were signs that incremental change was occurring based on the notions of popular sovereignty identified in the ACTV Case. While the Court, by majority (Toohey and Gaudron JJ dissenting), held that equality of voting power did not apply to Western Australian State elections, there were some signs that this was not a lost cause as far as the Commonwealth was concerned.

    Brennan CJ chose not to decide the issue, but recognised that an argument to overturn McKinlay’s Case as it applied to Commonwealth elections could be based on the notion of “representative democracy” in the Commonwealth Constitution.


  10. Those issue are to do with the one-vote one-value parts of McKinlay’s case which the High Court rejected and that would be what Brennan was referring to as overturning. The rest of the McKinlay’s case concerning allocating House seats to states was accepted and wouldn’t be overturned if one-vote one-value was re-visited.

  11. 161

    Section 13 says that the Senate shall divide the senators chosen from each state into two classes …

    It says each state not each original state.

    A case of contradiction in the constitution but I would think that section 13 would prevail.

  12. Section 121 would probably be construed as meaning that the Parliament could decide the Senate numbers for a new state and minimum HoR too. Having non-proportionate representation in the HoR might run into constitutional trouble under section 25. A victory for section 121 over section 13 would be very unlikely.

  13. The new-look federal boundaries for Queensland provide the National Party with a perfect opportunity to increase its numbers in the lower house of Federal parliament. The new seat of Wright will be a good starting rod for upcoming star Ms Hajnal Ban who contested Forde for the party at the last election. The seats of Wide Bay, Hinkler and Maranoa will easily be retained whilst former strongholds Groom, Fairfax, Fisher and McPherson will remain in the Liberal camp under the current grandfathering of LNP rules.

  14. #168: “former strongholds Groom, Fairfax, Fisher and McPherson will remain in the Liberal camp under the current grandfathering of LNP rules.”

    I’d suggest they’ll remain in the Liberal camp permenantly. These seats are basically urbanised now and I doubt the Nationals would get a look in.

    Hinkler is in danger of being lost to Labor, but Dawson is a reasonable chance of coming back to the Nationals.

  15. *169; Under the new-look LNP banner remember its no longer Liberal north of the tweed future candidates will always get a look in if they can overcome Labor. For future LNP members from Queensland they will have a choice like CLP members in the Northern Territory whether to sit in the National or Liberal Party rooms in Canberra.

    Also having a futher look at the new boundaries it appears the Liberal held seats in Brisbane Bowman, Dickson and Ryan appear in danger of being lost to Labor at the next election whilst Townsville based Herbert is definately lost. Which means the Liberals will be driven out of Regional Queensland possibly forever.

  16. On a personal note the Redistribution has seen me removed from Lilley to Brisbane. So when March or whenever the election is called I will know have base my decision not on where the LNP candidate for Lilley will sit in Canberra but where the one in Brisbane would sit if successfull mind you both are safe Labor seats anyway but having never voted Liberal in ones lifetime I don’t intend to do so this time around perhaps the old informal way is looking more palatable.

  17. Paul I don’t think you can say that Herbert is “definitely lost” just because it now has a small notional Labor majority. Popular sitting members have often overcome redistribution shifts like this, and Lindsay has obviously got a high local standing, having seen off Colbran’s high-profile attack in 2007. If he retires I would expect Labor to win, but if he stands again he must be given a good chance of holding on.

  18. 167

    I am pretty sure that the High Court would say that senators from have to be rotated.

    In the document you linked to it says that it is though that new states are exempt from the nexus but that there s doubt. I would think that the Nexus would probably apply especially as the High Court ruled that section 122 does not allow the Commonwealth to say what is in the nexus and what is not.

  19. [I am pretty sure that the High Court would say that senators have to be rotated.]

    The High Court ruled some time ago that Senators have to be rotated once a week, or their undersides get mouldy.

  20. Why didn’t Labor win Herbert? Was the candidate as good as claimed? Paul Nash @ 170 in these s-e Qld seats conservative voters have consistently preferred the Libs to the Nats. You are now proposing to smuggle a Nat in under the LNP banner, seems undemocratic to me.

  21. Peter Lindsay’s personal standing, which counts for more in a regional seat than it does in a city seat, was obviously part of it. I’ve heard it said that Colbran’s public profile as the hamburger king of Townsville wasn’t altogether a positive one for him.

  22. [The new-look federal boundaries for Queensland provide the National Party with a perfect opportunity to increase its numbers in the lower house of Federal parliament.]

    Yeah, it’ll bring them back to 10 seats. They need it after the Lyne by-election disaster 😉

    Pity for the Nats that Flynn has become safer for Labor too. Incumbency should definately get them over the line. So much for a seat that on paper prior to 2007 was held notionally by the Nats on 8%.


  23. [The new-look federal boundaries for Queensland provide the National Party with a perfect opportunity to increase its numbers in the lower house of Federal parliament.]

    Who is this a quote from? Whoever said it, it isn’t true. They only have two safe seats, Maranoa and Wide Bay. Hinkler has been made weaker for them, particularly if Neville retires. Flynn has been made harder for them to win. They have a fair chance of regaining Dawson and an outside chance of winning Wright. That’s all I can see.

    It’s worth remembering that in 1975 the Qld Nats held Leichhardt, Kennedy, Dawson, Capricornia, Wide Bay, Maranoa, Fisher and Darling Downs.

  24. I suppose they have a good chance of regaining Kennedy if/when Katter goes. With no Coalition government to kick around any more I sometimes wonder what will happen with Katter.

    But I agree there’s pretty slim pickings for the Nationals now. Even if seats like Capricornia, Dawson or Flynn returned to the Coalition, they’ve just as much chance of going Liberal than National.

  25. [an outside chance of winning Wright.]

    I should correct myself here. This assumes a traditional three-cornered contest, but of course that won’t now happen. If the LNP decides to give Wright to a Nat they will probably win it, but I don’t see why they should, it’s not really a Nat seat.

  26. Tom. Whats the point in trying to balance out the electorates when the system used to count the votes adds in its own bias which distorts the outcome of the election.

    There are two issues of major concern.

    1. The method of calculating the Surplus Transfer value.
    2. The system of distribution of excluded candidates votes.

    The first issue is Straight forward. The Federal government needs to adopt what is referred to as the Gregory Inclusive Weighted Transfer system. Western Australia has adopted it and Victoria is in the process of adopting it. Analysis of the 20067 Victorian Senate shows that the current system delivered an addition 7,00 votes to the greens candidate as a result of the formula used to calculate the Surplus Transfer system (Value of surplus divided by the number of ballot papers). Given that some votes are worth a fraction and other are at full value under the current rules all votes are transferred at the same transfer value disproportional to their real value.

    The second issue is the method used in redistributing votes form excluded candidates. In Queensland this denied the Greens the right of representation. A fact that Antony Green is in denial about. If you re-count the Queensland Senate vote excluding all candidates except the last seven remaining and redistributed the votes according 3 Liberals 2 Labor and 1 Green are elected. This demonstrates clearly the flaw in the distribution method used. All ballot papers should be treated equally and in the same manner. The current system does not treat each ballot paper in the same way. There is an inbuilt bias towards the major parties.

    The two issues identified are of major concern and can readily produce a different outcome in the election.

    Western Australia and Victoria have address one of the issues. The second issues remains unaddressed. Whilst we debate the effects of a shift of 0.5% and close elections where 7 votes makes a difference we ignore the fact that the system in counting the Senate produces a disparity worth 7,000 or more votes and can deliver a different outcome As demonstrated in the Queensland result.

    The system is broke and its time we fixed it.

    The solution is clear.

    1. Adopt the Gregory Inclusive Weighted Transfer formula (Value of Surplus times value of vote dived by the total number of votes)

    2. Adopt a re-iterative counting system or Meeks Method of counting the vote so that each ballot papers is treated equally. One vote one value

  27. 184

    Systems for counting votes should treat then all the same. There should be 14 Senators per state so that the quota is small enough for the major minor parties (Greens, pre-2004 Democrats, etc.) to win a seat in each state in which they have a reasonable vote. Single member lower house seats should be abolished so that the divide and conquer system of electorate division is ended causing votes to be treated equally by the politicians and have none of the marginal getting better treatment than safe seats anti-democratic rubbish.

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