Victorian federal redistribution and other tales

In the event that we do face an election sooner rather than later, one difficulty Labor will have to factor in is what looks like an unfavourable redistribution in Victoria, draft boundaries of which were released during the election campaign. Despite the fact that the number of electorates in the state has not changed, the redistribution commissioners propose a radical overhaul that will abolish the rural electorate of Murray and create the new electorate of Burke in Melbourne’s northern outskirts. While this involves the abolition of a safe Liberal seat and the creation of a new one with a notional Labor margin of 10.8 per cent (as calculated by Antony Green on the basis of the 2007 results), knock-on effects make Corangamite and Deakin notionally Liberal, and McEwen (newly acquired by Labor at the recent election) very safely so.

According to the redistribution commissioners, the sweeping changes have been deemed necessary because relative population decline has made it unfeasible to preserve the existing northern regional trio of Murray, Mallee and Indi. However, this has been disputed in a highly critical submission from Tim Colebatch, a senior journalist for The Age, who calculates that one-in-six Victorian voters will be transferred to different electorates. Colebatch complains there has been a failure to account for future growth in outer suburbs and the inner city, which in partisan terms will mean bloated enrolments in nine Labor seats by 2018 and deficient ones in four middle suburban Liberal seats. It is tempting to speculate the commissioners have been influenced by the fact that redistributions of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia turned Labor’s 83 seats from the 2007 election into a notional total of 88.

However, another submission from Jenni Newton-Farrelly of the South Australian Parliamentary Library reaches a very different conclusion. Newton-Farrelly has brought to the process her jurisdiction’s enthusiasm for electoral fairness, with reference to margins she has calculated from both the 2007 election and preliminary results from 2010. When these are adjusted to a 50-50 two-party outcome, Labor is found to receive more than its fair share: 20 seats to 17, with no margin in any seat lower than 1.4 per cent. On the results from the recent election, Newton-Farrelly finds the Liberals would have won Corangamite by 0.8 per cent and McEwen by 6.6 per cent, while Labor would have gained Aston by 1.5 per cent.


Antony Green crunches the numbers from seven electorates where there were only Labor, Liberal and Greens candidates and finds “little difference between the 2010 preference flows and the flows in the same seats at the 2007 election”. This comes as a profound shock, as we were repeatedly warned not to trust two-party opinion poll results based on exactly this assumption. Dennis Shanahan of The Australian, for example, wrote on August 2 that Labor’s primary vote had fallen into “the fatal zone below 40 per cent, where the party has only a slight hope of winning, and then based only on heroic assumptions about the results and the delivery of Greens preferences”. I like to think that the moral of this story is that even in this jaded and cynical age, heroism can sometimes still win the day.

• Amusingly, Labor has pulled ahead at the time of writing on the AEC’s meaningless national two-party vote figure, which excludes results from eight electorates. In the past few days I have heard Andrew Bolt, Barnaby Joyce, Kerry Chikarovski and Kenneth Wiltshire (no doubt there were many others) use the progress score on this count to assert that the Coalition had won, which is very clearly untrue. As Peter Brent of Mumble points out, it is almost certain that the complete figures which will be available in a few weeks’ time will show Labor the winner, by however narrow a margin. Smarter Coalition operatives have been limiting their pitch to the perfectly reasonable observation that the Liberal and National parties won “more votes and seats” than Labor.

• In the comments thread from the Mumble post linked to above, Peter Brent tells a reader that “Newspolls will take a breather for a little while”. Speaking of Newspoll, here’s an exchange from Sunday’s edition of Insiders:

Barrie Cassidy: (The Australian) ran the results of a poll on Saturday, not talking about individual seast but country-wide, that more people were in favour of a minority Labor government than a minority Coalition government. Now Glenn, you’ve had some experience with this, they actually polled a week ago and published six days later. That’s unusual, isn’t it?

Glenn Milne: Well, it’s clear they didn’t like the poll results.

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.

3,234 comments on “Victorian federal redistribution and other tales”

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  1. This is a general thanks to William in particular and all the other regulars for this very lively blog. I have been reading this for the past three years, and especially over the last two months. Generally the quality of information and debate has been very high (although it tends to fall off a little late at night…). Together with related blogs, it has come to offer a frequently more interesting, more accurate and (mostly) less strident account of Australian politics than that presented in the MSM, as you call it. And clearly you treat politics as if it has real consequences for the country, rather than simply an amusing game. Keep up the good work.

  2. [I’m sure fear of News Ltd had absolutely no part in his decision. I think he’s bigger than that. (It won’t stop them anyway.)]

    One thing News Ltd. have demonstrated is they hate honest ethical politicians. They will go all out to discredit those who have demonstrated their integrity, yet, the likes of the Rabbott who has no ethics or integrity gets their undying support.

  3. Just for fun I thought I’d compare the headlines of Vexnews with The Australian:


    -THE TROUBLE WITH LABOR: A sad story of a VIP Room and a party that went horribly wrong

    -LABOR WORRIED: Katter could lead his country cousins to Abbott because of Greens pact

    -BANDT RANT: The Australian explores new Greens MP’s communist past (Interesting that they’d copy and paste a story from The Australian which ironically is a more honest way of reporting what the story intends to convey)

    -CANCEROUS: Greens party policy would kill cancer patients including kids

    -OWN GOAL: Queensland’s disastrous Labor Premier is Abbott’s delight

    The Australian:

    -Wage blowout threat to NBN

    -Oakeshott ‘asked Labor for state cabinet seat’

    -Libs’ broadband plan ‘not understood’

    -DILEMMA: What to do about Kevin?

    -BER hall so small it can’t hold 39 kids

    -Jobs surge could trigger rate rise

    I don’t know about everyone else, but I prefer vexnews. At least they’re honest about their angle.

  4. Yes Rosa, he has been quite perceptive for some time about outcomes. I remember when he wrote that Latham was a unelectable nutter when he had really high approval ratings. This time he was wary about a hung parliament and predicted that the ALP would just stumble over the line. But he predicts that if it goes smoothly he would expects Labor to get the electoral ascendency. (and let’s hope he’s right again!). He also already stated that the ALP has won the 2pp vote.

  5. my say, it was “put to” Stephen Jones (Lab) after Josh Frydenberg-god-i’m-gonna-enter-a-comma-if-i-keep-listening-to-him-drone-on remarked they [Coals] received more votes.

  6. DEE – What’s the point of being Rupert Murdoch and having press power if there are ethnical politicians around who can’t be bullied. Must absolutely hate them.

  7. george asked something about powerful influences in Parliament – I can only assume he meant the “faceless men” of the ALP, did OO have a story on that today? is this journalism or self-promotion?

  8. [I’m being very unfair to Peter Brent but this is one of his more unfortunate predictions!]

    I think he’s still trying to live down the demise of President McCain as well.

  9. TRAWLER – Much appreciated. Sorry to be difficult, but I’m trying to avoid giving the Oz any hits. Is it possible to cut and paste?

  10. [ah Ari, but do you have the first print of “Sgt. Pepper”?]

    First print? I doubt it. Unless the copy I have was sitting out the back of the shop for a few years before it was put out for sale.

    I do, however, have several first print editions of Demis Roussos and Nana Mouskouri. In pristine condition. Worth at least 5 or 6 dollars.

  11. [Tomorrow’s Oz Today: “Oakeshott Snubs Prime Spinster”]

    The really mad thing is that would not surprise me. So am I mad or they.?, after today I’m not sure of anything.

  12. [pouvoir

    At least Morgan has the decency to conduct a poll …]

    So did Newspoll. Aug 27-9. Then sat on it for most of the week while they killed the “go back to the polls” campaign.



    Woops! Yeow! Waaah! so, what do we do now? I know. Hide it until we can bury the “go back to the polls” meme.

    Pity Tony Windsor had already confirmed that the Coalition wanted a new poll too!

  13. Rosa #3161

    I won’t quote the entire article but you can get the gist from the first few paras. It’s a shame that this is the one post of his that sticks in my mind. (HINT You can always good the link and check the Cached version, that shouldn’t generate any hits)

    No hung parliament

    It’s that time of the election campaign, when thoughts turn to the hung parliament scenario.

    There was a nice piece on Radio National Breakfast this morning about the possibility, and writers in this and other newspapers have also suggested it might happen this time.

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we won’t get a hung parliament on August 21.

    How do I know? Well I don’t, any more than I don’t know it’s not going to hail today. It might happen, but it probably won’t.

    A hung parliament is more likely than that, but it’s still very unlikely.

  14. Nana Moussaka! Ah even more great memories.

    Along with that exquisite Greek tipple – Retsina.

    And what we didn’t (couldn’t) drink we used as paint stripper and oil stain remover.

  15. TRAWLER – Thanks a lot. Can’t hung him for that prediction. On the facts available, a hung Parliament probably wasn’t likely. Did he call it Lib or Labor at the end????

  16. GG

    I tipped Labor Fed to win, the indies to go with Labor, SA Labor to win. Apart from my perennial loss on the Melbourne Cup, my tips are money in the bank.

  17. [And what we didn’t (couldn’t) drink we used as paint stripper and oil stain remover.]

    Oh dear Ari, i will stick my CRACK

  18. [Oakeshott has declined the offer.

    Short and sweet]

    He has realised he would never be home to see the kids!.
    Don’t blame him, running a government is one thankless task!.

  19. [But he said he would have been able to be a minister even with a young family.

    “I’m not one who’s going to fall back on family,” he told reporters at Port Macquarie on the NSW north coast. “We are a strong family and I could have done the job in the
    family situation we’re in.”]

    Good on him 😉

  20. Oakshott refusing the Ministry is the end of the the post election negotiations.

    Regardless of the campaign, Gillard has clearly out negotiated Abbott and the Libs and has skillfully achieved Government for Labor.

    The selection of the Labor Ministry will need to have all the talent on display and on song. The best talent needs to be selected.

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