Western Australia redistributed: act one

The major parties roll out their wish lists ahead of the redistribution that will grant Western Australia a sixteenth seat in the House of Representatives.

The first batch of submissions have been published for the Western Australian federal redistribution, which will facilitate the increase in the state’s seat entitlement from 15 to 16. Both Liberal and Labor agree that the new seat should be created through a division of Hasluck, which is presently a rather ungainly construction consisting of cross-sections of three suburban corridors in Perth’s east. The parties are also agreed that the southern electorate should encompass Thornlie, Kenwick and Gosnells together with the area around Armadale to the south, which presently makes the seat of Canning theoretically winnable for Labor, and that this should be the electorate that gets the new name. However, the Liberals would have the new electorate extend westwards into Jandakot, whereas Labor would prefer that it extend eastwards into the Darling Range at Roleystone. Either way, the seat would have a notional Liberal margin of around 3%.

Another disagreement concerns which late former Premier the new seat should be named after, with the Liberals favouring Court and Labor going for Tonkin (and not, as I might have anticipated, Beazley). Neither John Tonkin (1971-74) nor Sir Charles Court (1974-82) has any particular connection to the area that I’m aware of, but the Liberals’ choice would have the advantage of acknowledging two former premiers rather than one. On the other hand, Labor might well argue that it’s their turn, Hasluck (2001), Brand (1984) and Cowan (1984) all acknowledging figures from the conservative side of politics. Further to the left, there appears to be a campaign to have the seat named after Jo Vallentine, with Peter Garrett among those making submissions to that effect.

More substantive distinctions concern the manner in which Hasluck should be compensated for its losses. Labor wants the electorate to extend northwards, into the Swan Valley and as far as Ballajura to the west, whereas the Liberals propose that it should reach all the way east to the Avon Valley, extending through the Darling Range around Mundaring to Northam, York and Beverley – an area that presently accounts for a large part of Christian Porter’s seat of Pearce. Pearce would in turn be compensated by absorbing northern Perth suburbia around Wanneroo. This is at odds with the submission from the Nationals, who hope that Pearce might be made winnable for them by losing outer suburban territory while maintaining its overall shape, much of which corresponds with its state seats of Central Wheatbelt and Moore.

Both Liberal and Labor are presumably calculating that the new seat will more likely than not be won by Labor, who surely can’t go on performing as badly as they have at the last two elections indefinitely. However, the Liberal plan would add around 2.5% to their 5% margin in Hasluck, while hardly touching their 9% margin in Pearce (albeit that sedate country areas would be exchanged for the electorally volatile mortgage belt). Labor’s proposal would keep the margin in Hasluck in its existing ballpark, retaining the winnability of a seat it won upon its creation in 2001 and again in 2007. It would also maintain the seat’s consistently urban character, and hence makes considerably more sense on community of interest grounds.

Elsewhere, both sides recognise that the Liberals’ second most marginal seat, Swan (margin 6.5%), is not going to change much, since it is locked in place by by the Swan and Canning rivers – although a small amount of garnishing will be required to bring it within quota. In the traditionally marginal seat of Cowan (7.5%), Labor understandably wants its position strengthened through the addition of strong territory south of the boundary at Balga and Mirrabooka, which is presently being wasted for it in the increasingly safe Liberal seat of Stirling. However, Labor also proposes that Liberal-leaning territory out to Burns Beach be added to the electorate’s north-west, which looks awkward on the map and causes me to wonder if it’s intended to make their overall design for the seat appear less opportunistic. The Liberals’ proposals for the seat look broadly neutral to my eye.

It so happens that a state redistribution for Western Australia is also in its early stages. The quota determinations offer an interesting insight into the state’s demographic upheavals, with Butler on Perth’s northern coastal fringe fully 33.6% over the average enrolment, and the southern corridor seats of Kwinana (25.0%) and Warnbro (23.5%) not far behind. By contrast, the unwinding of the mining boom has caused enrolment to slump by 22.0% in North West Central and 16.4% in Kalgoorlie.

UPDATE: You can see the parties’ proposals on the maps of below, and select which layers you want to see by clicking on “visible layers”. For a bigger view, see here.

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.

46 comments on “Western Australia redistributed: act one”

  1. I’m surprised nobody’s suggested calling the new Federal division “Collier”. Philip Collier is, after all, the longest-serving WA Premier that doesn’t have a seat named after him – he served fully three times as long as Premier as did John Tonkin (who served less time than even John Scaddan and the much-maligned Brian Burke).

    I wouldn’t mind seeing the Vallentine submission get up, but I doubt it’s going to happen.

  2. Why does it have to be a WA politician? Why not name the new seat after astronomer William Ernest Cooke? Or Yagan, the Aboriginal warrior.

  3. Unless Jo Vallentine has very quietly died in the last few years without anyone noticing, the seat can’t be named after her. What a bizarre suggestion; you would think the recent noise about Werriwa-Whitlam would remind people that you have to die first before you get an electorate named for you.

    It would be nice to name it after a non-politician. WA seems to be awash with seats named after politicians already. I’m generally against naming seats after premiers anyway unless they made a really substantial contribution to federal politics as well (Jack Lang, for example, but he’s probably too divisive).

  4. If I may be allowed to toot my own horn here, there are also a pleasing number of independent submissions, including from myself.

    To be fair, all suggestions (including from both major parties) have a high level of agreement. There are differences with some specifics, but the general pattern of seats is the same, and neither party looks as if its gotten too greedy. It’s as if Labor is just happy to win 1-2 more seats back, while the Liberals realise the Good Times can’t go on forever.

    I too am a bit mystified by the Vallentine push…there’s obviously been an orchestrated campaign, but it would have been better to wait until she had passed away.

    The state redivision will surely see a new seat created in Perth and a rural seat abolished. They avoided this last time, but the numbers have only got more out of whack since then, so I think they’ll have to bite the bullet now.

  5. The end of the mining boom might mean that the extra seat for WA is ephemeral.

    The only reason why NSW is losing a seat to WA is because Tassie is accorded 5 seats by fiat. Based solely on population, it’s entitled to 3 seats at the most. The ACT, with 70% the population of Tasmania, gets only 2 seats.

    Tassie could undergo a population decline (as predicted by some demographic models), and still retain 5 seats. In contrast, individual mainland states (and territories) get stripped of seats if their populations so much as grow at a slower rate.

  6. The campaign to get the new seat named for Jo Valentine is rather puerile. I have no particular objection to the merits of the suggestion itself – other than the fact that Vallentine is still alive and therefore ineligible. It’s the bombarding of the electoral commission over and over with the same request which is so unseemly.

    Personally, I think the suggestion to name the new seat after Nugget Coombs is the best one.

  7. I think every suggestion gets Forrest down to size by moving the rural part of Harvey into Canning. This has the advantage of leaving O’Connor and Durack unchanged. But it is possible to draw Collie into O’Connor, and then transfer parts of the wheatbelt from O’Connor to Durack. There’s enough slack in the numbers to keep them all in range (i.e. without having to make Pearce any larger) and it would leave Harvey LGA united within Forrest.

    I see Tangney expanding west to absorb Fremantle’s surplus. It would then lose Canning Vale to the new seat. Most submissions however have Fremantle’s excision coming at its south or south east, with Tangney not changing much.

    The changes in the northern suburbs don’t need to be as drastic as most submissions suggest. Curtin should remain unchanged. Stirling only needs to shed a bit of territory to Perth. Cowan and Moore can likewise have small excisions. Unfortunately there are bound to be some outer northern suburbs lumped in with Pearce.

    The most interesting question is what to do with the urban-rural hinterland. The minimalist solution is to leave Pearce as the sole incoherent bits-and-pieces seat. Counter to that, the Liberal suggestion of Pearce as a northern hinterland seat and Hasluck as an eastern hinterland seat has plenty of merit. The drawback is that it leaves the wheatbelt split between four divisions.

  8. It is about time that new WA seats were named after someone other state politicians. David Walsh’s suggestion of Nugget Coombs is a good one. Elizabeth Jolley perhaps? Any other notable western australians beyond the political sphere?

  9. The “campaign” to name the seat after Vallentine is a media stunt.

    I say it should be Yagan – indigenous freedom fighter. Not some dusty politician. I’d even settle for Hartog. But Court!? Seriously, FFS.

  10. A digression – but sort of relevant to a discussion on redistributions…

    Norfolk Island is going to be incorporated into the wider Australian whole and the citizens of that island get to vote as of 1 July next year – to which seat are the Norfolk Islanders going to be attached? And to which jurisdiction for the senate?

  11. Yep, Jolley is a good choice. Certainly better than a former state Premier. Let state seats be named after state premiers (as they have done in NSW and SA).

  12. Kakuru

    Court I could take more seriously than Tonkin – Charles Court really was in many ways the architect of modern WA. But Tonkin, a one term Labor premier who motivated a heavy pro Liberal swing in 1972?

    Something to be said for geographic names …..

  13. Norfolk Island will become part of NSW. That’s my understanding, anyway.

    Like Lord Howe Island already, Norfolk may become part of the Division of Sydney.

    With just over 2000 people it won’t make a whole lot of difference to the state’s populaton.

  14. I’m only half-joking. Court was a union-bashing, aboriginal-hating, queen-loving, conservative fuddy-duddy. His legacy can be summed up in one word: Noonkanbah.

    Architect of modern WA or not, I think we can find a better choice for a moniker.

  15. William, I don’t recall Beazley being Premier – any Beazley. If the seat’s to be named after a former Premier, that excludes him.

    What gets to me is the way we place our former-politician seats.

    Curtin – named for a former Labor PM – is one of the safest Liberal seats in the country.
    Brand – named for a former Liberal Premier – is one of just three Labor seats in WA.
    Pearce – a safe Liberal seat – was named for the founder of the ALP in WA.
    Tangney – again, safe Liberal – was named for Dorothy Tangney, the first female Senator and a member of the ALP.

    It’s enough to make the head spin…

    More seriously, I doubt that naming it after Charles Court will get many kudos. Besides having shut down the Perth-Fremantle rail line, he sold off centers that catered to mentally-ill children and outlawed public gaatherings without police permission to prevent unionism.

    All around, the only way people can have a decent view of him is through the filter of nostalgia.

  16. I would wholeheartedly endorse an electorate named “Nugget”, but alas I suspect that is not what Coombe’s backers have in mind.

  17. 11 & 15

    Norfolk Island is campaigning to be an internal self-governing territory, like the ACT and NT. They are not happy about the proposed local government status. Parliamentary approval is also required, both Commonwealth and NSW, for adding Norfolk Island to New south Wales. A referendum, of NSW voters (the Constitution does not specify whether that means the state or Commonwealth rolls), may even be required (as adding territory does not constitute surrendering territory to the Commonwealth and thus the alteration would be under section 123, which requires a referendum).

    If Norfolk Island becomes an internal territory, its population would likely go to the ACT, like the population of Jervis Bay does, for representation purposes. This would help move the ACT towards a third seat (all be it not very far). This may be a reason why the current Government is proposing its current proposal.

  18. 5

    The constitutional minimum does not diminish the representation of other states. Tasmania gets 3 of the 144 standard HoR seats. It then get a further 2 seats on top of that because of the minimum requirement, increasing Parliament by two seats. The other 4 seats are territory seats. That is how the 150 is reached.

    The constitutional minimum is not going anywhere, at least for Tasmania and thus probably for any state, because the Constitution requires Tasmania`s voters to agree to such a change. The only realistic way of getting Tasmanian representation justified by its population would be to increase the size of Parliament by about a third. That would mean 16 Senators per state.

    The ACT should get an extra seat. The Fischer-Bounds method should be adopted for representing territories in the HoR, which would push the ACt over the quota for 3 seats because it would be 2.2 instead of 2.5. The NT would also clear the new 1.1% quota more easily.



  19. [The constitutional minimum is not going anywhere, at least for Tasmania and thus probably for any state, because the Constitution requires Tasmania`s voters to agree to such a change. The only realistic way of getting Tasmanian representation justified by its population would be to increase the size of Parliament by about a third. That would mean 16 Senators per state.]

    Even then, Tasmania would still be over-represented in the Senate..

  20. @ blackburnpseph, 9

    Jolley’s a good choice if we’re going outside politicians, I guess.

    @ cud chewer, 25

    The Senate is not meant to be representative of the population, but of the States. That’s the entire point. That it sometimes represents more accurately the proportion of the popular vote gained by parties than does the House of Representatives is a happy accident of over- and under-representation in various states cancelling out.

  21. @26,

    Yes I know this. Nor is the UN Security Council anything other than a reflection of who won WWII. But one can hope..

  22. Frickeg agreed. That also seems to me a reason not to name the seat Court, since there would be confusion over whether it was honouring the father or the son. Wait until both are dead.

    And yes, an Indigenous name would be better still.

  23. Tom @23:

    [The constitutional minimum is not going anywhere, at least for Tasmania and thus probably for any state, because the Constitution requires Tasmania`s voters to agree to such a change.]

    The Constitution requires no such thing – only that a majority of voters in a majority of States, as well as an overall, Australia-wide majority – agree to the change. Neither Tasmania nor its people need to agree to stripping out/altering the minimum-seat representation clause (Section 24 of the Constitution).

    It’s almost certainly not going to happen, but that’s more due to Australian voters’ traditional skepticism of attempts to amend the Constitution. Of over 40 amendments put before the people, only 8 have attained the required majorities. And the last of those was nearly 40 years ago, before the cynicism about Australian politics set quite so deeply into the popular psyche.

  24. Matt @29

    Section 128:

    No alteration diminishing the proportionate representation of any State in either House of the Parliament, or the minimum number of representatives of a State in the House of Representatives, or increasing, diminishing, or otherwise altering the limits of the State, or in any manner affecting the provisions of the Constitution in relation thereto, shall become law unless the majority of the electors voting in that State approve the proposed law.

  25. JSCEM Final report of the 2013 Federal Election has been published.

    http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Electoral_Matters/2013_General_Election/Final_Report (It deserves a thread of its own)

    Missing is the much needed review of the method of counting the senate election.

    The need for
    1. a weighted Surplus Transfer system.
    2. A reiterative system of distribution of preferences from excluded candidates where the count is reset and restarted on each candidate(s) exclusion
    3. The scraping of the Droop quota and the adoption of a pure proportional representative model (x/y)
    4. The retention of Above-the-line (ATL) Group voting with the allocation of ATL voting to be equally distributed to each candidate within the group. The group maintaining the right to determine the order of exclusion within the group.

    The guiding principle being

    “That votes from excluded candidates should be redistributed and counted as if the excluded candidate(s) had not stood

    The current system is disproportionate and favours minor parties/Candidates and does not reflect the voters intentions.

    A full value vote should always be allocated to the first available continuing candidate without skipping and jumping.

    A reiterative counting syste4m would also adjust the quota for election on each iteration.

    The current flawed system of counting the vote was designed to facilitate a manual count.

    With the use of computer based technology there is no excuse or justification to maintain the outdated flawed system of counting the Senate vote.

  26. I’m sick of Labor/Liberal hacks getting these kinds of honours. Neither party has ever represented me or received my vote. It’s frustrating enough having the news almost exclusively focus on those parties, whose activities I have come to care nothing about, but to have our formal institutions named after them without *any* being named after my people is upsetting. The Greens are a relatively new party, so I fully recognise that there aren’t many / any options at this point, and earlier comments about Jo Vallentine still being (Thankfully) alive are very sound, and I accept them. But it will be such an insult to those of us who simply reject Labor/Liberal as our representatives if, when the time comes, they remain the only parties formally honoured.

  27. [I’m sick of Labor/Liberal hacks getting these kinds of honours. Neither party has ever represented me or received my vote. It’s frustrating enough having the news almost exclusively focus on those parties, whose activities I have come to care nothing about, but to have our formal institutions named after them without *any* being named after my people is upsetting. ]

    You seem to be equating Premiers with noisy upper house types and calling the Premiers the ‘hacks’. Very funny.

  28. Norfolk Islanders are already entitled to enroll and vote in Federal elections (as long as they meet the citizenship, age and criminal conviction requirements).

    If they were counted in the last census as a resident of a State (or ACT / NT), then they enroll there – otherwise they can enroll in the ACT or NT.

    The rather convoluted §95AA of the Commonwealth Electoral Act contains some of the gory details.

    I would expect that under the changes to Norfolk Island’s governing arrangements, they will be treated in the same way as the Cocos Islands, Christmas Island and Jervis Bay Territory – the former two are considered part of the NT for the purposes of the Electoral Act, and the latter one part of the ACT. I imagine that Norfolk Island will simply be treated as part of the ACT for Commonwealth Elections. In fact its overall status is likely to be very similar to that of the Jervis Bay Territory.

  29. For everyone claiming Jo Vallentine in ineligible because she is alive, you are mistaken.
    The guidelines (from the AEC) suggest “In the main, divisions should be named after deceased Australians who have rendered outstanding service to their country.”
    However (also from the AEC) “It should be noted that redistribution committees and augmented electoral commissions are in no way bound by the guidelines.”

    A dead Prime Minister is the gold-standard but there are no set rules for naming a division

  30. Looking at the state enrolment figures, the 42 metro districts have a combined quota of 43.25. (That’s including the current figures for the large district allowance, without which it would be above 44.)

    Clearly a new metro seat will be created. The surplus is equally shared between all three metro regions, so there’ll be a fair shake up across the metro area.

    The mining & pastoral seats are way under quota. North West Central, a district with more phantom electors than actual electors, should probably get the chop.

    The agricultural seats are also under quota. They’ll have to expand into areas currently covered by the mining & pastoral region.

    The south west won’t change much.

  31. @39

    Abolishing North West Central is not really an option, because there’s nowhere to put the electors. Kimberley and Pilbara are within tolerance and don’t need to change, and it’s impossible to stretch a Kalgoorlie-based District that far. So where do they go?

    I am recommending abolishing Eyre. Esperance and Ravensthorpe are agricultural in nature so can go back into Agricultural Region (that solves the defecit there), and Boulder can go into Kalgoorlie. North West Central can maybe gain Northampton Shire from Agricultural to pick up some “real” electors.

    In Perth, I am looking at creating a new seat in Northern Metro. If you make West Swan a purely Ellenbrook-based District, it works out pretty well from there.

    I think some of southern Rockingham might have to go in with Mandurah to address the excess around Kwinana and Warnbro. Be interesting to see how that works out.

  32. Fair enough. If uniting Kalgoorlie and Boulder is possible, that would be ideal. I assumed the separation was necessary to keep a decent amount of actual electors in two sparsely populated districts.

    Pilbara and Kimberley are both to the negative side of the mean, so should undergo some expansion. I’ll be interested to see the shape of your revised North West Central.

    Recent precedent suggests that the Perth Metropolitan boundary won’t be crossed. Even though there’s no compelling reason why it shouldn’t – there’s plenty of rural parts within it and urban parts outside of it.

    If Esperance and Ravensthorpe are drawn into the agricultural region, they might consider shifting Albany into there too. Indeed they might have to if Warren-Blackwood is reduced in size and loses contiguity with Albany.

  33. Pilbara and Kimberley are pretty clearly defined regions. Unless they wanted to go back to some messy “Kimberley-East Pilbara” type construction, I think they’ll be left unchanged. They have decent growth potential and a high proportion of “real” electors over LDAs.

    North West Central will just be its existing form plus Northampton, and maybe one or two extra desert shires. Removing Esperance and Ravensthorpe means Kalgoorlie and Eyre can be basically merged. A couple of desert shires will change hands, but nothing dramatic.

    It works surprisingly well.

  34. Mark: I like that idea about Northampton. Half of that shire is Kalbarri, which is a pretty similar town to Denham or Exmouth. It ticks the “community of interest” box.

    Pilbara and Kimberley aren’t worthwhile fiddling with, as every 100 sq km you add to those electorates will likely add more “ghost” electors than real one. Have a look at the boundary between Plbara and NWC for the 2008 election – a pointless dog-leg though the Gibson Desert for no other reason than that LDA hack.

    If there’s major redrawing of the Agricultural region, then surely it’s time to get rid of Wagin as an electorate name. It made sense back when Narrogin and Katanning were fellow rotten boroughs for the Nats, but these days Wagin is just one medium-sized town in an area it takes a day to drive across. (Boddington to Lake Grace via Mt Barker… that’s quite the road trip.) Call it Great Southern, same way the merger of Avon and Merredin was called Central Wheatbelt.

    South West region has two seats over quota, Dawesville (Mandurah suburbs) and Warren-Blackwood (Margaret River etc), while Bunbury is the most under quota. WB can lose Bridgetown or Denmark to Wagin, solving the regional numbers; then it’s mainly internal shuffling. The three Mandurah / Peel electorates are 9% over quota between them, so Murray-Wellington would lose part of Australind and Treendale to Collie-Preston, which would then have to lose the Dalyellup / Gelorup area to Bunbury. It makes the boundaries in the Bunbury area a bit neater (the urban area is in two electorates rather than three).

  35. Have you snuck a look at my suggestions before they’re even published, BoP? That’s pretty much dead on what I’ve done.

    South West unfortunately will need to push into suburban Perth, though. I just can’t see how anyone can make sensible boundaries in Southern Metro otherwise.

  36. Great minds think alike. 😛

    At the south end of South Metro, try creating a new seat based on Baldivis and Wellard, going east to Mundijong (in Darling Range, another seat which is well over quota). North of that, seats like Jandakot and Southern River are certain to be shredded whatever happens, so you might as well start somewhere.

    Before I do any more number-crunching, I’ve noticed something weird about the ADE (average deviation from quota) in this page here. Add up all those figures for the metro seats, and you get 226.31% (ie: metro Perth is entitled to ~44.226 seats, up from the current 42); add them up for the non-metro seats, it’s -88.90%. That’s from the LDA… all those “ghost electors” add up to 1.37 quotas between them. (Ghostville, WA: bigger than Albany, Geraldton or Kalgoorlie.) Assuming metro Perth gains one seat, I’m guessing all 43 of those seats would need to be roughly 126/43 ~ 3% over quota.

    Meanwhile, the sum of metro variations after the 2011 redistribution is 207% – only two seats were drawn below quota, and 15 were between 7% and 9%. I’m guessing that was from the WAEC trying not to abolish a regional seat last time?

  37. Yeah, I tried that.

    The problem is that Kwinana is cut off from areas to the north and east by industrial areas, parks, undeveloped land, etc…. So you end up with a Kwinana/Cockburn or Kwinana/Mundijong type seat consisting of two “ends”, separated from each other by whole lot of nothing in the middle.

    Without going into detail, creating a new seat in Northern Metro has a lot better flow on effects through the rest of Perth. It gets a bit messy through the Swan Valley and eastern suburbs if you create a new seat in Southern Metro.

    I too noticed the weird thing with the ADE. I just thought my calculations were wrong! Yes, even with an extra seat, I’ve had to set a lot of Perth seats to the higher end. But I think I’ve done an okay job of it. We’ll see…

    The WAEC basically wimped bigger change in 2011 because of the major changes in 2007. It made things messy, but I understand why they did it.

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