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.