WA federally redistributed

Draft boundaries for the redistribution that grants Western Australia an extra House of Representatives propose the new electorate of Burt for Perth’s southern suburbs, which has a notional Liberal margin of about 5%.

The Australian Electoral Commission has published draft boundaries for the federal redistribution of Western Australia, whereby the state will gain a sixteenth House of Representatives seat. The full report is available here; stay tuned to this post, because I will add further analysis to it over the next few hours. For those of you in the TL;DR camp, the new seat of Burt in Perth’s southern suburbs has a Liberal margin of around 5% – this makes it winnable for Labor, which both sides would have had that factored in. I imagine the Liberals would be slightly happier than Labor all round since their position has been improved in Hasluck and Swan, while deteriorating in Cowan.

Here are estimates of the Liberal 2PP based on the new boundaries, based on 2013 polling booth results (without having taken the effort to split booths located near boundaries) and further calculations based on how non-booth votes differed from booth-votes:

Brand 47.1% 46.4%
Burt 54.8%
Canning 61.8% 62.9%
Cowan 57.5% 54.0%
Curtin 67.4% 68.5%
Durack 64.9% 65.3%
Forrest 62.3% 64.1%
Fremantle 45.2% 44.0%
Hasluck 54.9% 56.0%
Moore 61.9% 62.6%
O’Connor 67.2% 64.9%
Pearce 58.1% 59.7%
Perth 45.6% 47.4%
Stirling 60.3% 59.2%
Swan 56.5% 57.6%
Tangney 64.7% 63.1%

I’ll be progressively adding seats to the following summaries in rough order of interest:

New seat: Liberal 4.8%

Both parties’ submissions recommended that the new electorate be located in the south-east of Perth, and Burt essentially delivers to order, extending from Langford and Thornlie in the north through Canning Vale and Kelmscott to Armadale. Hasluck (Thornlie, Gosnells, Southern River) and Canning (Kelmscott, Armadale, Forrestdale) provide a bit under 40% each, with most of the rest coming from Tangney (Canning Vale). The latter provided the Liberals’ strongest booths in 2013, while Labor had slight majorities around Huntingdale. The Armadale booths slightly favoured the Liberals, which presumably tells you something about the strength of Don Randall’s personal vote, because Armadale is Labor’s safest seat at state level.

Old margin: Liberal 4.9%
New margin: Liberal 6.0%

The Liberal submission proposed that Hasluck be compensated for territories lost to the new seat extending far to the east, and the proposal goes half way to accommodating this by adding a swathe of the Darling Range including Mundaring – even if it doesn’t go all the way to Northam and the Avon Valley, as the Liberals optimistically proposed. This adds a handy boost to the Liberal member Ken Wyatt in a seat that would, at a median election, be a marginal Labor seat.

Old margin: Liberal 6.5%
New margin: Liberal 7.6%

All the residential areas near the boundary of this electorate are relatively strong for Labor, so it was always likely that the garnishing of the electorate was going to hurt their cause. So it has proved, with the Labor-voting Ferndale, Lynwood, Langford and Beckenham area in the electorate’s south-east, which accounted for 8.5% of its enrolment, being divided between Burt, Hasluck and Tangney.

Old margin: Liberal 7.5%
New margin: Liberal 4.0%

Much better news for Labor in the seat held by Luke Simpkins, who was a prime mover in the February spill motion. The tendency of the electorate is to be stronger for the Liberals in the west and for Labor in the east; the redistribution has carved out Woodvale and Kingsley at the western end, which are now wasted areas of Liberal strength in the already safe seat of Moore, while in the east, Beechboro and Lockridge are gained from Perth.

Old margin: Liberal 10.3%
New margin: Liberal 9.2%

The inner northern suburbs seat of Stirling used to be fiercely contested, but the Liberal margin has progressively blown out since Michael Keenan gained it in 2013. In a somewhat similar story to Cowan, the electorate has weakened Keenan a little by sending Doubleview and Innaloo in the west to Curtin, and adding eastern Dianella at the eastern end from Perth.


Old margin: Liberal 11.8%
New margin: Liberal 12.9%

About a third of the old electorate, namely the part around Armadale, is transferred to Burt, and it’s the strongest area for Labor. However, the redistribution has also sensibly ceded to Canning the part of Mandurah that was formerly in Brand, and this too is a pretty good area for Labor. Gains from Hasluck, Pearce and O’Connor look substantial on the map, but account for few voters.

Old margin: Labor 2.9%
New margin: Labor 3.6%

As just noted, the electorate has sensibly been cut down to size by transferring its Mandurah territory at the southern end to Canning, which is slightly to the advantage of Labor member Gary Gray.

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.

42 comments on “WA federally redistributed”

  1. Naming the new seat Burt is seriously obscure. Surely there must be a more eminent West Australian to name it after. Or … it is a good argument for geographical names.

  2. Although this doesn’t look any good for Labor consider the current polling results, apply a 9.4% swing in all of these seats.
    As well, the new seat of Burt takes in parts of the current Canning, the Labor leaning Armadale and it’s surrounds, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Matt Keogh lost the by-election and decided to contest Burt at the next election.

  3. So even with today’s bludgertrack 9.4% swing Labor would be looking at

    Brand, Burt, Cowan, Freemantle, Hasluck, Perth, and outside chances of Swan and Stirling.

  4. Dunno. Increases the margin in Canning but creates a notional Liberal held marginal and brings Cowan well within range. Libs will like effect in Swan and Pierce – Stirling now in play if the swing goes big.

    Something for everyone I think.

  5. I agree that Burt is a pretty silly name for the seat; it’s a joint name along the lines of Durack, but still, that’s the best they could come up with? Either way, I assume it was arrived at before the state redistribution was released, and assuming the state redistribution is finalised first the name Burt would no longer meet the guidelines as they’re supposed to avoid overlapping electorate names. So they may have to reconsider on that front.

  6. With the current 9.4% swing in bludger track, Labor would only have won 7 out 16 seats despite winning a majority 2PP.

    Either way, I think it’s safe to say that with the WA economy in deep recession and the fading mining boom as well as the unpopularity of Colin Barnett will mean that at the federal election the swing to Labor will be by far the largest in WA.

  7. Unitary

    [Either way, I think it’s safe to say that with the WA economy in deep recession and the fading mining boom as well as the unpopularity of Colin Barnett will mean that at the federal election the swing to Labor will be by far the largest in WA.]

    In fact, in light the way the two states are travelling post-mining-boom, the next fed re-distribution may see WA give its seat back to NSW.

  8. Kakuru

    Time will tell obviously, we cannot be certain of that yet.

    But I think it’s safer to say that in 3 years time we will see a south australian seat abolished and victoria gain one in place.

  9. Roughly what was expected.

    The new seat of Burt is a nice, compact, coherent seat.

    The changes to Fremantle, Tangney and Brand are sensibly minimalist.

    I’m surprised at the extent of the Curtin, Stirling and Perth rearrangement. Still, no harm done.

    The commissioners appear to have split the difference on the Liberal and Labor proposals for Hasluck. Which makes it neither thoroughly urban nor a truly hinterland seat. This might be where we see a bit of argy bargy in the objection phase. Any further changes to Hasluck would only involve territory swaps with Pearce, which remains an ugly bits-and-pieces electorate.

    Mandurah united within Canning is certainly a community-of-interest positive. Going by William’s margins, that appears to keep the seat somewhat competitive despite the loss of Armadale.

    It’s a funny thing that Durack should go from 1 of 15 to 1 of 16 and still have to expand. Collectively, the three regional seats of Durack, O’Connor and Forrest have only shed one small shire.

    Assuming some movement back to Labor, it does look as if Cowan, Stirling, Hasluck, Burt, Swan and Canning should all be competitive seats.

  10. We can quibble the details, but voters in just about any country would be envious of the relatively fair way we create and distribute our Federal seats.
    It is something we should be proud of and never take for granted.

  11. Torchbearer

    Let’s agree to disagree. Our senate is highly unrepresentative of the people’s will to say the least. It’s not fair that a state such as Tasmania with 500 thousand people should have 12 senators when NSW with 7.7 million people also have no more than 12. also we have people who frankly with less than 1% of the vote elected who don’t deserve a voice because of their lack of votes.

    I would much rather not have an upper house than have what we have today . I cannot understate that.

  12. Why all the hate for ‘Burt’? Francis Burt alone was sufficiently eminent to justify an electorate name. Calling it obscure just suggests ignorance iyam.

  13. Thank the good FSM that you have no power then, US. Whatever the flaws of the upper house are, it mostly helps governance in Australia.

  14. SFB…..former Chief Justice and Governor of WA – and not so long ago…

    True, another white, middle-class male, but this does not make him any less distinguished even if he is not known outside WA, and from the sounds of it, not within WA either.

  15. Putting Innaloo in Curtin is a bit peculiar considering it’s basically the urban centre of the Stirling area: it shares an obvious community of interest with Stirling and not with the western suburbs. Much more adjustment to that boundary and Stirling probably needs a rename.

  16. This is a bad redistribution from a democratic point of view.
    10 of the 16 seats become safer i.e. move away from the 2013 result for WA.

  17. Does this seat represent an additional seat or is there a balancing seat being lost in another state? If so, which one?


    I would not say grous with less than 1% of the vote “do not deserve” a voice. However I do agree on the quota inequity. The far worse examples are comparing Tassie with 500,00 people and 12 senators, against NT or the ACT, where 300,000+ get just two senators each. I find that quite inconsistent. The US constitution had criteria for when new states should be created, and ours should too.

  18. bug1, more successful Western Democracies have to a significant degree been the result in part of the fact that Governments have been able to carry out legislative programmes during their period of tenure.
    As for predictions about what seems likely to happen at the next Federal Elections, there’ll be the usual fluctuations and until then, although guesstimating can be an enjoyable pastime and offers opportunities to lay bets either way, none of us know what last minute events might swing it one way or another on Polling Day.

  19. The Senate is only iniquitous if you think the States shouldn’t have an equal day in a Federation of states. If the territories want state rights, they welcome to join the Federation on those terms.

    US – Flying Spaghetti Monster, the deity of choice for all pasta loving atheists. May we be blessed by the touch of her noodly appendages.

  20. 14

    The Constitution is such that removing Senate numbers equality between the original states is impossible because the states loosing proportion would have to pass the referendum.

    The only practical way of reducing the imbalance between states is to subdivide larger states. There was a referendum in 1967 in a proposed state of New England (set up by the NSW government on an election promise) for statehood but it was defeated by the inclusion of Newcastle where the ALP`s opposition was influential. It would have been very interesting if it had passed and thus the number of states that could have voted against referenda and the referenda still passed would have increased from 2 to 3 and the Simultaneous Elections referendum in 1977 may have passed. Close election results may also have been different because of the different seat numbers and boundaries and the number of Senators per state may not have been increased from 10 to 12.

  21. Instead of bothering with subdividing larger states, I would much rather just scrap federalism alltogether and switch to a unitary state .

  22. 28

    While there is a theoretical way of scrapping the states without a referendum, involving amending the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act (which may require an amendment to the Statue of Westminster) to put an expiry date on the existing Constitution and implement a new Constitution, that would require an ability to pass legislation through all state parliaments and so is as equally as unlikely as a referendum passing in every state.

  23. Urgh. I’ve been moved into Julie Bishop’s electorate. Somewhat surprising they moved Innaloo rather than Scarborough though.

  24. 30

    Since you are surprised, you would presumably have reasons other than not wanting to be in J. Bishop`s electorate to object to the boundary in a submission to the redistribution. You many also not be the only one.

  25. 31
    Looking at what they’ve done again, I guess it sort of makes sense. Realistically, Scarborough, Doubleview and Innaloo all have a commonality of interest more with each other than surrounding suburbs, but the location on the Curtin/Stirling border makes that very difficult to maintain.

    While sure, Innaloo is the hub of the Stirling council area, even if you consider Stirling a geographic name (which is both is and isn’t), most of the Stirling council area would be in Stirling with even a bit more of an easterly move. Including the suburb of Stirling. It also wouldn’t surprise me if, when (and if) WA gets a 17th seat, that Stirling would move back westward to regain territory. The Libs would love that.

  26. Tom the first and best @29

    however impossible that may be, it is an absolute necessity sooner rather than later. it is paralysing the incentive for reform amongst the political elite, is highly bearacratic and is the entire reason why we get reactionary politicians like Tony abbott in the first place.

    I honestly think that if we were a unitary state, with no upper house and with 5 year terms between elections that were not fixed; we would not get politicians like tony abbott because there would only be scope for the government to be reformist rather than reactionary.

    even though many people would argue that it would not make the political process as transparent as it is now; the fact that we have 15 chambers of parliament and 3 levels of government for a population of just 24 million in and of itself is not the reason why it may be transparent; in which case there is still so much room for improvement, yet the entire “if it aint broke don’t fix it” mentality is causing trouble for us in the long term.

  27. 33

    Reactionaries would still get into government, event with a unicameral unitary state, and 5 year non-fixed terms. Reactionaries like being in Government and will try to be there no matter what the system. Removing obstacles to government power will not make bad governments go away.

  28. I really don’t think “not having a unitary state” is the reason we get reactionary politicians. Under a unitary state, it would be far more likely that we would end up with Abbott anyway, except without the Senate or the states to keep a check on his power. No thanks.

  29. I’ve been moved as well – from Brand into Canning.

    I have mixed feelings about this. If Keogh doesn’t pick the seat up at the by-election, I’ll be living in a Liberal seat, but I don’t care much for the Member for Brand anyway, so it doesn’t really make a lot of difference.

  30. As for the question of the Senate, I would only support its abolition if the House of Representatives was enlarged and switched to a Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) model of election.

  31. Or a properly-proportional (Hare-Clark) model, Arnie? Works in Tassie. Works in the ACT. Works in Malta. Works in Ireland.

  32. Unitary State@8

    With the current 9.4% swing in bludger track, Labor would only have won 7 out 16 seats despite winning a majority 2PP.

    Either way, I think it’s safe to say that with the WA economy in deep recession and the fading mining boom as well as the unpopularity of Colin Barnett will mean that at the federal election the swing to Labor will be by far the largest in WA.

    Depending on how the cards play, I wonder if 2016 for WA might be like Tasmania in 2013, where the swing falls further than federally due to the effect of population’s unhappiness with the state government.

    And regarding a unitary state with no upper house, how do you envision the electoral system work? The same as we have now, or a more reformed system like that of pure PR or MMP? I could imagine it’ll be no different from the mess we see in the UK if there’s no change at all, leading to a tyranny by simple majority.

  33. @ Jack, 39

    My problem with a Hare-Clark-style model is that it means that unless you want to have some ridiculous amount of MPs, you’re stuck compromising between proportionality (boosted by decreasing the number of seats with a fixed number of total MPs) and the connection between an MP and their constituents (boosted by increasing the number of seats with a fixed number of total MPs).

    In my mind, MMP makes the best bargain on this by allowing communities to retain individual representation, but also making sure the overall parliament is representative of the popular vote.

  34. @Arrnea, 41

    Realistically, I think few MHRs have much of a connection with their community any more – Don Randall seems to be one, but if you look at the Libs choice to replace him – a guy who’s never lived in the electorate, and in WA for only five years, so would have nearly no understanding of the area.

    A full Hare-Clarke model might break what’s left of that supposed connection, but it would allow equal value for everyone’s vote; my example above, in having been moved from Stirling where my vote had some potential impact with a big swing on to Curtin where there’s no chance of anything changing should not be possible.

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