Draft federal redistribution of New South Wales

Draft boundaries for the federal redistribution of New South Wales propose the abolition of Joel Fitzgibbon’s seat of Hunter.


I’ve now tightened up the estimated margins, a full accounting of which can be seen in this spreadsheet, which also features primary vote results. I now have Labor coming up quite a bit stronger in Paterson, for some reason to the extent of having a notional margin there of 1.5%.

Banks 47.4% -0.8%
Barton 57.5% +7.8%
Bennelong 42.2% +0.0%
Berowra 31.0% +0.0%
Blaxland 59.6% -1.8%
Bradfield 28.7% -0.5%
Calare 35.3% +1.3%
Chifley 61.1% +0.6%
Cook 32.8% -0.8%
Cowper 37.0% -1.2%
Cunningham 61.8% +1.9%
Dobell 50.5% +1.1%
Eden-Monaro 47.3% -2.1%
Farrer 28.5% -4.1%
Fowler 67.7% +0.9%
Gilmore 46.1% -1.3%
Grayndler 64.2% -6.1%
Greenway 52.7% -0.3%
Hughes 38.2% -1.1%
Hume 38.1% -0.4%
Hunter (Charlton) 56.1% +2.5%
Kingsford Smith 52.7% +0.0%
Lindsay 47.0% +0.0%
Lyne 35.9% +0.7%
Macarthur 46.7% +8.0%
Mackellar 31.2% +0.0%
Macquarie 45.5% +0.0%
McMahon 52.1% -3.3%
Mitchell 28.7% +0.7%
New England 29.8% +0.5%
Newcastle 59.3% +0.5%
North Sydney 34.6% +0.4%
Page 47.0% -0.5%
Parkes 30.4% +2.8%
Parramatta 52.3% +1.7%
Paterson 51.5% +11.3%
Reid 49.0% -0.1%
Richmond 51.8% -1.1%
Riverina 31.0% +2.1%
Robertson 46.8% -0.2%
Shortland 57.2% +0.0%
Sydney 63.3% -1.4%
Warringah 34.5% -0.1%
Watson 59.2% +2.4%
Wentworth 32.1% -0.2%
Werriwa 56.7% +4.5%
Whitlam (Throsby) 56.9% -0.8%

Original post

The AEC has just published long-awaited draft boundaries for the federal redistribution of New South Wales, which reduces the state’s representation from 48 seats to 47. The seat proposed for the chop is Joel Fitzgibbon’s seat of Hunter – although the name will be kept alive by renaming the neighbouring seat of Charlton. Notably:

Paterson (Bob Baldwin, Liberal). The abolition of the Hunter region seat causes Paterson to be drawn into a strongly Labor area, turning a 9.8% Liberal margin into a 0.5% margin.

Barton (Nick Varvaris, Liberal). The other big Liberal loser is Nick Varvaris, who did well to win the inner southern Sydney seat of Barton in 2013. The seat stands to lose the Liberal-voting area around Sans Souci at the southern end, and be pushed into Labor-Greens voting Marrickville and its surrounds closer to the city.

Eden-Monaro (Peter Hendy, Liberal). This seat is to be very strikingly redrawn, losing territory at the northern coastal end to Gilmore and gaining areas to the west and north of the ACT.

Macarthur (Russell Matheson, Liberal). The Liberal margin in this outer south-western Sydney seat has been slashed by the exchange of semi-rural areas for outer suburban territory around Minto and Eagle Vale.

Grayndler (Anthony Albanese, Labor). Albanese’s seat has been drawn towards the inner-city, gaining the Rozelle area and losing southern Marrickville and surrounding suburbs to Barton in the south, along with Summer Hill and surrounds to Watson in the west. This cuts his margin against the Liberals by 6.2%, but the greater threat here is from the Greens, and the changes have presumably intensified it (UPDATE: Apparently not, actually – the Greens vote in Balmain especially was curiously subdued at the last election).

Parramatta (Julie Owens, Labor). The changes here are modest, but Labor’s Julie Owens will enjoy the 0.8% boost to her 0.6% margin.

Page (Kevin Hogan, Nationals). Loses Ballina to Richmond at its northern coastal end, and gains the coast north of Coffs Harbour from Cowper in the south. Kevin Hogan won this seat for the Nationals from Labor in 2013, and he’s now had a helpful boost to his margin from 2.5% to 3.8%.

McMahon (Chris Bowen, Labor). Bowen was cut a little fine in this typically safe Labor seat in western Sydney in 2013, and now he’s been damaged by the transfer of Fairfield to Fowler, taking his margin from 5.3% to 2.4%.

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.

94 comments on “Draft federal redistribution of New South Wales”

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  1. Just found this from Baldwin on the local ABC site when he was dropped as Assistant Minister by Turnbull
    Mr Baldwin said while his seat may change under a redistribution of electoral boundaries, he has every intention of running again.

    “The biggest challenge is in the next four weeks to find out wether there is a seat of Paterson or a seat of Hunter, which seat will go in the redistribution,” he said.

    “I am intending to run at the next election.

    “My geographical patch which I have had the honour of representing is still going to be there.

    “It may be a seat with a different name but I am intending to run

    I think he will be tempted by Lyne

  2. One comment about Bradman requires a non-political correction. Bradman was a many talented person outside of cricket, so it’s almost as hard to dismiss him as it was in Cricket where his first success surprisingly wasn’t even with the bat.

  3. Some additional points about the new proposed seat of Paterson: it also contains the very strong Labor voting town of Kurri Kurri, and unifies East Maitland, which had been in the old seat of Paterson, with the rest of Maitland.

    Now given that the seat of Hunter swung fairly hard to the Coalition in the 2013 election, with some quite large swings against Labor in Maitland and Kurri Kurri, I would expect that a swing back to Labor in these areas would be enough to overcome that 0.5% margin.

    Then it also has to be considered that East Maitland, which is demographically identical to the rest of Maitland, has for a long time been in a Liberal seat and correspondingly the Labor vote there has long been compressed. I’d tip for there to be a big increase in Labor’s vote in East Maitland at the next election.

    It also has to be considered that the Liberal vote on the Tomaree Peninsula is fairly soft and a good Labor campaign could win a decent number of those booths.

    All up I’m thinking Paterson as proposed will be a Labor seat on a margin of 5%-6%.

  4. Ratsak – I’m betting that Baldwin will be hoping to contest Lyne but if he can’t win party backing, he’ll recontest in Paterson. I also think it’s pretty certain that Joel Fitzgibbon will stand in the new seat of Paterson. He’s based in Maitland and is very well known there. That gives him a solid base from which to try and win over voters in East Maitland and Port Stephens.

  5. William Bowe,
    The Greens should finish second in Grayndler at the next election. Their result around inner suburban Sydney in 2013 is equally as bad as Labor’s result throughout WA in the same election, to say the least it was horrendous.
    I often feel that State election results aren’t much to go by and in Victoria the Greens results tend to be better in Federal elections whilst in NSW they tend to perform better in state elections, and on that premise we should see a lot more stability between the two from now on, therefore it wouldn’t be unusual to see the Green vote explode once again maybe even up to 6% or 7%.
    Although the next few elections should be safe for Labor in Sydney and Grayndler but as soon as Plibersek and Albo go the battle will be on.

  6. It’s worth bearing in mind that the process is still at a fairly early stage, and that the proposed redistribution is subject to at least one round of objections, and possibly two, before a final determination is made by the augmented Electoral Commission.

    So if there are areas for possible improvement, there’s every possibility that some features of the current proposal might not make it through to the final version.

    It’s also worth bearing in mind that geographical and community of interest criteria are specifically made subordinate to the statistical criteria – see paragraph 66(3)(b) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (http://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/cea1918233/s66.html). This quite possibly explains some of the geographical features which have attracted comment here.

  7. This redistribution is due to be determined on the 25th of February next year. If the writs are issued before the boundaries are in force then there has to be a snap redistribution where the 2 seats with the smallest combined population that are next to each other have to be amalgamated into 1 seat.

    The same things happens in WA if the writs are issued before the new boundaries are in force (determination due on the 16th of January) except that it is the 2 largest population contiguous seats and they get split into 3. This is even messier than the what would happen in NSW and is why the election writs will not be issued before mid to late January and probably nor before late February.

  8. I disagree that the process is at a “fairly early stage”. The release of the proposed boundaries marks a pretty advanced stage of the redistribution process.

    Generally, revisions are minor and a second round of objections rare. The last Victorian redistribution – where the proposal to abolish Murray was reversed – was one exception; but I can’t think of any others.

  9. I’ve just noticed the redistribution process has commenced for the NT. In most states it would be unlikely to be finalised by the time the election comes around. But here you’d image they could get it done in time for an election in the second half of next year.

    The current enrolment figures suggest Solomon will cede some territory to Lingiari. That will probably involve trying to find an elegant way to split Palmerston in two.

  10. Looking again at the maps, the problem in southern NSW is Throsby/ Whitlam. If this seat was abolished, Eden-Monaro could take more Souht Coast and not cross the divide, Hume could take the Southern Highlands and not move into the Sydney Basin, Gilmore move north, Cunningham move south and Hughes move south into the northern suburbs of Wollongong – where it used to be. Cook could stay in the Shire – and the seats in south western Sydney be reshuffled accordingly and allow for a new seat called Whitlam.The AEC like not to move large numbers of voters but they are moving lots and are being half cooked in the process. The process is not easy and sometimes community of interest has to be compromised but this time there are too many silly compromises made in the interest of somehow being ‘minimal’. Methinks the commissioners are too fixated on the statistical and have no knowledge of the actual communities and geography.

  11. Or abolish Gilmore – move Quaenbeyan to Hume and move Eden Monaro up the coast, and make Throsby/ Whitlam and Cunningham purely coastal seats. Definitely somewhere in southern NSW there is a problem that is leading to knock on effects right through the southern half of the state.

  12. Jimmy Doyle @ 53

    You argue that the Labor vote in East Maitland has been depressed because it has been in a Liberal seat. The converse is also true, the Liberal vote in West Maitland (an old fashioned geographical term to be sure) has been depressed being in a safe Labor seat. In a highly marginal seat, the next election would show where the true picture lies.

  13. [It’s also worth bearing in mind that geographical and community of interest criteria are specifically made subordinate to the statistical criteria – see paragraph 66(3)(b) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 ]

    But taking into account the actual wording

    [(3) In making the proposed redistribution, the Redistribution Committee:

    (a) shall, as far as practicable, endeavour to ensure that, if the State or Territory were redistributed in accordance with the proposed redistribution, the number of electors enrolled in each Electoral Division in the State or Territory would not, at the projection time determined under section 63A, be less than 96.5% or more than 103.5% of the average divisional enrolment of that State or Territory at that time; and

    (b) subject to paragraph (a), shall give due consideration, in relation to each proposed Electoral Division, to:

    (i) community of interests within the proposed Electoral Division, including economic, social and regional interests;

    (ii) means of communication and travel within the proposed Electoral Division;

    (iv) the physical features and area of the proposed Electoral Division; and

    (v) the boundaries of existing Divisions in the State or Territory;]

    there are many ways to cut the statistical pie whilst still taking into account i, ii, iv and v.

    Which leads to another question … there is i, ii, iv and v. Where are what is/ was iii?

  14. blackburnpseph @ 65: The former s.66(3)(b(iii) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 referred to “the trend of population changes within the State or Territory”. From memory, it was deleted because enrolment trends were also covered in the strict numerical criteria set out earlier in the section. For the text of the redistribution criteria as orginally enacted in 1983, see http://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/num_act/celaa1983425/s9.html.

  15. Puff the Magic Dragon, while your comment might be applicable to most sportsmen, it’s not the case with Bradman who was an extremely capable man in other fields who adapted well when faced with changing circumstances. This flexibility was seen also in cricket where the young man who first attracted attention as a talented spin bowler ended up becoming the world’s greatest batsman, dominating the scene to such an extent the M.C.C. had to change the L.B.W. Rule.

  16. blackburnpseph: yep, Whitlam/Throsby is an unnecessary and awkwardly-constructed seat. But, as I said, the root cause seems to be the AEC’s determination to retain a seat called Werriwa (which, as it is currently constituted, is the ideal seat to rename Whitlam). They could rename Eden-Monaro “Werriwa” -it’s far closer to Lake George than the existing seat of Werriwa – but E-M is an historic “bellwether” seat, so they won’t do that either (even though the redistribution has probably killed its bellwether status).

    There are some pretty clearly-defined communities in S-W and W NSW: the Riverina (effectively stretching from Tumbarumba west to Balranald), the Monaro-Far South Coast, the Central West, the Far West (from Moree through Bourke to Broken Hill and across to Dubbo-Wellington) the Southern Highlands. The geographical integrity of each of these regions should be maintained as much as possible. Some are capable of being moved around a bit: eg the Goulburn area (can be Southern Highlands or Monaro or even the Central West) or Parkes and Forbes (can be Central West or Far West. Dubbo-Wellington could conceivably be Central West will henceforth be linked to the Far West to keep the numbers up.

    But it is really important for rural seats to reflect communities that somehow see themselves as linked together. The AEC seems to have ignored this point.

    In the medium term, I reckon Farrer is the next rural seat that should go: that will help to solve some of these problems.

  17. meher baba @ 68: The dominance of the numerical criteria over the “community of interest” criteria was put in place as a direct response to the long period during which there was systematic weighting/rorting of the numbers in favour of rural seats. In that sense, the rural conservatives are reaping what they sowed.

    One might, in any case, question the importance of community of interest. Personally, I’ve thought for a long time that we might see some rather more intelligent perspectives coming from individual MPs if their seats were more internally diverse, in such a way as to prevent them from just being parrots for specific vested interests.

  18. [In the medium term, I reckon Farrer is the next rural seat that should go: that will help to solve some of these problems.]

    MB, Interesting point. Pre 1984, Farrer was a reasonably small seat and took in both Albury and Wagga. Combined these two cities have almost the required population for a seat. Riverina could also be similar to pre 1984, centred on the MIA and Murray.

    I really wonder how in tune the commissioners are in terms of community of interest. The last federal Victorian redistribution had similar issues – such and such a road would be good boundary because is dual carriageway etc. I objected on this ground (with photos) to show that the road was actually only two lanes and was more local than they thought. Rather than just sitting in an office, possibly they should ‘hitch up the van’ and do a road trip occasionally.

  19. NH

    [….who first attracted attention as a talented spin bowler]

    I never heard that of Bradman. I did not even know he bowled spin. He was bowling medium pace whenhe bowled Wally Hammond durying bodyline.

    He came to fame in the southern highlands because of his prodigious scoring including against O’Reilly. he then scored a hundred on debut for St George

  20. I’ve just completed my own calculations and got something similar for Grayndler.

    The Sydney campaign for the Greens was pretty shocking in general, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a different trend if looking at the 2015 state election results (ie. the change to Grayndler looks better).

  21. blackburnseph @ 64 – you are of course 100% correct. We shall just have to wait and see. It is worth pointing out that 2013 likely represented a low for the Labor vote in East Maitland, as well as the normally Labor-voting Raymond Terrace. Add that to very strong swings to the Liberals in Port Stephens (particularly the areas of Port Stephens where Labor is normally competitive), and I just don’t think that the 0.5% margin in the proposed Paterson will withstand a “natural” swing back to Labor. Additionally, Paterson is also proposed to contain Thornton, Beresfield, Tarro and Woodberry, which were some of the strongest Labor areas in the seat of Newcastle, an already strongly Labor-voting electorate. But as you point out, this could all mean the reverse: these normally strong Labor areas may swing hard against Labor if there is a strong Liberal marginal seat campaign.

    Meher baba @ 68 – It is unlikely that Eden-Monaro will no longer be a bellweather seat on these proposed boundaries. As blackburnseph pointed out at 19, Tumut and Tumbarumba were both in Eden-Monaro for the 2007 election, after being redistributed out of Farrer, and recorded swings to Labor between 14% and 20%.

    Of course some of that swing would be related to the fact that 2007 was a Labor year, but a lot of the swing would have come from being redistributed from a safe seat to a marginal seat, and just as with Paterson above, those areas of Eden-Monaro that are new to the seat could well see large swings against the Liberals (assuming of course that the next election is good for Labor, which seems an unlikely prospect).

  22. Paterson is basically the state seats of Port Stephens and Maitland. Both were won by Labor at this year’s state election, despite being a dreadful election overall. It also includes Kurri Kurri, from the safe Labor state seat of Cessnock.

    Ben Raue calculates the seat to be notionally Labor (albeit barely). I’d class a generic Labor candidate as the favourite here. A Fitzgibbon contest and/or Baldwin retirement would tilt the odds further in the ALP’s favour.

  23. It would have made so much more sense to create a seat called whitlam in the sydney basin by abolishing a seat such as Mitchell to accomodate for it.

    It would be better to rename Paterson , hunter. and retain the name Charlton or at least not rename it hunter.

    It is also a bad idea to rename Macarthur and Eden-Monaro if their objective is to retain the names of federation seats.

    The AEC should have bitten the bullet and made a more radical redistribution within the sydney basin. a lot of the current boundaries are based on LGA boundaries which will be amalgamated and significantly altered by next year. For instance, the current boundaries of Chifley, greenway and whitlam simply make no sense given the community of interest realities in that area.

  24. Cowper’s an unsustainable mess, with both Coffs and Port split from their suburbs.

    Hartsuyker is seriously unimpressive, but is part of the furniture in Coffs. But Port is used to better than Luke, and he may not be as popular there as Gillespie.

    Lyne without Port is equally messed up.

    The whole mid north coast is stuffed from a community of interest point of view.

  25. blackburnpseph: I don’t think having Eden-Monaro not cross the dividing range is a worthwhile goal.

    Queanbeyan has always been a major centre in the division, and is on the western side of the range – as is most of the Monaro region itself. In fact one of the odder parts of the redistribution is splitting off the northern part of Eurobodalla Shire – the towns from Moruya through to Batemans Bay are firmly in the orbit of Queanbeyan.

  26. caf @ 79

    West side of the Snowy Mountains to be precise – Tumut, Tumbarumba. Quaenbeyan is very much part of E-M and will remain the largest population centre. Bringing Yass into E-M seems to be an effort on the part of the AEC to bring all of E-M into the Canberra media market.

  27. Olivier K @ 78

    There was always going to be something messy happen on the North Coast because the geography and the demographics just will not align in what essentially a long thin landmass. The AEC have tried to ameliorate by detaching Dorrigo from New England which is probably sensible but the only alternative was to go up onto the Tableland and that is not a realistic option.

  28. [The AEC should have bitten the bullet and made a more radical redistribution within the sydney basin. a lot of the current boundaries are based on LGA boundaries which will be amalgamated and significantly altered by next year. For instance, the current boundaries of Chifley, greenway and whitlam simply make no sense given the community of interest realities in that area.]

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. There are more rural LGA amalgamations on the way as well so the concept of using LGA boundaries will just become unworkable in future as the LGA units get bigger.

  29. blackburn @ 81

    Yes, it’s hard, but this result (splitting Coffs from Woolgoolga and Coramba, and Port from Wauchope and the Camden Haven) is worse than crossing the range.

    Taking Tenterfield into Page with Casino isn’t awful, and would allow New England to retain Gunnedah. That would pull all the north coast boundaries north a little, which would solve a lot of problems.

    The best solution (moving Tweed Heads out of Richmond into McPherson) is unfortunately not possible.

  30. OlivierK @ 83
    The problem with the far north coast is that Page and Richmond although somewhat similar they are also very different. In Richmond, the three main population centres are vastly different, for example Ballina should have stayed in Page due to its far less urbanised nature. On the other hand, Nimbin and the northern side of Limsore have been transferred out of Richmond, although those areas of lower socio economic level to Tweed and Byron, they have far more in common then Ballina does.
    I personally would like to see Richmond keep Nimbin and those surrounding areas.

  31. I simply don’t understand why Chifley, greenway and Mitchell were left pretty much as they are.

    Not only because of the upcoming council amalgamations, but the new northwest metro construction and northconnex motorway – which will mean the community of interest factors will be vastly different in the future than they were in the past.

    More to the point, they simply do not make any sense to the naked eye when looking on an electoral map.

  32. The discussion about seats and community of common interests raises in my view the question is it time to enlarge the federal parliament (I am aware of the flow on affects to the senate)

  33. JD and GW @76, 75 et al – yes the state election showed a very strong rebound to Labor in East Maitland. My local booth (in an affluent Eat Maitland suburb) was very strong for the ALP and Phillip Penfold (independent) received approximately the same primary as the Lib.
    BTW Small point but I am curious – are you sure Joel Fitzgibbon lives in Maitland? I thought he lived in Cessnock where his primary electorate office is. The white pages shows a residential hit in Cessnock and not Maitland for what it worth.

  34. 86

    I do agree that it is time Parliament was enlarged.

    The main issue that the nexus clause causes that reduces the chances of parliamentary expansion is not the quota reduction in the Senate but the numbers of MPs and Senators it requires to be added. This is because the referendum in 1967 to change this was soundly defeated (for reasons including the DLP, at the time the biggest potential losers out of, campaigning against it).

    Due to the requirement of equality between the states in the Senate, an absolute minimum of 6 Senators can be added and in order to keep the number of Senators elected at consecutive half-Senate elections the same, a minimum of 12 Senators are needed.

    However, although this has not been done previously, it is perfectly constitutional to add the Senators over 2 elections and thus reduce the increase at a single election but almost certainly require extra redistributions in up to 5 states. This consequently requires the HoR increases to be in be in 12s and 24s and combined with the Senate numbers, this adds up.

    If the election at which adds Senators is a DD, then the second half-Senate election increasing the Senate can be 2 elections after the DD because the additional Senator for each state added at the DD can serve a short term and thus the increased Senate numbers can be preserved at the first half-Senate election after the DD without increasing the number of Senators. This however would not be the case if the any of the Simultaneous Elections Referenda had passed as when there was an off number of Senators the majority of Senators would have had to served full Senate terms.

    Enlarging the Senate is also off the table until the Senate election system is fixed, unless Senate expansion is part of the deal to change the Senate system because of the drop in quota making minor and micro party candidates more likely to win.

  35. 90

    Amending the Constitution to allow or even require the Territories` Senators, MPs and populations to be counted in the calculation of the nexus clause (which shouls be achievable at a referendum to alter section 122 to regulate Territory representation) would allow for a small expansion of Parliament. A guarantee that territories are represented in Parliament and a rule that no Territory be allowed more representation than it would have if it were an original state.

    Another opportunity for an expanded Parliament was missed in 1967 when the New England Statehood referendum was defeated. Being, I believe, slightly larger than Tasmania it would likely have received the same minimum representation as the original states, thus expanding Parliament by 30 (10 Senators and 20 MPs). The Hawke Government may then have decided against expanding Parliament in 1984. The Simultaneous Elections Referendum 1977 could then possibly have passed (I cannot find the 1977 referendum results by electorate to give me an idea of the region`s views and of course they may have been different if they had been a smaller state).

  36. Mexican @ 86

    I just can’t see any appetite for enlarging the parliament. As noted further down there are higher priorities such as reforming the senate voting system – and then what I believe is a high priority – moving to a 4 year term. However, do we want 8 year terms for senators?

  37. 92

    Moving to a 4-year term requires a referendum.

    8-year term for Senators is one of the reasons that sunk the 4 year term effort in 1988 (the other reasons included Coalition opposition, revival of proposing simultaneous elections (previously thrice defeated) and hostility to longer terms for the HoR).

    Technically there is no need to extend the Senate term to extend the HoR term. Japan combines 4-year lower house terms with 2 staggered lots of 6-year upper house terms.

    Due to the minimum term length for the SA LC, combined with its staggered simultaneous elections (like in NSW and Victoria before the Bracks reforms), it can potentially have a 10-year term.

  38. Anyone who sees “8-year term for” rather than “4-year staggered terms for” in my comment number 93, needs their eyes checked.

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