The post below this one features Adrian Beaumont’s latest updates on the polling situation in the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Back on home turf, I have two updates to relate.
The first involves the calculation of the states’ and territories’ House of Representatives seat entitlements for the next parliament, which will be determined next month on the basis of yet-to-be published quarterly population figures from December. Barring a sudden change in population trends in the last quarter of last year, this will cause Victoria to gain a seat for the second term in a row, boosting it to 39 seats — a return to where it was when the parliament was enlarged in 1984, before a lean period for the state reduced it to 37 in 1996. It is even more clear that Western Australia will lose the sixteenth seat it has had for the past two terms, reflecting the waxing and waning of the mining and resources boom.
Relatedly — and to get to my main point — the Northern Territory is also set to lose a seat, unless something comes of Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy’s announcement last week that she will introduce a bill to guarantee the territory its existing two seats. The territory just scraped over the line with 1.502 population quotas at the last determination in 2017, rounding up to an entitlement of two seats, and has since experienced a continuation of relative decline since the resource boom halcyon days of 2009 — and even then its population only amounted to 1.54 quotas.
The Northern Territory was first divided into its current two seats of Solomon and Lingiari in 2001, but its claim to a second seat has been consistently precarious. It would have reverted to one seat in 2004 if not for a legislative fix to change definitions in a way that put it over the threshold, which received bipartisan support partly because both major parties imagined at that time that they could win both seats. This proved a forlorn hope in the Coalition’s case, with Lingiari having remained with Labor at all times and Solomon having fallen their way in both 2016 and 2019.
As a result, Solomon and Lingiari have consistently had the lowest enrolments in the country, at a shade below 70,000 at the time of the 2019 federal election, compared with an average of 110,755 in the mainland states, 98,644 in the Australian Capital Territory (which gained a third seat last year) and 77,215 in Tasmania (which maintains the constitutionally mandated minimum of five seats for the six original states). Conversely, a single Northern Territory seat would have an enrolment far greater than any other, with the unfortunate effect of under-representing its indigenous population, which accounts for more than a quarter of the total.
My other update relates to the July 4 Eden-Monaro by-election, for which nominations close on Tuesday. The Daily Telegraph ($) reports four candidates have nominated for the Nationals’ Eden-Monaro preselection, to be held on Sunday: Trevor Hicks, deputy mayor of Queanbeyan-Palerang; Fleur Flanery, owner of Australian Landscape Conference; Mareeta Grundy, a dietician; and Michael Green, a farmer from Nimmitabel. The Greens announced on the weekend that their candidate will be Cathy Griff, a Bega Valley Shire councillor.