Victorian federal redistribution finalised

Finalised federal boundaries for Victoria affect the delicate between Labor, Liberal and Greens in two inner urban seats. Later today: new draft boundaries for Victoria’s state electorates.

In a remarkable display of synchronicity, yesterday saw the announcement of finalised new federal electoral boundaries for Victoria, which will be followed today by the publication of draft new boundaries for Victorian state boundaries, the result of an entirely separate process. While the former release is limited to written descriptions of the changes that have been made to the draft that was published in March, with maps and geospatial data not to be published until July 28, I have taken the effort to conduct a full analysis of the final boundaries, which you can read about below. I hope to be able to provide an analysis of the state boundaries later (probably much later) today.

The federal redistribution gives effect to an increase in Victoria’s representation from 38 House of Representatives seats to 39, at the expense of Western Australia, which is down from 16 to 15 and has accordingly undergone its own redistribution which was finalised a fortnight ago. The final boundaries in Victoria make changes to the draft boundaries affecting 20 electorates, by far the most significant of which is the abandonment of a major adjustment that was proposed for the boundary between Macnamara and Higgins in Melbourne’s inner south, an area of particular interest to the Greens.

N.B.: I am a little confused by the assertion of the AEC release that a remnant of the change remains in that most of Windsor has been transferred to Higgins, as it seems to me that both draft and final boundaries have this suburb remaining entirely in Macnamara. This analysis proceeds on the assumption that this statement is in error, but I may well be missing something. Ben Raue’s maps of the draft boundaries at The Tally Room are instructive here. (UPDATE: This has finally penetrated my skull — Windsor will indeed be transferred to Higgins, with effects that do little to disturb my overall analysis. The spreadsheet linked to at the bottom of the post has been revised to reflect this).

The practical upshot of the reversal is that the Greens are now less likely to take Macnamara from Labor, but the chances of them rather than Labor taking Higgins from the Liberals has increased, without much affecting the Liberals’ overall chances of losing the seat. The draft proposed a straight north-south boundary along Williams Road, resulting in Macnamara gaining territory around South Yarra at the northern end, while an area around Caulfield in the south was to go the other way. This would have boosted the Greens in Macnamara by around 2% from their 24.2% at the 2019 election, drawing in roughly equal measure from the Liberal and Labor vote. Just a few days ago, this prospect had the Greens talking up their chances of taking the seat from Josh Burns, who retained it for Labor when Michael Danby retired in 2019.

Macnamara, which was known prior to the 2019 election as Melbourne Ports, has been in Labor hands since 1906, but has lately evolved into a tight three-way contest involving the Liberals, who came within 2.2% of winning the seat in 2016, and the Greens, who would almost certainly win if they were able to reduce Labor to third place. This they fell 5.8% short of doing so in 2019, when they were excluded at the second-last count with 27.33% of the vote to Labor’s 33.2%. Greens preferences then flowed heavily enough to Labor to secure a comfortable 6.2% margin for Josh Burns, despite the Liberals outpolling him by 37.4% to 31.8% on the primary vote. The changes proposed by the draft boundary would have brought the Greens’ shortfall to around 3%, in a seat where their primary vote had steadily escalated from 15.0% to 24.2% since 2007.

However, the Greens’ gain in Macnamara would have been balanced by a weakening in Higgins, which on my analysis would have cut their primary vote by 1.6% while boosting Liberal and Labor by 0.7% each. Higgins has also developed into a three-cornered contest in recent years, a particularly notable fact in a seat that the Liberals have held since its creation in 1949, with members including John Gorton and Peter Costello. The Greens came closer to taking second place in Higgins in 2019 than they did in Macnamara, being excluded from the count with 24.3% to Labor’s 26.2%. However, the Liberals only fell just short of a majority at this point with 49.5%, and would have picked up enough stray preferences after the final exclusion to have retained the seat in any case.

Preference flows in Melbourne’s inner urban seats in 2019 suggest the Liberals would be slightly more likely to lose Higgins if Labor rather than the Greens made the final count, since flows from the Greens to Labor were slightly stronger than vice-versa — particularly in Macnamara, where Greens preferences split 87.5-12.5. However, the distinction seems to blur in areas where the Liberal vote is stronger, with Greens preferences in Higgins splitting 83.4-16.6, which was equal to how Labor preferences split between the Greens and the Liberals after they finished third in Kooyong.

The only other change to the finalised boundaries that might potentially have a bearing on the election result involves Chisholm, Higgins’ eastern neighbour, which Gladys Liu retained for the Liberals in 2019 by 0.6% after a 2.3% swing to Labor. The seat will be reoriented southwards with the redistribution, which by my reckoning added 0.2% to the Liberal margin on the draft boundaries — although Antony Green’s calculation was that it had in fact gone 0.4% the other way. My assessment is that the minor adjustments made in the final boundaries boost the Liberals by a further 0.3%.

You can find my party vote share estimates for the new boundaries, together with detailed accounting of how they were arrived at, here for Victoria and here for the Western Australian redistribution.

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.

20 comments on “Victorian federal redistribution finalised”

  1. That description of Windsor was confusing because it was transferred to McNamara after the last redistribution. I don’t see the Greens winning Higgins or McNamara this time around because Windsor was added to McNamara which was expected to boost the Greens but made minimal difference to the McNamara result.

  2. Windsor is located around Dandenong Rd & Chapel St

    By my reading, Windsor is now in MacNamara

    Quite a few low SES households in that part of South Yarra – Windsor moved into MacNamara

  3. The Jewish peak bodies are right in that they constitute a community of interest and its right that they be included in a single seat; however, I believe that the AEC have missed the bigger picture, which is that inner city living is also a community of interest and an even larger community of interest.

    It’s not perfect but nor is it forever.

  4. I will now have been in 3 different electorates in the last 3 elections (Bruce to Hotham and now Chisholm) without moving house. Maybe we can get some pork now we are in a truly marginal electorate.

  5. Hmmm. I’d much rather see the Greens take a seat from the Illiberals than from Labor. BUT I’m also not in favour of electoral districts that have salients sticking out into other districts – sometimes even resulting in peanut-shaped electorates with a waist between two knobs. These always have a smell of gerrymandering about them. In the case of Higgins vs Melbourne Ports/Macnamara, it may not have been done in the first place as a gerrymander (the AEC doesn’t play that sort of game) but when Michael Danby was the member he was desperate to hang on to the Jews of Caulfield, so letting him have his way was kind of gerrymandering by default. I still think a straight boundary would have been a better look. And in any case, within a few years the Greens may well win both.

  6. Re Windsor, the AEC states “that portion of the localities of South Yarra and Windsor located to the east of Punt Road and that portion of the locality of Prahran located between Punt Road and Williams Road in the proposed Division of Higgins”

    It seems clear to me that the boundaries of Macnamara are the same as its predecessor Melbourne Ports was for the 2010-2016 elections – so no Windsor (except for the small part which is between Punt Road and St Kilda Road)

    I presume your data is based on the Macnamara 2019 boundaries (i.e. with Windsor) – have you any data for the old boundaries without Windsor?

  7. A well credentialed Independent like Steggall could take Higgins.

    Who that might be is the question.

    Someone like Bob Murphy ex-Bulldogs Captain and SEN commentator might fit the bill.

  8. Antony Green has put up his estimates of the margins of the draft Victorian state boundaries.

    So far, it would be a net gain of 1 seat from Labor from Liberal from the 2018 election results, with Bass and Bayswater going Liberal and Hastings and Ripon going Labor; but with the abolition of the Liberal seat of Ferntree Gully and the addition of the Labor seat of Greenvale being the overall change.

    In the inner city meanwhile, the status of Albert Park and Prahran would be very much up in the air between Labor, Liberal and the Greens. Also Pascoe Vale would become something of a wild card, especially if the Independent Oscar Yildiz runs again, where it would be a 3-way battle between him, Labor and Greens.

  9. Re Albert Park, given his prominent Covid profile wouldn’t the incumbent Health Minister Martin Foley chase off a Greens attack

  10. It’s really hard to say about the personal vote of Martin Foley in Albert Park. Just from the stats from Antony Green, the new boundaries would shift the 2PP vote from Labor to the Liberals by about 4% (from 63% to 59%, but still the primary votes remain unknown), and the Greens have been heavily targeting seats like this for a while, so it would be difficult to make a certain call about how it would fall in 2022.

  11. I think the Albert Park and Prahran change would do the following (which Antony Green’s numbers seem to support):

    Albert Park – Losing St Kilda would realistically take the Greens out of the race as they haven’t made much headway there and St Kilda was their strongest suburb, but the swing to the Liberals (+3.7%) would make it a more marginal ALP v LIB seat. Obviously the 2018 landslide massively increased Labor’s margin, but in 2014 the margin was only 3% and in 2010 only 2%, so this redistribution would have notionally made this a Liberal seat in those elections.

    Prahran – It’s the Liberals taken out of the race here. The real uncertainty is that the ALP, Liberals and Greens could possibly finish in any order on the primary vote, so as with previous elections, the 3PP count to determine which two parties will end up in the 2PP is the most interesting race. What’s different now is that the +5% ALP swing would also be roughly replicated as a +5% GRN swing in a GRN v LIB 2PP, so basically the Liberals would have no chance of winning a 2PP against either party.

    What’s interesting now is that with the primary votes for all 3 parties potentially being so close, an ALP v GRN 2PP becomes a possibility in Prahran for the first time too.

  12. I think those are pretty good points, Trent. Would definitely make Albert Park and Prahran seats to pay attention to in the next election if these draft boundaries stand.

  13. Absolutely, Prahran in particular is a fascinating one to watch. If the federal boundary proposal for Macnamara and Higgins wasn’t reversed, I think Macnamara would have been a very similar race to Prahran too.

  14. The proposed Prahran boundaries do raise the prospect of Sam Hibbins winning from third on primaries for the third consecutive time (I am not aware of any other cases of consecutive victories from third on primaries, as there has tended to be a swing to the sitting member and/or Coalition partner party not running a competing candidate at the following election).

  15. It seems clear to me that the boundaries of Macnamara are the same as its predecessor Melbourne Ports was for the 2010-2016 elections – so no Windsor (except for the small part which is between Punt Road and St Kilda Road)

    Yes, I see my error now. I’ve redone my calculations to reflect this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *