Apple sliced

This post began life as an addendum to my post on the Dennis Shanahan article, which read as follows:

In other news, the AEC has commenced a redistribution for Tasmania, it having gone the maximum seven years without one. The AEC’s figures respectively put enrolment in Bass, Denison and Lyons at 1.2 per cent, 1.6 per cent and 2.3 per cent below average, with Braddon and Franklin 1.5 per cent and 3.7 per cent above. So the redistribution will presumably involve a transfer of territory from Franklin to Lyons, which is unlikely to make much difference to anyone’s electoral prospects. Changes to the more sensitive Bass and Braddon are likely to be negligible. Uniquely, Tasmanian boundary changes have effect at both federal and state level.

I am promoting it partly because my contention that it will be of little electoral consequence has been disputed by Scotty in comments:

The most likely booths to go to Lyons are probably Labor’s best larger booths in Franklin. Bridgewater, Gagebrook and maybe even Risdon Vale if moved to Lyons would significantly shrink the margin in Franklin. In turn this would make Lyons much safer. This may result in a preselection in Lyons as Dick Adams’ personal vote is no longer needed to win that seat.

Furthermore, it has belatedly come to my notice that the Tasmanian Electoral Commission has published proposed boundaries for a redistribution of the state’s 15 upper house districts. Given the lack of party competition in upper house elections, it’s hard to say what the significance of this is, if any. I do have a question though for Tasmanian state politics buffs: given that the upper house never dissolves, when and how do the changes take effect?

More on the redistribution from Peter Tucker.

Beautiful one day

A few items worth noting from the Queensland state scene:

• The state’s Electoral Commission has published preliminary submissions for the redistribution currently under way. The proposed redistribution report is still a few months away.

• Brisbane’s Sunday Mail has published an interesting Galaxy poll of 800 respondents showing Anna Bligh with a 68 per cent approval rating, compared with just 12 per cent for Nationals leader Jeff Seeney. The poll puts Labor’s two-party preferred lead at 55-45. It also found Mal Brough favoured by 32 per cent to lead the state Liberals against 8 per cent each for the recently departed Bruce Flegg and his replacement Mark McArdle, and 7 per cent for thwarted contender Tim Nicholls. McArdle doesn’t seem too upset at the prospect of being replaced by Brough, though it’s far from clear whether Brough is really interested in state politics.

• A recent Queensland Newspoll got overlooked in my earlier post on state results, so here’s a chart showing the two-party preferred score going back to 2004. I have gone for a time-series X axis on this occasion, which is messier but more accurate.

WA redistributed (slight return)

The Western Australian electoral redistribution commissioners have unveiled the final boundaries for the state’s momentous one-vote one-value redistribution. A number of amendments have been made to the proposals unveiled in June, most of them in the East Metropolitan region:

• Central Kelmscott, which was originally to have been in Darling Range, will now be in Armadale so that boundaries conform with the Wungong Urban Water area. In exchange, the southern part of Armadale as originally proposed (Wungong and Mount Richon) will go to Darling Range.

• The exclusion of the part of Gosnells containing the town centre and council offices from the electorate of that name – described in the Boundaries Commission report as an “oversight” – has been corrected by having the northern boundary follow the Canning River (barring a small strip east of Albany Highway). This has involved a gain of territory from Kalamunda and a loss to Forrestfield.

• To allow greater conformity with suburban boundaries, Kalamunda takes part of Gooseberry Hill from Forrestfield and Darlington from Midland, while losing Glen Forrest to Swan Hills. Midland is compensated by taking Guildford from Belmont.

• The boundary between Swan Hills and Darling Range has been redrawn so that Mundaring and Mahogany Creek are in Swan Hills, while Mount Helena, Chidlow and The Lakes are in Darling Range.

Elsewhere:

• In Mining and Pastoral, the electorate name of Kalgoorlie will now be retained, after it was originally proposed it be changed to Goldfields. The boundaries have been adjusted to include the huge but mostly empty eastern part of the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku, originally to have been in Pilbara. UPDATE: It seems I speak too soon – the ABC points out that the seat becomes “more marginal after taking in the small community of Warburton”. Its enrolment increases from 12,756 to 13,656, and the 900 newcomers should cut the margin to a little over 5 per cent. So the big loser from the final determination is Matt Birney.

• In South Metropolitan, tiny adjustments have been made to Riverton’s boundaries with Jandakot to the south-west and Cannington to the north-east, so that Leeming is in Jandakot and all of Riverton is in Riverton. Three adjustments have been made to the safe Labor electorates in the southern coastal corridor: there has been a minuscule swap between Fremantle and Cockburn, and a bigger but no more consequential addition of East Rockingham to Rockingham from Kwinana.

• In the South West region, the proposed district of Murray will instead be called Murray-Wellington, reviving a name that existed prior to the 2005 election. There has also been an adjustment to its boundary with Mandurah, which absorbs 671 voters at South Yunderup.

I’ll leave the calculations to Antony Green (whose margin calculations for the boundaries as originally proposed can be seen here), but my rough reckoning is that the adjustments are slightly favourable for Labor, who had done pretty well to begin with. They get a handy boost in Forrestfield (original notional margin 3.8 per cent) and Darling Range (0.5 per cent), and are harmed just slightly in Kalamunda (0.2 per cent) and Swan Hills (3.9 per cent). The Murray to Mandurah transfer is perhaps of slight benefit of the Liberals, cutting into Labor’s initial 8.2 per cent margin in Mandurah. The Liberal margin of 6.3 per cent in Murray was probably understated due to the strong personal vote of Labor’s Mick Murray (member for Collie-Wellington) in much of the affected area, and it is unlikely the seat will be keenly contested at the next election.

I also had occasion some time ago to calculate the results that the new upper house arrangements would have produced with the 2005 election figures. Most interestingly, the lower quota in South Metropolitan (which will go from five seats to six) would have delivered a seat to narrowly unsuccessful preference harvesters the Fremantle Hospital Support Group. Results from the 2005 election shown in brackets.

ALP LIB NAT GRN FHS
East Metropolitan 3 (3) 2 (2) 1 (0)
North Metropolitan 2 (3) 3 (3) 1 (1)
South Metropolitan 3 (3) 2 (2) 1 (0)
South West 3 (3) 3 (3) 0 (1)
Agricultural 2 (1) 3 (3) 1 (1)
Mining and Pastoral 3 (3) 3 (2)
TOTAL 16 (16) 16 (15) 1 (1) 2 (2) 1 (0)

WA redistributed

The draft boundaries for the one-vote one-value electoral redistribution in Western Australia have been unveiled. The table below lists Antony Green’s calculations of the new margins for each seat, along with its most likely contestant at the next election. As you can see, it’s been a pretty good day for the Western Australian ALP. On 2005 election results, the new boundaries would have won Labor 38 seats against 20 for the combined forces of conservatism, which includes two independents. This compares with the last election’s numbers of Labor 32, Coalition 23 and independents two. Reluctant as one might be to criticise the implementation of historic one-vote one-value reforms, this seems a slightly excessive return on Labor’s 52.3 per cent of the two-party vote. For Labor to lose the notional nine seats required to cost it its majority would require a uniform swing of over 4.0 per cent, for a two-party vote of less than 48.3 per cent.

The redistribution creates four safe Labor seats along with four marginals, for a cost of only one abolished Labor seat and three which become notionally Liberal. The Coalition loses five seats and has two that go notionally Labor, in exchange for one very marginal new seat and the three that become notionally Liberal (generously including the line-ball Kingsley). A further seat, Capel, has effectively merged with Collie-Wellington to create the marginal Labor seat of Collie-Preston. The Coalition has its margins boosted in almost every seat it already holds, but has little joy in the existing Labor seats it needs to win, unless you count Collie-Preston.

No fewer than three of the abolished Coalition seats are held by the Nationals. This leaves them only with Merredin and Wagin, although party leader Brendon Grylls purports to be confident of winning Moore, Eyre and Blackwood-Stirling. This sounds wildly optimistic in the case of the latter two, especially considering Blackwood-Stirling will be contested for the Liberals by the current member for Warren-Blackwood, Opposition Leader Paul Omodei. I have yet to crunch the upper house numbers, but it appears the new system of six-seat regions will deliver the Nationals a seat in South West to add to their existing seat in Agricultural. As the ABC puts it, one unlucky MP will be “forced” – horror of horrors – “into the upper house”. Former party leader and Avon MP Max Trenorden might come under pressure to retire, leaving Greenough MP Grant Woodhams to turn his vote-winning ways to Moore (he gained Greenough from a sitting Liberal in 2005) with Stirling MP Terry Redman taking the upper house safety hatch.

Homeless Liberals include Leschenault MP Dan Sullivan, a Matt Birney loyalist who quit the front bench a year ago following a policy dispute with Paul Omodei, along with Capel MP Steve Thomas and Serpentine-Jarrahdale MP Tony Simpson. Simpson or Sullivan might find accommodation in the new marginal Liberal seat of Scarborough, although both are all a long way from the northern suburbs. Thomas will presumably have to try his luck against the formidable Mick Murray in Collie-Preston. Shadow water resources minister John Day suffers a 3.8 per cent hit that leaves his seat of Darling Range with a notional Labor margin of 0.6 per cent; he might instead go for the neighbouring new seat of Kalamunda, although he would only be 0.2 per cent better off. John Castrilli will have no choice but to stand and fight in Bunbury which he won narrowly in 2005 off the back of his high profile as mayor, and which now has a notional Labor margin of 1.2 per cent.

UPDATE: In The West Australian, Robert Taylor reports Trenorden will stand against his leader for the Merredin preselection; Ben Spencer reports Dan Sullivan has ruled out taking on Steve Thomas in Collie-Preston and Murray Cowper in Murray, leaving his career “all but over”.

Conveniently, the abolished Labor seat of Murchison-Eyre is held by John Bowler, who was forced to resign from the ALP over the Burke-Grill affair (Julian Grill being the previous member for the seat). The Kalgoorlie Miner reports that Bowler is not giving up and is considering running in Eyre, likely to be won for the Liberals by Roe MP Graham Jacobs. Labor’s main losers are Peter Watson and Shane Hill, whose regional city seats of Albany and Geraldton have expanded beyond the town limits into conservative rural territory, and Judy Hughes, who narrowly won the northern suburbs seat of Kingsley in 2005 and has now watched her narrow margin disappear altogether. All represent electorates that have retained their basic identity, and they will presumably be obliged to stand and fight. That leaves eight new seats available to aspirational Labor types, including knife-edge marginal Ocean Reef in the far northern suburbs and Kalamunda in the hills; slightly more comfortable Jandakot and Forrestfield closer to the city; and the glittering new prizes of West Swan, Cannington, Kwinana and Nollamara in various corners of the metropolitan area (you can also add Morley, the successor seat to Ballajura, whose member John D’Orazio was also forced to quit the party).

It should be noted that these boundaries are not yet carved in stone; the Office of the Electoral Distribution Commissioners will be receiving written objections until July 30.

NOTE: Figures in the following table are initial estimates provided by Antony Green. Antony has since updated the figures and published a comprehensive summary at the ABC.

Labor seats NEW OLD SHIFT LIKELY MEMBER
Nollamara 19.4 NEW SEAT
Kwinana 19.0 NEW SEAT
Girrawheen 19.0 23.4 4.4 Margaret Quirk
Maylands 17.4 16.5 0.9 Judy Edwards
Bassendean 14.8 13.7 1.1 Martin Whitely
Cockburn 14.6 16.4 1.8 Fran Logan
Armadale 14.5 13.0 1.5 Alannah MacTiernan
Victoria Park 14.0 16.0 2.0 Ben Wyatt
Fremantle 13.9 14.4 0.5 Jim McGinty
Perth 13.6 12.0 1.6 John Hyde
Cannington 13.2 NEW SEAT
Willagee 12.7 15.0 2.3 Alan Carpenter
Gosnells
(Kenwick)
12.2 13.6 1.4 Sheila McHale
Morley
(Ballajura)
12.0 13.5 1.5 John D’Orazio
West Swan 12.2 NEW SEAT
Belmont 11.4 10.8 0.6 Eric Ripper
Rockingham 11.3 12.3 1.0 Mark McGowan
Warnbro
(Peel)
11.2 13.5 2.3 Paul Papalia
Pilbara
(Cent-Kim Pilbara)
10.7 13.6 2.9 Tom Stephens
Midland 9.4 8.5 0.9 Michelle Roberts
Balcatta 9.4 9.8 0.4 John Kobelke
Mandurah 8.2 12.3 4.1 David Templeman
Mindarie 6.9 4.0 2.9 John Quigley
Kimberley 6.3 3.0 3.0 Carol Martin
Wanneroo 6.1 6.7 0.6 Dianne Guise
Southern River 5.0 11.8 6.8 Paul Andrews
Mount Lawley
(Yokine)
4.4 8.2 3.8 Bob Kucera
Jandakot 4.4 NEW SEAT
Joondalup 4.3 3.3 1.0 Tony O’Gorman
Forrestfield 4.0 NEW SEAT
Swan Hills 3.2 3.8 0.6 Jaye Radisich
North West
(NW Coastal)
3.2 3.7 0.5 Fred Riebeling
Riverton 1.8 1.7 0.1 Tony McRae
Ocean Reef 1.6 NEW SEAT
Bunbury 1.2 0.4 1.6 John Castrilli
Collie-Preston
(Coll-Well/Capel)
1.2 9.3
9.2
8.1
10.4
Mick Murray
Steve Thomas
Darling Range 0.6 3.2 3.8 John Day
Kalamunda 0.4 NEW SEAT
Coalition seats NEW OLD SHIFT LIKELY MEMBER
Kingsley 0.0 0.8 0.8 Judy Hughes
Scarborough 1.0 NEW SEAT
Dawesville 1.7 4.1 2.4 Kim Hames
Albany 2.3 1.4 3.7 Peter Watson
Geraldton 3.5 2.1 5.6 Shane Hill
Hillarys 3.7 4.2 0.5 Rob Johnson
Murray 6.3 0.8 5.5 Murray Cowper
Bateman
(Murdoch)
6.7 5.9 0.8 Trevor Sprigg
South Perth 7.4 5.8 1.6 John McGrath
Carine 7.8 4.7 3.1 Katie Hodson-Thomas
Goldfields
(Kalgoorlie)
8.4 9.6 1.2 Matt Birney
Vasse 9.6 vs IND ? Troy Buswell
Nedlands 10.0 8.4 1.6 Sue Walker
Eyre
(Roe)
13.9 vs NAT ? Graham Jacobs
Blackwood-Stirling
(Warren-Blackwood)
19.3 15.0 4.3 Paul Omodei
Moore 19.7 17.3 2.4 Gary Snook
Merredin 26.0 vs LIB ? Brendon Grylls
Wagin 26.0 28.4 2.4 Terry Waldron
Independent seats NEW OLD SHIFT MEMBER
Churchlands 10.1 ? ? Liz Constable
Alfred Cove 8.4 ? ? Janet Woollard
Abolished seats OLD MEMBER
Murchison-Eyre 8.1 John Bowler
Serpentine-Jarrahdale 1.2 Tony Simpson
Leschenault 7.7 Dan Sullivan
Avon 22.1 Max Trenorden
Greenough 1.3 (vs LIB) Grant Woodhams
Stirling 7.0 (vs LIB) Terry Redman

Kimberley. Inevitably, this electorate has extended into remote Aboriginal communities in the shires of Derby-West Kimerley and Halls Creek, improving Labor’s position for the addition of 564 Labor to 202 Liberal two-party votes. In 2005, Labor member Carol Martin’s margin was cut from 8.5 per cent to 3.3 per cent, or 590 votes. It should now be 5.0 per cent and 952 votes.

Pilbara. The seat formerly known as Central-Kimberley Pilbara gains Newman and a less cumbersome name. That boosts Labor by 233 votes, almost balancing out the aforementioned loss of Halls Creek and part of Derby-West Kimberley. Labor’s margin goes from 13.6 per cent to 12.2 per cent. Central Kimberley-Pilbara is held by Labor veteran Tom Stephens, who might be due for retirement at the next election.

North West. Takes in the entirety of North-West Coastal, held by Legislative Assembly Speaker Fred Riebeling, plus six shires further inland from Murchison-Eyre. The new voters from the latter area are a dead heat: 327 two-party votes each for Labor and Liberal in 2005. Riebeling’s margin was cut from 5.4 per cent to 3.7 per cent in 2004; it’s maybe 0.1 per cent or 0.2 per cent lower now.

Goldfields. A big-ticket item of the redistribution was how Kalgoorlie, held by former Liberal leader Matt Birney, was going to be dealt with. Most expected that those parts of Boulder that were in Murchison-Eyre would be added to Kalgoorlie, but not so: an amended version of the boundary between Kalgoorlie and Boulder is maintained, with five interior shires from Murchison-Eyre being added to Kalgoorlie to make up the new seat of Goldfields. This adds 444 Labor and 380 Liberal votes. Matt Birney’s margin in 2005 was 2024, so there doesn’t seem to be any insurmountable hurdle to him keeping the seat. Nonetheless, there are rumours that he has sought or attained party membership with a metropolitan branch.

Eyre. The southern part of the old Murchison-Eyre, including Boulder, plus Esperance and Ravensthorpe from Roe. The two areas are respectively extremely strong for Labor and the Coalition, but the latter heavily outweights the former. By my reckoning the margin is about 16 per cent, although that’s inflated by the Liberal-versus-Nationals focus on the contest for Roe in 2005. Graham Jacobs won Roe from the Nationals for the Liberals at that election, and looks the obvious candidate to hold Eyre.

Moore. Greenough has been abolished, in what Adam Carr in comments believes might be a first in WA’s electoral history. The Shire of Greenough has gone to make up the numbers in Geraldton; the rest is merged with the entirety of Moore, along with the shires of Dalwallinu and Perenjori from the north-west of Merredin. The seat should be a tight contest between the Liberals and the Nationals, the former being stronger in Moore and the latter stronger in Greenough.

Geraldton. Inevitably, Labor’s position in this marginal seat (they won by 2.7 per cent in 2001 and 2.1 per cent in 2005) has been undermined by the addition of rural territory beyond Geraldton, including the entirety of the Shire of Greenough. That adds 2588 votes from an area where Labor came third in 2005 with 23.6 per cent of the primary vote compared to the combined Coalition 64.5 per cent. By my rough reckoning, the Coalition would have won by 2.3 per cent in 2005. Coalition presumably means Liberal, although the Nationals gained Greenough from the Liberals at the last election.

Merredin. Moves westwards into abolished Avon, taking in Beverley, York and Northam, potentially created one Nationals seat from two.

Wagin. The abolition of Avon and Roe have respectively pulled this seat northward and eastward, and it also takes two shires from Merredin. Probably looms as the Nationals’ most secure seat.

Albany. A no-brainer, as our American partners in democracy say. The City of Albany provides the right number of voters, so those parts of the municipality that were in Stirling go to Albany. Labor’s only wins here in modern history were in 1971, 2001 and 2005; the last election cut the margin from 3.7 per cent to 1.4 per cent, or 358 votes. Of the 4997 new voters, only 21.6 per cent voted Labor, against a combined Coalition vote of 42.3 per cent. I’m calculating a Liberal margin of 3.1 per cent. For the record, these calculations use 50/50 preference splits and ignore non-booth votes, but they shouldn’t be too far wrong.

Blackwood-Stirling. This new seat gets a little over half of its voters from Liberal leader Paul Omodei’s seat of Warren-Blackwood. The most strongly Nationals-voting part of the Nationals-held seat of Stirling (splitting 65-35 in 2005) accounts for 38 per cent, the remainder coming from the Liberal-held seat of Wagin. Omodei is presumably safe, but the Nationals could win this under the right circumstances.

Vasse. The existing seat of Vasse, which runs along the Geographe Bay coast from Busselton west to Dunsborough, provides two-thirds of the voters in a seat that acquires rural territory to the south from Capel and Warren-Blackwood. The Nationals don’t really register here.

Collie-Preston. The Labor-voting coal mining town of Collie has been detached from the Wellington rural area in the north, which goes to Murray. The increased area of rural territory needed to make up the numbers has come with the absorption of most of Capel to the west, which presumably puts Labor member for Collie-Wellington Mick Murray on a collision course with ambitious Liberal Capel MP Steve Thomas. There are also nearly 4000 new voters from abolished Leschenault who split 58-42 in 2005. The numbers here are a bit hard to read, because the 6.7 per cent swing to Labor in Collie-Wellington in 2005 was widely credited to Murray’s personal popularity, but I calculate a Labor margin of just 0.8 per cent.

Bunbury. Bunbury was a bellwether seat until the last election, when a 0.6 per cent swing delivered it to the Liberals with a 0.4 per cent margin. The redistribution puts it back on Labor’s turf with the addition of the city’s outskirts from Capel in the south and Leschenault in the east (both abolished), producing a 1.3 per cent.

Murray. The existing electorate of Murray only provides 27 per cent of the vote in this seat, fewer than Collie-Wellington (37 per cent) and Leschenault (35 per cent). The Collie-Wellington voters come from the Liberal voting-end of that Labor-held seat, while the Leschenault votes split 58-42 the Liberals’ way in 2005. Add them all together and you’ve got a Liberal margin of around 6 per cent.

Dawesville. The existing electorate of Dawesville makes up the numbers with the addition of an urban area on the Mandurah (northern) side of the Dawesville Estuary. This area split 60/40 Labor’s way in 2005, which is bad news for Liberal member Kim Hames, who loses 3.8 per cent from his 4.1 per cent margin.

Mandurah. Mandurah was held by the Liberals as recently as 2001, but swings (possibly boosted by the Perth to Mandurah railway project) and redistributions blew the margin out to 12.3 per cent in 2005. With the aforementioned loss of territory to Dawesville, old Mandurah provides the new with only half its voters. The rest come from a move into the most populous (north-western) end of Murray, a seat the Liberals gained from Labor in 2005. The area that moves to Mandurah split 52.3-47.7 Labor’s way, so Labor’s overall margin is cut to about 8 per cent.

Southern coastal suburbs. Where formerly there were five safe Labor seats north of Mandurah up to Fremantle Harbour, there are now six. Peel has been abolished, making way for the new Kwinana and Warnbro.

Alfred Cove. A naturally blue-ribbon Liberal seat held by independent Janet Woollard. The only change to the electorate is the removal of a strip of territory immediately north of Leach Highway. The change cuts both ways for Woollard. On the one hand, the area she has lost was relatively strong for her in 2005, splitting 61-38 compared with 54-45 for the remainder. On the other, this area is stronger for Labor than the riverside areas in the north, and her first hurdle for election is overcoming the Labor candidate to win second place. In 2005, she led Labor 30.6 per cent to 27.5 per cent at the second-last exclusion.

Southern suburbs. Inland of the Labor-voting southern coastal strip is a mixed area south of the Canning River. At present, this is filled by Murdoch, quite safe for the Liberals; Armadale and Southern River, both safe for Labor; knife-edge Riverton; and the northern part of Liberal-held Serpentine-Jarrahdale. In this area, Murdoch is succeeded by Bateman; Jandakot takes in various bits and pieces and has a Labor margin of about 4 per cent; Riverton is little changed, with a Labor margin of 1.5 per cent; Southern River sees Labor’s margin severely cut, from 11.8 per cent to about 3.5 per cent; Armadale remains safe for Labor.

Eastern outskirts. At present, Perth’s eastern and south-eastern hinterland is covered by (from north to south) Swan Hills, Darling Range and Serpentine-Jarrahdale. These are respectively 3.8 per cent Labor, 3.2 per cent Liberal and 1.2 per cent Liberal. This area has been rearranged so that Kalamunda takes the area nearest the city; the area behind it is divided between Swan Hills and Darling Range, with Serpentine-Jarrahdale abolished. Every one of the new seats is marginal Labor, making this area a crucial battleground for the next election.

Inner eastern suburbs. It’s here that Labor hits paydirt. Formerly, six safe Labor seats accounted for Perth’s lower-income inner eastern suburbs (from north to south): Ballajura (13.5 per cent), Bassendean (13.7 per cent), Midland (8.5 per cent), Belmont (10.8 per cent), Victoria Park (16.0 per cent) and Kenwick (13.6 per cent). There are now 10 seats covering this area, the only winnable one for the Liberals being Forrestfield, where Antony Green calculates a notional Labor margin of 4.0 per cent.

Northern coastal suburbs. Currently, the area from Whitfords Avenue south to the river contains four coastal suburbs, Hillarys (Liberal 4.2%), Carine (Liberal 4.7%), Churchlands (a naturally Liberal seat held securely by independent Liz Constable) and Cottesloe (Liberal 11.7%), along with the riverside inner west seat of Nedlands (Liberal 8.4%). The redistribution adds Scarborough as the middle layer of a five-seat coastal pancake, squashing Churchlands into northern Cottesloe and Nedlands and Carine north into Hillarys. Antony Green calculates a Liberal margin of 1.0 per cent in the new seat.

Inner city. The city and the area to the north and east were formerly covered by four Labor-held seats: Perth (12.0 per cent), Maylands (16.5 per cent) to the east, and Balcatta (9.8 per cent) and Yokine (8.2 per cent) to the north. The redistribution creates the marginally Labor new seat of Mount Lawley in the middle of the mix, partly from the less safe Labor southern end of Yokine, the remainder of which forms the basis of the very safe new Labor seat of Nollamara.

Outer northern suburbs. The area between Lake Joondalup and the ocean, formerly covered by Mindarie and Joondalup, has been redrawn to create the new seat of Ocean Reef, which deprives Joondalup of its coastal area. This results in a slight strengthening for Labor in Joondalup, which it holds by 3.3 per cent, leaving it with a very narrow margin in Ocean Reef. The new Mindarie takes over the semi-rural part of Wanneroo, adding about 2 per cent to an existing Labor margin of 4.0 per cent. Wanneroo keeps its Labor margin of around 6 per cent. The truncation of Kingsley at both the northern and southern ends makes a small but very significant cut into Labor’s 0.8 per cent margin in the only seat it gained in 2005; the relatively Labor-leaning southern end is now wasted in already safe Girrawheen.

South Perth. This one got lost in the mix. A safe Liberal riverside seat that inevitably loses some territory in its Labor-voting east, giving an unnecessary boost to the margin.

Drawing the lines

The South Australian Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission has today unveiled its draft redistribution of state electoral boundaries, to take effect when the next election is held on March 20, 2010. South Australian redistributions tend not to be greatly momentous, as they are conducted every term. Their other distinguishing feature is that the commissioners are obliged to meet the demands of "electoral fairness", which they endeavour to achieve through boundaries that will deliver a majority to the side of politics that wins the majority of the two-party preferred vote, assuming a uniform swing. Since Labor won 56.8 per cent of the two-party vote in last year’s election, and the Labor side was deemed to have won 30 of the lower house’s 47 seats (including the independent-held seats of Mitchell and Fisher, more on which shortly), their objective was to produce boundaries in which seven seats on the Labor side would fall in the event of a 6.9 per cent swing.

This of course requires the commissioners to work around the vote for independents and minor parties, which in the South Australian context includes the Nationals. This was done by re-calculating preference distributions in seats that did not produce Labor-versus-Liberal two-party results, so that Labor and Liberal candidates were not eliminated at earlier points in the count. On this basis, the independent-held seats of Mitchell and Fisher respectively produced Labor margins of 14.7 per cent and 8.5 per cent, while Mount Gambier produced a Liberal margin of 6.1 per cent. A re-calculation was also necessary in the Nationals’ sole seat of Chaffey as the final two-party result was between the Nationals and Liberal candidates; it produced a Liberal majority over Labor of 21.9 per cent. The Liberal Party’s submission to the commission argued that Chaffey and Mount Gambier should be treated as Labor seats on the grounds that their members, Karlene Maywald and Rory McEwen, have been part of Mike Rann’s cabinet since the pre-election period when Labor did not have a parliamentary majority. If the commission had agreed to this, it would have been required to bring the margins in two extra Labor seats below the level where a uniform swing would have given the Liberals a two-party preferred majority. Since both seats are overwhelmingly conservative by nature, the commission was quite right to reject this self-serving proposal.

Based on the result of last year’s election, the Liberals would have needed a uniform swing of 9.5 per cent rather than 6.9 per cent to win seven seats and government, so the commissioners needed to cut the Labor margins in Bright (9.5 per cent), Morialta (8.0 per cent) and Newland (6.9 per cent) to bring them below the latter figure. To this end, it has been proposed that Bright move north along the coast to take in North Brighton and the southern part of Somerton Park from the Glenelg-based Liberal seat of Morphett, while the industrial area of Lonsdale and the Labor stronghold of O’Sullivan Beach to the south will be transferred to Kaurna. This has cut the Labor margin by 2.6 per cent, making sitting member Chloe Fox the redistribution’s biggest loser. Morialta combines Labor-voting outer eastern suburbs with lightly populated conservative territory in the Adelaide Hills beyond – here the margin has been cut to 6.8 per cent through a transfer at the suburb of Paradise to Hartley in the west, while in the south a stretch of hills territory from Skye east to Basket Range has been added from Bragg and Heysen. Newland, which is immediately to the north of Morialta, has been pulled eastwards into Upper Hermitage, Lower Hermitage and Paracombe by population growth in the outer suburbs, which has done the commission’s job for it by cutting the Labor margin from 6.9 per cent to 5.2 per cent. The Labor members to suffer from these changes are Lindsay Simmons in Morialta and Tom Kenyon in Newland.

Other amendments have been driven by changes in the population distribution, and are only of political interest at the bottom end of the pendulum. The eastern inner-city seat of Norwood, which produced a markedly below-average swing to Labor at the election, has expanded south-eastwards to take Kensington from the safe Liberal seat of Bragg, cutting the Labor margin by a potentially significant 0.6 per cent. There is better news for Labor in Hartley, where Grace Portolesi defeated Liberal member Joe Scalzi last year. The aforementioned transfer at Paradise from Morialta has expanded the electorate’s Labor-voting northern end, while a part of the Liberal-voting southern end at Kensington Gardens will now be wasted for the Liberals in Bragg. The Gawler-based seat of Light, won for Labor at last year’s election by Tony Piccolo with a margin of 2.6 per cent, has been trimmed in three places due to population growth, adding 0.2 per cent to the Labor margin. The other significant marginals, Liberal-held Stuart and Labor-held Mawson, have respectively been changed very little and not at all.

These proposals will now go through a public consultation process, for which the deadline for submissions is 5pm on Monday, February 26.

UPDATE: Greg Kelton from The Advertiser’s take on this is that "Labor’s chances of staying in power at the 2010 state election have been bolstered by changes to electoral boundaries". Further, a "senior Labor source" is quoted describing the redistribution as "a disaster for the Liberals". This conclusion is reached mostly on the basis that Liberal MP Graham Gunn’s seat of Stuart has been made "even more marginal", and is thus "almost certain to go to Labor" when he takes his personal vote into retirement with him at the next election. This highlights a source of confusion that I had glossed over in the above post. Appendix 9 of the draft report tells us that these supposedly calamitous changes to Stuart affect a grand total of 33 voters, in Oodnadatta and William Creek. However, Appendix 11 tells us that the margin in Stuart has indeed been cut from 0.7 per cent to 0.4 per cent. Similarly, other seats that are mooted as being unchanged in Appendix 9 – Mawson, for example – are listed with altered margins two appendices later (Mawson having gone from 2.3 per cent to 2.7 per cent). Unless someone can explain this to me in the next few days, I will attempt to get an explanation from the State Electoral Office on Monday.

FURTHER UPDATE: Antony Green (who else?) has the answers in comments. It turns out that the commissioners must go so far as to project the electoral impact of population trends over the next three years in calculating a "fair" outcome (which in this case go against the grain of the last election, when the Liberal vote held up remarkably well in Stuart). So Kelton is wrong to say the redistribution has significantly harmed the Liberals in Stuart. Antony makes another point that occurred to me: this system punishes marginal seat holders who do their job well and build up a personal following by taking their gains away from them, the very popular Chloe Fox being a case in point.

Also from Greg Kelton comes an opinion piece reporting a "strong feeling among political observers" that "the time has come for a new system". This is a defensible proposition as far as it goes, but most of the assertions that follow are head-scratchers of one type or another. To deal with them in turn:

• The present system of redistributions following each election is "resulting in many MPs not living within their respective electorates or having to change addresses every three years". This sounds at best like an exaggeration. The current redistribution affects about 60,000 out of a little over 1 million voters, or 5.7 per cent of the total. On this basis, the likelihood is that two or three sitting members will be moved a very short distance out of the electorates they represent. If party rules make this a problem (there is no law demanding that MPs live in their own electorates), they should probably be relaxed.

• The "consensus" is that the Electoral Reform Society’s proposal for seven multi-member electorates chosen by proportional representation "would be much fairer". Coming from anyone other than The Advertiser, this assertion would not cause my eyebrows to raise quite so. But this is the paper which in November 2005 editorialised in favour of abolition of the upper house, saying those who believed in "checks and balances, particularly in the form of minor parties and independents" were suffering a "fundamental misunderstanding of the strength of our democratic system", having failed to notice that elections were held every four years. It now proposes that those checks and balances be duplicated in the other chamber.

• Under such a system, "boundaries would not have to be redrawn after each election". Why ever not? The capital’s share of the state’s total population will continue to grow, and that of remote areas will continue to decline. It would accordingly be necessary to redraw the boundaries of the proposed seven regions so equality of representation was maintained.

• "A Liberal voter who lives in Treasurer Kevin Foley’s electorate of Port Adelaide might as well not bother voting because he has no chance of getting a Liberal candidate up in the area. The same applies to a Labor voter in the safe eastern suburbs seat of Bragg". This is at best partly true, so long as those voters also have an upper house to elect. Furthermore, complacent, corrupt or incompetent members in safe seats can be dumped in favour of independents. The threat of this occurring gives members an incentive to observe minimum standards of performance, and parties to withdraw endorsement from those who fail to meet them.

• "The major parties oppose multi-member electorates because it would end the system of putting party loyalists into Parliament and it would give minor parties a much better chance of winning seats". South Australia’s upper house, which the aforementioned Advertiser editorial told us was "a haven for underperformers, union hacks and those gripped with the politics of self-delusion and self-importance", is elected from just such a system. In fairness though, the Electoral Reform Society model under discussion proposes rotating ballot papers that would avoid the problem of unloseable positions for party favourites at the top of the ticket, although Kelton neglects to explain this (presumably being mindful of the need to avoiding boring his readers senseless with technical minutiae of the type that is the Poll Bludger’s stock in trade). It would however create a more complex voting system and a sharp upturn in the informal vote.