Redistribution

2020 South Australian Redistribution – Release of Draft Boundaries

Last Friday saw the much anticipated release of draft state electoral boundaries for South Australia.

I say anticipated because the redistribution was the first held since the Weatherill Labor government repealed the state’s electoral fairness provision in late 2017. The repeal was the government’s last legislative measure before losing office.

Would the new boundaries be drawn with no attention paid to fairness, undermining the Liberal government’s electoral position and paving the way for a Labor victory at the 2022 election? Once released, it became clear the short answer was no, the long answer more complex and well worth a blog post..

Without an overriding fairness provision, the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission did not repeat its exercise of four years ago in drawing boundaries that sacrificed the principle (though not legal definition) of enrolment equality in favour of electoral fairness.

Against Labor’s hopes, the Commission did not entirely abandon fairness arguments. But it could no longer use fairness to dismiss other criteria set down in the Constitution for drawing electoral boundaries .

In summary, the new boundaries retain the existing two-party division of the House of Assembly where, not including elected Independents, there are 27 underlying Liberal electorates to 20 for Labor.

However, on the new boundaries, the Liberal Party has more marginal seats and the uniform swing to lose office is reduced. The big loser of the redistribution is Independent MP Geoff Brock, whose regional seat of Frome has been dismembered to solve enrolment shortfalls in country districts.Read More »2020 South Australian Redistribution – Release of Draft Boundaries

ABS Population Statistics Confirm Changes in House Representation

(Update 3 July – the determination by the Australian Electoral Commissioner has been published confirming that Victoria will gain a seat and Western Australia and the Northern Territory lose seats. Details here.)

The Australian Bureau of Statistic’s national population report, released this morning, confirms the expected changes to state and territory representation for the next election.

The statistics confirm that Victoria will gain a 39th seat in the House of Representatives, Western Australia will lose the 16th seat it gained in 2016, and the Northern Territory will lose the second member it has elected since 2001.

The statistics in this morning’s report, for the December 2019 quarter, will now be used by the Australian Electoral Commissioner to make a formal determination on 3 July setting down the number of members to be elected from each state and territory at the next election.

When implemented, the changes will reduce the size of the House of Representatives from 151 to 150 seats and begin the process of electoral boundary re-drawing in Victoria and Western Australia. In the case of the Northern Territory, the existing seats of Lingiari and Solomon will be merged as a single seat with revived name Northern Territory.

However, a bill has been moved in the Senate designed to save the Northern Territory’s second seat. While the Constitution determines the allocation of members to states, representation for the territories is determined by legislation and can be changed by parliament.

I have published two recent posts on the allocation of House of Representatives seats. The first deals with the constitutional law around state representation, the second with territory representation including some suggestions on changes that can be made to the formula for territory representation.

My calculations of the seat entitlements based on this morning’s ABS report are shown below. Update – the table below has been updated with the Electoral Commissioner’s official determination.Read More »ABS Population Statistics Confirm Changes in House Representation

2020 Apportionment of Seats: Part 3 – Changing the Formula for States

(Update 3 July – the determination has been published confirming that Victoria will gain a seat and Western Australia and the Northern Territory lose seats. Details here.)

On 3 July, Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers will issue his determination on how many electorates will be contested and representatives elected for each state and territory at the next federal election. The determination will be based on Australian Bureau of Statistics population statistics to be released this week.

Based on population trends, it is expected that Victoria will gain a seat to 39 seats, and Western Australia will lose the 16th seat it gained in 2016. More controversially, the Northern Territory will lose the second member it has elected at every election since 2001.

This is the third of three posts on the subject of apportioning seats to states and territories under Australian constitutional and electoral law.

The first post looked at the constitutional allocation of seats to states under Section 24 of the Constitution, how the current formula works, past attempts to change the formula, and how past High Court cases have interpreted the workings of Section 24.

The second looked at the constitutional basis and history of territory representation. As I explain in the post, the allocation of seats to the territories is governed by legislation, not the constitution. The Parliament can change the territory allocation formula, and I propose that it should be changed to use what is known as Dean’s method. This would provide a fairer and more stable method of allocating seats than the current formula, though it would not guarantee the Northern Territory two seats into the future.

A private member’s bill has been introduced in the Senate to guarantee a minimum two seats for the Northern Territory. The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has launched an inquiry into the bill with submissions closing on 10 July. You can find details of the inquiry here.

In this post I will re-cap the US apportionment methods I discussed in my post on the territories and ask whether they could also be applied to the Australian states without risking the wrath of the High Court. In short my findings are that across 26 Australian apportionments since Federation, Dean’s method would have added one seat to one state at one of the 26 apportionments, one change out of 416 state allocations.

For this reason I argue that switching formula to adopt Dean’s method would meet the tests for changing the constitutional formula discussed in McKellar’s case (1977). (See me first post for details). It can be argued that Dean’s method, by minimising the difference between the average enrolment in each state and the national quota, provides a more proportional method than the variant of Webster’s method set out in Section 24 of the constitution.

Read More »2020 Apportionment of Seats: Part 3 – Changing the Formula for States

2020 Apportionment of Seats: Part 2 – Allocating to the Territories

(Update 3 July – the determination has been published confirming that Victoria will gain a seat and Western Australia and the Northern Territory lose seats. Details here.)

On 3 July, Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers will issue his determination on how many representatives (seats) each state and territory will have at the next federal election.

As the numbers stand, it is expected that Victoria will gain a seat to 39 seats, and Western Australia will lose the 16th seat it gained in 2016. Most controversially, the Northern Territory will lose the second seat it has had since 2001.

This is the second of three posts on Australian apportionment. The first post looked at the constitutional allocation of seats to states under Section 24 of the Constitution, how the current formula works, past attempts to change the formula, and how past High Court cases have interpreted the workings of Section 24.

In this post I concentrate on the constitutional basis and history of territory representation, and in what ways Territories are treated differently from the states in allocating seats.

The Labor Party is proposing a bill to save the NT’s second seat by legislating that the Northern Territory have a minimum of two seats. The NT’s Country Liberal Party has expressed some support for the idea. As was the case with a similar bill when the NT’s second seat was marked for abolition in 2003, the bill will be the catalyst for a more detailed discussion of the issue.

In my opinion, it would be better to change the formula as it applies to the territories rather than return to fixing the number of seats. In technical terms, my proposal is that the allocation of extra seats should be determined by rounding at the harmonic mean of two alternate allocations rather than the current arithmetic mean. In the case of the Northern Territory, that would involve allocating a second seat if the quota calculation is above 1.33 rather than the current 1.50. This would almost certainly save the NT’s second seat for the next election.

If you don’t have time to read through all the detail in this post, click here to go to the tables showing how the proposed change formula would have applied to the NT and ACT at apportionments since 1991.
Read More »2020 Apportionment of Seats: Part 2 – Allocating to the Territories

2020 Apportionment of Seats: Part 1 – Allocating to the States

(Update 3 July – the determination has been published confirming that Victoria will gain a seat and Western Australia and the Northern Territory lose seats. Details here.)

On 3 July, Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers will issue his determination on how many electorates will be contested and representatives elected for each state and territory at the next federal election.

As the numbers stand, it is expected that Victoria will gain a seat to 39 seats, and Western Australia will lose the 16th seat it gained in 2016. Most controversially, the Northern Territory will lose the second member it has elected since 2001.

This is the first of three posts on the subject of apportioning seats to states and territories under Australian constitutional and electoral law. This first post will look at the constitutional allocation of seats to states under Section 24 of the Constitution, how the current formula works, past attempts to change the formula, and how past High Court cases have interpreted the workings of Section 24.

A second post will look at how seats are allocated to territories and the different constitutional origins of territory representation.

The final post, for those who already know the background, will be devoted to possible changes to the apportionment formula, drawing on the extensive history of apportionment in the United States.
Read More »2020 Apportionment of Seats: Part 1 – Allocating to the States

2019 Northern Territory Redistribution

(UPDATE: My guide to the 2020 Northern Territory Election has now been published on the ABC Election website.)

The Northern Territory goes to the polls on 22 August this year with the Gunner Labor government seeking re-election against the backdrop of a stagnant local economy and problems with the Territory’s public finances.

While this will be a tough environment for a first term government, Labor is helped by the weakened state of the opposition Country Liberal Party after its spectacular ejection from office in 2016.

The 2020 election will be fought on new electoral boundaries released last September. On paper the boundaries cost Labor a seat, but also boost the party’s prospects in two marginal seats.

But margins matter little in the Northern Territory given the average enrolment per electorate is only 5,500. This creates geographically huge electorates in the sparsely populated outback, but tiny seats of a few dozen streets in Darwin and Palmerston. Candidate profile is as important as party vote in determining who wins seats in the Northern Territory, especially after redistributions.
Read More »2019 Northern Territory Redistribution

The Growing Weight of Country and Remote Votes in the WA Legislative Council

In my last post I published an analysis of the new state electoral boundaries for Western Australia. The boundaries were drawn on one-vote one-value principles, a signature reform introduced by the Gallop government in 2005, and one that helped deliver Labor a record majority at the 2017 election. (see this post)

The unfinished business of the 2005 reforms was the Legislative Council. One-vote one-value only applied to the Legislative Assembly, the state’s lower house. It undid a two-to-one  weighting against Perth that had applied since 1989, but left in place a three-to-one weighting in the Legislative Council, the state’s upper house.

In 2005, Labor and the Greens could not agree on a reform model for the Legislative Council. As part of the deal for lower house reform, the Greens wanted the existing six regions retained, but with six member per region instead of the existing five and seven member regions. This left in place the three-to-one weight against Perth, but added a new bias to the system by increasing the weight of votes in Agricultural Region and Mining and Pastoral Region at the expense of South West Region. At the 2017 election, a vote in Mining and Pastoral Region carried seven times the weight of a vote in Perth, a weighting that can only increase at future elections.

Read More »The Growing Weight of Country and Remote Votes in the WA Legislative Council

2019 Western Australian State Redistribution

The landscape for the next Western Australian election has been finalised this morning with the Electoral Boundaries Commission releasing the new boundaries that will apply at the next election.

With the state’s population growth having slowed since the height of the mining boom, the scale of the changes wrought by the redistribution are much smaller than those produced by the last re-draw in 2015.

Despite population growth being concentrated in Perth and the south-west, the Commission has not repeated its 2015 decision to abolish a rural seat and create a new district in Perth. This means that 38 of the 43 seats in Perth have an above average enrolment.

On paper the boundaries increase the McGowan government’s hold on office, increasing the uniform swing needed for a change of government.

This post was updated, 28 November, with more information and adjusted margins for Hillarys and Joondalup.
My publication on the redistribution for the WA Parliamentary Library is now available at this link.
Read More »2019 Western Australian State Redistribution