When will the next Federal Election be? Will it be early?

With an agreement reached between Labor and the Greens to pass the government’s housing legislation, even the remotest prospect of an early double dissolution election has vanished.

The only way for a joint House and Senate election to be held before August 2024 was via a double dissolution election. With that already unlikely option now removed, an election before August 2024 is only possible if Anthony Albanese breaks with 50 years of Prime Ministerial tradition and holds separate House and half-Senate elections.

In theory a House election can be called at any time, but as has been the case at every election since 1974, the next House elections will be held in conjunction with the next half-Senate election due at latest in May 2025.

Fixed terms and a constitutional restrictions mean that writs for a half-Senate election cannot be issued until 1 July in the year before a Senate term expires. This restriction creates an election window between August and May every three years.

The next election window opens on Saturday 3 August 2024, the first possible date for an election if writs are issued on 1 July. The election window will stay open until mid-May 2025, the last date being 17 or 24 May.

There remains a chance the government could go to a House and half-Senate election between August and October 2024. But the option is unlikely due to redistributions and a series of state and territory elections. Everything points to the government going full term to May 2025.

Of course, events over the next 20 months could unfold differently. And if they do, the election could arrive earlier than April-May 2025.
Read More »When will the next Federal Election be? Will it be early?

How many Voters mark Referendum Ballot Papers with a Cross? Not many based on evidence.

Finding – in 2009 WA held a referendum on daylight saving. A one-box ballot paper similar to the Federal referendum ballot was used and the formality rules on ticks and crosses were exactly the same. Out of 1,148,853 ballot papers, just 199 were marked with a single cross and declared informal, a rate of just 0.02%.

And in addition – as I explain later in the post, the ticks and crosses issue arises because parliament hasn’t acted to clarify the law.

At ‘The Voice’ referendum, how many people will be confused by the referendum ballot paper? The instructions are very clear to write “Yes” or “No”, but how many are going to be confused and instead use a tick or a cross?

This has become an issue because the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act states that where a voter has not written Yes or No, the ballot paper will be assessed for intent.

Unlike NSW electoral law, the Referendum Act doesn’t provide specific guidance on how to deal with ticks and crosses. The Referendum Act was amended earlier this year to deal with ballots marked with ‘Y’ or ‘N’, but everything else is still left to assessment of intent.

On the Australian Electoral Commission’s legal advice, the intent provision means a tick is a sign of agreement and will be counted as a Yes, but a cross is ambiguous in intent and will be treated as informal. This is the same ruling that applied at four referendums in 1988 and two in 1999.

Parliament could have amended the Act at any time in the last 35 years to address ticks and crosses, as NSW has done four times in the same period. But the politicians haven’t addressed it and now some attack the Electoral Commissioner, despite him simply applying the law as written by politicians, and despite using the same rules as applied by commissioners going back to the 1980s.

This morning “The Guardian” reports a field director for Fair Australia as saying that crosses could account for up to 5% of the vote being discounted.

This is a ridiculous figure in my experience. Due to preferential voting, Australia is devoid of ballot papers with instructions to use a tick or a cross.Read More »How many Voters mark Referendum Ballot Papers with a Cross? Not many based on evidence.

A Quick and Easy Referendum Voting Guide

(Update – the writ for the referendum was issued on Monday 11 September and you can now apply for a postal vote through the AEC website. The electoral roll will close on Monday 18 September.)

Over the last fortnight I have read several referendum voting guides that are over-long, over-complicated and in some cases downright confusing.

What needs to be understood is that the process of turning up to vote at a referendum is exactly the same as at a general election.

With one single exception – a different ballot paper is used.

All the options on when, where and by what method you vote are identical to last year’s Federal election.

In this post I am not addressing whether you should vote for or against the referendum. Every household in the country has been sent a guide to the referendum including the official Yes and No cases. The media and internet are full of information about the referendum and its consequences, though not all of the information is accurate.

In this post I’m trying to de-mystify the process with a simple FAQ about voting at the referendum.

Let me start with the only real difference in the process – the ballot paper and how to complete it.Read More »A Quick and Easy Referendum Voting Guide

Northern Territory Redistribution – Draft Boundaries take 2

UPDATE: A very embarrassing “administrative oversight” means that the release of the final boundaries, due in September, has had to be abandoned. Notices for the earlier stages of the redistribution were not gazetted as required by the Electoral Act. The NT Solicitor’s office has advised that the process must begin again. It seems unlikely that this will substantially alter the boundaries drawn under the now abandoned process, but it is embarrassing and means the boundaries to be used for the 2024 election won’t be finalised until the new year.

The timeline for the initial stages of the re-started process is –

  • Public suggestions open (30 days) – Monday 11 September 2023
  • Public suggestions close – Wednesday 11 October 2023
  • Comments on suggestions received open (14 days) – Thursday 12 October 2023
  • Comments on suggestions received close – Thursday 26 October 2023
  • First proposed redistribution released – Monday 30 October 2023
  • Objections to first proposed redistribution open (30 days) – Monday 30 October 2023
  • Objections against first proposed redistribution close – Wednesday 29 November 2023

The original commentary on the second draft is inside this post.
Read More »Northern Territory Redistribution – Draft Boundaries take 2

Pauline Hanson Deposes Mark Latham as NSW Leader

UPDATE 22 August: NSW MLCs Mark Latham and Rod Roberts have announced their resignation from One Nation. They will continue to sit in the NSW Legislative Council but as Independents. Recently appointed Tania Mihailuk will remain a One Nation member. Tables in this post have been updated to reflect today’s events.

As has happened so often in the past, Pauline Hanson has fallen out with other MPs that represent One Nation.

Hanson has deposed One Nation’s NSW state executive and announced that Mark Latham is no longer the party’s state leader. This has led to Latham and Roberts resigning from the party.

Let me run through a series of question on where this dispute will go, and also the remarkable history of MPs leaving One Nation after falling out with Hanson and her backers.Read More »Pauline Hanson Deposes Mark Latham as NSW Leader

Prospects for the Federal Redistribution in NSW

Caveat 27 July – This post was one I was unable to complete before I left for overseas at the end of June. I am publishing it here in partly completed form as I believe the changes to state representation in the House of Representatives could be released as early as today. I hope to update this post next week after I return from overseas.

In brief – The determination of House seats to be released by the Electoral Commissioner in the next week will see NSW lose a seat at the next Federal election, reduced from 47 to 46 seats. High growth rates on Sydney’s south-west fringe makes it likely a seat will be abolished in Sydney’s middle distance suburbs, possibly on the North Shore where all seats are well under quota. Abolishing a Sydney seat would draw the seat of Hume into south-west Sydney.

Another possibility is that two seats will be abolished, one in Sydney, one in the country with Hume pulled out of the metropolitan area and a new seat created on Sydney’s south-west fringe.

The redistribution will have major political consequences for both sides of politics as well as the independents.

For the Liberal Party, Bradfield (Paul Fetcher), Berowra (Julian Leeser) and Mitchell (Alex Hawke) will undergo major boundary changes, and one of these seats may even be abolished. Hughes (Jenny Ware) in Sydney’s south may be moved significantly into Sydney’s south-west suburbs. The rural seats of Farrer (Sussan Ley) may undergo major changes, and there is a chance that Hume (Angus Taylor) could be pulled into outer Sydney suburbs around Campbelltown. In between these two seats, the National seat of Riverina (Michael McCormack) may be forced to adopt new boundaries.

For Labor, any seat abolished on Sydney’s north shore would have major implications for Bennelong (Jerome Laxale), Parramatta (Andrew Charlton) and Greenway (Michelle Rowland).

North Sydney (Kylea Tink) is certain to have major changes flowing on from adjustments required to increase enrolments for the coastal seats of Mackellar (Sophie Scamps) and Warringah (Zali Steggall). Distance from the coast mean that the boundaries for Fowler (Dai Le) are likely to undergo major change.
Read More »Prospects for the Federal Redistribution in NSW

Prospects for the Federal Redistribution in Victoria

In brief – Victoria will lose a seat at the next Federal election. After gaining a 39th seat for the 2022 election, a relative decline in Victoria’s population sees the state revert to 38 seats. The two year shut down of immigration combined with on-going internal migration of Victorians to other states is behind the state losing a seat.

But with only three years since the last redistribution, there are no hot spots of enrolment growth that make it obvious which seat will disappear. It seems most likely that a Melbourne seat will be abolished, maybe east of the Yarra given population growth is higher to the west. But as is always the case, abolishing a metropolitan seat will have major consequences for seats across large parts of Melbourne.

Why will there be a Redistribution?

One year after every Federal election, the Australian Electoral Commissioner is required to make a determination on how many House of Representatives members each state will elect at the next election.

Commissioner Tom Rogers will make that determination in the last week of July. The determination will be made based on the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) quarterly population statistics. The latest population figures by state and territory, for the fourth quarter of 2022, were published on Thursday 15 June.

The Commissioner has no personal choice in making the determination. The method is strictly defined in law. For states the Commissioner will apply the formula set out in Section 24 of the Constitution. For the Territories the Commissioner will use the formula set out in the Electoral Act. The Constitution also states that the Commissioner will use the “latest statistics of the Commonwealth”, a phrase the High Court and Parliament has determined will be the quarterly population statistics, that is Thursday’s ABS release.

(I’ve published a post explaining how seats are allocated to states and why they are changing at the next election.)

The published figures show Victoria will lose a seat, as will New South Wales. Western Australia will gain a seat. (see my related post on the Western Australian federal redistribution). The House of Representatives will be reduced from 151 to 150 seats at the next election.

Change in a state’ entitlement triggers a redistribution with new boundaries drawn to match the new allocation of members. In this post I will run through where the redistribution could have greatest impact on Victorian seats.

(Note: happy to add comments with people’s views on how the new boundaries might be drawn.)
Read More »Prospects for the Federal Redistribution in Victoria

ABS Population Statistics confirm WA to gain a new House seat, Victoria and NSW to lose seats

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released state population figures this morning that confirm a change in seat numbers for three states at the next Federal election.

New South Wales representation will be reduced from 47 to 46 seats, Victoria reduced from 39 to 38 seats, while Western Australia will gain a seat, increasing from 15 to 16 seats.

Other jurisdictions remain unchanged, Queensland with 30 seats, South Australia 10, Tasmania five, Australian Capital Territory three and Northern Territory two.

The next election will be for a 150 member House of Representatives, down one from the current 151 seats.

The current elected members per state remain unchanged until the next election, due between August 2024 and May 2025. Redistributions will take place in the three affected states to bring the number of electoral divisions in line with the change in allocated members.

The change in numbers will become official in the last week of July, one year after the first sitting of the current House of Representatives, when the Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers issues a formal determination of House representation by state and territory.

Commissioner Rogers has no personal choice in making the determination as the method is strictly defined in law. For states the Commissioner will apply the formula set out in Section 24 of the Constitution. For the Territories the Commissioner will use the formula set out in the Electoral Act. The Constitution also states that the Commissioner will use the “latest statistics of the Commonwealth”, a phrase the High Court and Parliament has determined will be the quarterly population statistics, that is today’s ABS release.

The precise calculations around how seats are allocated is explained inside this post.

Once the new numbers are officially announced at the end of July, redistributions to implement the changed seat numbers will get underway in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia. Based on past redistribution timelines, the process of drawing new boundaries should be completed by early July 2024, in time for use at the next election.

The changes in Victoria and Western Australia reverse changed numbers that first applied at the 2022 election.

For NSW, the reduction to 46 continues a long term trend. When the parliament was increased in size in 1984, 51 of the 148 seats were in NSW. The state lost seats at the 1993, 2007, 2010 and 2016 elections.

The latest changes have come about because of changes in relative state populations. The populations of NSW and Victoria have been growing more slowly than other state, meaning both states declined relative to other states. In large part this has come about because of the two year halt to immigration, ending the usual large migrant inflow to the nation’s two largest states. Despite closing its state border in the same period, over three full years Western Australia has been a beneficiary of internal migration from other states.
Read More »ABS Population Statistics confirm WA to gain a new House seat, Victoria and NSW to lose seats

Prospects for the Federal Redistribution in Western Australia

In brief – Western Australia will gain a 16th seat for the next Federal election. A redistribution drawing boundaries for 16 seats will begin later this year. Current enrolments mean that most of the state’s current districts will need to shed electors. The geography of the state points to the new seat being created in Perth’s east.

Why will there be a Redistribution?

One year after every Federal election, the Australian Electoral Commissioner is required to make a determination on how many House of Representatives members each state will elect at the next election.

Commissioner Tom Rogers will make that determination in the last week of July. The determination will be made based on the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) quarterly population statistics. The latest population figures by state and territory, for the fourth quarter of 2022, will be released on Thursday this week.

The Commissioner has no personal choice in making the determination. The method is strictly defined in law. For states the Commissioner will apply the formula set out in Section 24 of the Constitution. For the Territories the Commissioner will use the formula set out in the Electoral Act. The Constitution also states that the Commissioner will use the “latest statistics of the Commonwealth”, a phrase the High Court and Parliament has determined will be the quarterly population statistics, that is Thursday’s ABS release.

(Update: After release of the ABS statistics, I have published a post setting out in full the formula allocating representation to states.)

Based on the trend in quarterly population statistics since 2020, it is certain that Western Australia will gain a seat with both Victoria and New South Wales set to lose a seat. Queensland is close to gaining a seat, but whether it does will depend on Thursday’s release. If Queensland’s numbers are unchanged, the changes in other states will reduce the House of Representatives from 151 to 150 seats at the next election.

Any change in seat entitlement for a state triggers a redistribution drawing boundaries for the new allocation of seats.

In this post I will concentrate on how the redistribution could unfold in Western Australia with posts on other states to follow in the next few days.

(Note: happy to add comments with people’s views on how the new boundaries might be drawn.)
Read More »Prospects for the Federal Redistribution in Western Australia

2023 Northern Territory Redistribution – Draft Boundaries Released

(UPDATE: The second version of the draft boundaries have been released. You can find my analysis of them in this post.)

The Northern Territory Redistribution Committee has this afternoon released its draft boundaries for the NT’s 25 Legislative Assembly divisions.

You can find the details on the NT Electoral Commission website.

The redistribution has been undertaken to bring enrolments in divisions back within the permitted 10% variation from quota.

As of 17 April, there were a total of 147,798 voters enrolled to vote with the average enrolment per division at 5,911 per division. Given the small electorate sizes, the Committee will update the enrolment data through the process. All enrolments at the end of the process must be within 10% of the quota.

On current enrolments, only Splillett was outside of the permitted variation, 17.8% over quota.

Five divisions were more than 5% under quota, Barkly, Gwoja, Fannie Bay, Fong Lim and Sanderson. Another three were 5-10% over quota, Drysdale, Mulka and Wanguri.

I was going to write a long post on the redistribution, but the boundaries have been released a day earlier than I expected, plus the draft boundaries involve only minor changes and no seats change political allegiance on my estimated new margins. More inside the post.Read More »2023 Northern Territory Redistribution – Draft Boundaries Released