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

Why NSW Labor’s Election Night Majority Disappeared

On the night of the 2023 NSW election, I along with most other observers had expected that Labor would achieve majority government.

After midnight I turned off the ABC’s predictive tools and assessed every seat solely on the votes counted. The tally I came to had Labor on a certain 45 seats, ahead in another four seats, and based on past trends had a reasonable chance of winning three seats where the Coalition was ahead on votes.

The next morning I rang the Sydney news room suggesting that news reports refer to Labor winning but step back from stating Labor had achieved a majority. On the seats remaining in doubt, you would have expected Labor would win at least two of the doubtful seats to achieve majority government. That was the position I reported on ABC news on the Sunday night.

This did not happen. Labor won only the 45 seats I had marked down as definite Labor wins on my Sunday morning check. In the four seats where Labor was ahead, and every other seat that was close, Labor went backwards with each day’s counting.

On Monday 27 March, the uncounted pre-poll centres were added to the count. A trend against Labor emerged and on the Monday evening I tweeted that Labor would probably miss out on a majority and win 45 or 46 seats. In seat after seat the addition of pre-poll votes on Monday had revealed a consistent decline in Labor’s position.

That trend went even further on the Saturday after polling day when the largest batches of postal votes were added in key seats. For the first time the Liberal Party pulled ahead in Ryde and moved even further ahead in Terrigal. Both seats had looked like Labor gains on election night.

As an election analyst, such post election night shifts set you up for criticism. You are accused of not taking into account that pre-polls and postals would favour the Coalition.

Actually, the model I use builds in a correction for postal and pre-poll voting trends. The model factors in the postal and pre-poll vote trends from the last election.

What happened in 2023 is that the 2023 pre-poll and postal vote results turned out to be very different to the election day results. The trend to the Coalition in post-election counting was much larger than in 2019.

There were also many more pre-poll and postal votes in 2023. The early vote broke more strongly for the Coalition than previously, and the impact of these votes was amplified in the final result by their greater weight of numbers.
Read More »Why NSW Labor’s Election Night Majority Disappeared

Increase in Voters Completing Preferences at the 2023 NSW Legislative Council Election

In 2000 New South Wales became the first state to abolish Group Voting Tickets (GVTs), the system then generally used to elect state Legislative Councils and the Commonwealth Senate.

The NSW decision followed the 1999 Legislative Council election and its infamous “tablecloth” ballot paper. Confusion combined with labyrinthine preference deals made a mockery of any claim that the filling of the final vacancies reflected the will of the electorate.

The system adopted abolished GVTs and introduced a new form of voting above-the-line (ATL) where voters could direct preferences to other parties on the ballot paper by numbering ATL boxes. A single ‘1’ ATL vote was still formal, but a voter could direct preferences to others groups with an ATL voting square by indicating ‘2’, ‘3’ etc to other groups.

With Senate elections continuing to use GVTs where only a single ATL preference counted, few voters made use of the new ATL voting option at Legislative Council elections. At four elections from 2003 to 2015, more than 80% of Legislative Council ballot papers continued to be completed with a 1-only ATL vote and only around 15% of voters indicated further ATL preferences.

When the Commonwealth followed NSW in abolishing GVTs ahead of the 2016 election, it adopted different instructions on how to complete an ATL vote. Senate ballot paper instructions, and advice from ballot paper issuing officers, suggested a minimum of 6-ATL preferences be completed.

The Senate reforms included generous savings provisions permitting ballot papers with fewer than six ATL preferences to remain formal. At three Senate elections since 2016, more than 95% of ballot papers have had six or more preferences, around 80% having exactly six.

Experience with the new Senate ballot paper has clearly encouraged more voters to indicate preferences on NSW Legislative Council ballot papers.

As the chart below shows, only around 15% of voters completed ATL preferences before the Senate changes. At two NSW elections post the Senate changes, 27.6% of NSW voters completed ATL preferences at the 2019 Legislative Council election, and after experience at two further Senate elections in 2019 and 2022, the percentage of ballot papers at the 2023 Legislative Council election completed with ATL preferences rose to 39.2% .Read More »Increase in Voters Completing Preferences at the 2023 NSW Legislative Council Election