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.
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.)
While seats are allocated to states based on population, redistributions within each state are conducted based on enrolment. All new seats must have an enrolment within 10% of the state average. A second quota also applies based on projected enrolments. All newly drawn districts should have an average projected enrolment within 3.5% of the state average.
The narrower projected quota has more impact on the redistribution than current enrolment and forces the drawing of boundaries to take account of slow and fast growing areas.
Within the quota restrictions, the Redistribution Commissioners can take account of –
- community of interests within proposed districts, including economic, social and regional interests
- means of communication and travel within the proposed district
- the physical features and area of the proposed district
- the boundaries of existing districts
It is hard to make comment on the projected enrolment numbers as they will not be published until after the redistribution process begins.
But we do have the most recent enrolment figures as at 30 April 2023. These will be updated to the start date of the redistribution process, but this post will comment on how the redistribution might unfold based on current enrolments.
Current Enrolment Numbers
As at 30 April there were 4,416,875 voters on the electoral roll in Victoria.
With 38 seats to be drawn, a provisional quota based on the 30 April enrolments is 116,233. This is around 3,000 electors more than required for a 39-district quota.
All new districts must have an enrolment within 10% of the state average, that is between 104,609 and 127,856. Currently all 39 divisions lie within these bounds, but the new apportionment means the Redistribution Commissioners must divide the state into 38 districts within these bounds.
The last redistribution in 2020/21 was based on projected enrolments that were upended as Covid scrambled growth trends. Rapidly growing seats were set below the state quota, and stalled enrolment growth has left some of those seats below state average. The best example is the new seat of Hawke, created in 2021 in rapidly growing areas north-west of Melbourne, but now significantly under-quota. That doesn’t mean seats like Hawke won’t resume their former fast rate of population growth.
The 2020/21 redistribution set many regional seats above quota based on projected slow growth. Some remain above quota in 2023 even with the increased quota created by abolishing a seat.
The map below colour codes all 39 divisions based on percentage above or below a 38 seat quota. Colours range from red for most under quota through orange, light blue and on to dark blue for most over-quota. You can use this map to drill down and look at Melbourne seats, but a larger Melbourne-only map is included and discussed further down the page.
When Victorian electoral boundaries are redistributed, the first seats drawn tend to be those in the state's corners, Gippsland, Indi, Mallee and Wannon. As the map shows, these seats are all at a variation from quota that requires at most minimal change. The scale of change will be determined by projected enrolments numbers.
Between the corner seats, Nicholls will probably need to grow, dependent on the projected enrolment numbers. In the west of the state, where Mallee and Wannon shift interacts with the regional seats of Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong-based Corangamite and Corio. The size of the regional cities in these districts mean they won't be abolished. These seats plus Nicholls may grow by eating into the fringe Melbourne seats of Hawke and McEwen.
East of Melbourne, Monash covering the La Trobe Valley and west Gippsland needs to grow, which means eating into neighbouring La Trobe on the south-east fringe of Melbourne. Another seat that gets drawn early is Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula, most of the seat's boundaries defined by two bays and Bass Strait.
All up, the fate of seats in Rural and Regional Victory depends on how much they must cannibalise seats on Melbourne's periphery to stay within 3.5% of the projected quota. Projected enrolments won't be released until August at the earliest.
In my view, it is unlikely that a rural seat will be abolished. Keeping the current number of regional seats can be achieved by creeping into Melbourne's periphery if required. The alternative of abolishing a rural/regional seat would pull one of Melbourne's seats deep into regional Victoria, which is effectively the same as abolishing a metropolitan seat.
Abolish a Melbourne seat - east or west of the Yarra?
The map below makes clear that the new quota leaves most Melbourne's seats under quota. In the inner-east both Higgins and Chisholm are more than 5% under quota. Four seats west of the Yarra are more than 5% under, inner-city Cooper Wills and Maribyrnong, and the new peripheral Melbourne seat of Hawke. Created ahead of the 2022 election, Hawke was set below quota, but the expected population growth evaporated as Covid hit. Hawke may resume rapid population growth, but the five inner-city seats do not have enrolment growth prospects.
If regional seats need to grow, then Hawke and McEwen could lose their less urban edges. If this occurs, it becomes more likely that a seat will be abolished west of the Yarra.
If regional seats don't eat into Hawke and McEwen, the decision on where to abolish a Melbourne seat becomes more complex. In total, seats west and north of the Yarra add to half a seat more than the area in entitled to, as in total are the seats east of the Yarra. If this balancing of east and west over-representation exists in the projected enrolments, then we may see a seat drawn astride the Yarra, the most likely culprits either Jagajaga or Menzies.
Port Phillip Bay and the course of the lower Yarra tend to be starting points for drawing boundaries. East of the Yarra, this geography means seats such as Macnamara, Higgins, Kooyong and Goldstein are drawn first. Low current enrolment and and slow enrolment growth mean all these seats must push east. Enrolment growth is concentrated in Holt and La Trobe on Melbourne's outer south-east fringe. As re-drawn inner-city seats stretch east to increase enrolment, there is a chance one of the middle distance seats will disappear.
If a seat is abolished in Melbourne's east, it could be Chisholm or Hotham. Both seats lack a clear geographic grounding, Chisholm having been detached from Koonung Creek by the 2021 redistribution. In the 2021 WA redistribution, the Commissioners had to choose between abolishing a seat named after a woman (Cowan) or a 19th century Governor (Stirling), which suggests that Chisholm could be retained over a seat named after Governor Hotham.
As I keep saying, whether a seat in Melbourne's east is abolished will be determined by the yet to be released projected enrolments. Plus, abolishing an eastern seat could pull Jagajaga south of the Yarra,
If a seat is to be abolished west of the Yarra, then the seats to watch are Cooper, Wills and Maribyrnong. Hawke may also be under quota, but a newly created electorate named after Australia's third longest serving Prime Minister is not going to be abolished, even if its boundaries must undergo radical surgery. Burke has been abolished so why not Wills as well, and Maribyrnong is one of the few remaining Melbourne seats with a name based on geography.
What may save western seats is the resumption of enrolment growth in Scullin, Calwell, McEwen, Hawke, Gorton and Lalor. Under-quota inner-city seats in Melbourne's west are adjacent to outer suburban growing seats. In Melbourne's east, there are an array of under-quota middle distance seats between inner-Melbourne and the growth hotspots on the road to Cranbourne and Pakenham.
Current 39 Victorian Divisions - Variation from 38-seat Quota
|La Trobe||LIB 8.7||111,875||-4,358||-3.7|