Proposals for the re-draw of WA’s federal electoral boundaries closed on Friday with submissions published today by the Australian Electoral Commission today.
There are 21 submissions in all. Understandably the greatest interest is in the proposals submitted by the Liberal and Labor Parties.
Both parties create a new seat based on the Darling Range in Perth’s east. The Liberal submission is for a new seat named Court that extends east into rural areas. Labor’s proposal is for a new seat called Farmer that runs south west into the Perth metropolitan area.
And the two submissions adopt different strategies in key parts of the Perth metropolitan area.
Note – maps taken from party submissions. The Liberal Party submission included maps of all proposed divisions. The Labor Party’s submission only included a map of the proposed Farmer.
As expected, submissions on metropolitan boundaries have generally started at the mouth of the Swan and worked inland, the smaller quota resulting in over-quota seats further inland contracting westward. Both the Labor and Liberal submissions have created a new seat in Perth’s east but with different approaches to expanding at least one Perth seat beyond the metropolitan area.
The Labor Party has pushed Canning south to Collie, causing O’Connor to shift north-east and gain rural areas from Durack.
The Liberal submission makes fewer changes to Canning’s southern boundary while pushing the new eastern Perth seat over the Darling Range to take in Northam, York and Beverly in the Avon Valley.
Both options for crossing the Perth metropolitan boundary have been used in the past. In the 1980s Brand extended to Collie, while the creation of Pearce for the 1990 election combined the Avon Valley with Perth suburbs.
The new Labor seat is called Farmer after legendary indigenous AFL player Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer. The Liberal proposed new name is Court after former Premier Sir Charles Court, who as Minister and Premier is generally credited with driving the state’s economic boom of the 1960s and 1970s.
The only thing that may count against using Court as an electorate name is that Sir Charles’ son Richard, also a former WA Premier, is still hale and hearty.
Labor’s proposal for Farmer
Liberal proposal for Court
Labor Party Proposal
Labor’s proposal states as its intent to minimise movement between electorates and sets out to use freeways as clear boundaries between electorates.
North of the Swan the Labor submission leaves the coastal seats of Curtin, Moore and Pearce largely unchanged.
Neighbouring Cowan and Perth are well over quota and must shed voters, and Labor’s proposal shifts enrolment between the two seats while adopting the Tonkin Freeway as a new eastern boundary for both seats.
This rotates Hasluck counter-clockwise to its new western boundary along the Tonkin Freeway. Hasluck becomes a Midland and Ellenbrook based seat, losing Swan Hills suburbs to Labor’s proposed seat of Farmer.
South of the Swan Labor’s submission shifts urban seats towards Fremantle, moves the southern boundary of Canning towards Collie, making room in the east to fill the quota of voters required for Farmer.
Labor proposes to keep the current strong boundary between Fremantle and Brand with Brand contracting to use the Kwinana Freeway as its eastern boundary. There are adjustments to the eastern boundary between Tangney and Burt, and Swan sheds its eastern edge in Maida Vale, Forrestfield and Wattle Grove to the new seat of Farmer.
All these changes create major changes to Burt. Areas around Gosnells are transferred to Farmer, while the seat moves south to take in the growing Byford area from Canning. Canning also loses northern areas around Karragullen and Roleystone to Farmer.
Canning has to move south, taking in the Boddington and Harvey local government areas as well as the mining town of Collie. This pushes Forrest, O’Connor and Durack counter-clockwise with a re-division of the wheatbelt between O’Connor and Durack.
North of the Swan the Liberal Submission also keeps the three coastal seats of Curtin, Moore and Pearce though with more boundary adjustments that impact particularly on Moore, Pearce and neighbouring Cowan.
The Liberal proposal for Cowan creates a strange dog leg shape that results in some of the strongest Labor voting suburbs being transferred to Hasluck, neighbouring Perth also losing its eastern end to Hasluck.
Liberal Proposed Cowan
The new Hasluck proposed by the Liberal Party seems to combine the Ellenbrook district with a lot of Labor voting suburbs from Cowan, Perth and Hasluck. The Swan Hills part of Hasluck becomes part of the proposed new seat Court.
Liberal Proposed Hasluck
On first glance the Liberal proposal seems likely to make Hasluck a safer Labor seat to create more winnable seats out of Cowan and Pearce. It goes without saying that the submission, like all party submissions, is written entirely based on the new boundaries corresponding to strong communities of interest.
South of the Swan the Liberal Party pushes Fremantle beyond its traditional southern boundary into Brand, while Tangney is re-aligned to take in newer housing areas south of Jandakot. Adjustments to Canning and Burt are minimised.
With minimal change to the boundary of Canning (apart from an inelegant split of the Shire of Harvey), the crossing beyond the Perth metropolitan boundary must be made by the Liberal Party’s proposed electorate of Court. O’Connor and Durack have an adjusted boundary due to the creation of Court.
Comparing The Two Proposals
Before I make the following comments, let me again stress that both parties have put forward proposals couched entirely in terms of community of interest. After taking into account quota limitations, Commissioners draw boundaries that align with community of interest.
Community of interest is of course not well defined. Council boundaries tend to be one of the clearest ways of assessing community of interest, but other factors come into play and are given different weight in different submissions.
But you can spot a few points in the proposals that reveal political interest.
The Labor Party gained four seats at the last election. Its submission doesn’t make major change to Pearce and Tangney, makes an obvious change to Swan, and aligns its interests with achieving a clear boundary between the re-drawn Cowan, Perth and Hasluck.
The Liberal Party proposal has made more changes to Pearce, Moore, Cowan and Tangney than was probably required on the numbers, and does look like it has been packing Labor numbers into Hasluck. Again couched in terms of community of interest.
But the real difference is with the new seat perched on the Darling Range east of Perth. Labor’s proposal to push Canning south to Collie means that Labor’s new seat of Farmer combines the hills with Labor voting areas extending to Gosnells.
The Liberal proposal minimises changes south of the Swan which results in the Liberal Party’s proposed seat of Court extending from the hills east into Liberal voting territory in the Avon Valley
As with skinning cats, there’s more than one way to draw electoral boundaries, and more than one way to define community of interest.
Both the Labor and Liberal submissions put forward submissions built around meeting quotas and combining areas based on community of interest. And both produce different proposed boundaries from which it is possible to glean some political motive behind the submissions.