NT

Redistribution begins for Northern Territory Federal Boundaries

Today marks seven years since the Northern Territory’s current federal electoral boundaries were first gazetted. Under the ‘seven-year rule’ in Section 59 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, a redistribution of the NT’s federal boundaries must commence within 30 days.

The NT’s redistribution will differ from those currently underway in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. The other state redistributions have been triggered by a change in seat entitlements under Section 24 of the Constitution. New South Wales and Victoria will both lose a seat, Western Australia gain a seat. The seat numbers will be unchanged at two for the NT redistribution.

Seven-year rule redistributions can be deferred if they commence within twelve months of the expiry date for the House of Representatives. The deferral deadline in 2024 is May, meaning seven-year rule redistributions due for Tasmania in November and Queensland in March 2025 will be deferred until after the next election.

But the Northern Territory redistribution will go ahead. With only two seats involved, the process of drawing boundaries will be easily completed before the next election is due. Unlike with change of seat number redistributions, there are no complications if an early election is called because the existing NT divisions would remain in place.

While unlikely to have major political implications, it is worth looking at the NT redistribution to examine how the NT briefly lost its second seat in 2020, and also to observe how the Australian Electoral Commission’s Indigenous enrolment drive before the 2023 referendum has increased remote enrolment.
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Northern Territory Redistribution Finalised (and a Chief Minister Resigns)

Update 20 December – the new Chief Minister will be Eva Lawler. Minor changes have been made to post reflecting the change.

The resignation today of NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles is bad news for the NT Labor government. It already faces a difficult re-election campaign in August 2024, and starting election year with a third Chief Minister this term is bad news for NT Labor, and good news for the Country Liberal opposition.

Thinking back through the last 50 years, I can think of three cases of government’s with three Premiers in a term. Queensland had three between 1986 and 1989, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Mike Ahern and Russell Cooper. NSW had three between 2007 and 2011, Morris Iemma, Nathan Rees and Kristina Keneally. Both governments were thrashed at the next election. The NSW Coalition had three Premier between 1973 and 1976, Bob Askin, Tom Lewis and Eric Willis. It lost narrowly at the 1976 election.

The circumstances of the transfers from Michael Gunner to Natasha Fyles to Eva Lawler are different to the Queensland and NSW cases above. The first two examples involved the dumping of two Premiers in sensational circumstances caused by party splits. The 1973-76 example had one retirement and one sudden replacement of a Premier.

The Northern Territory’s current situation concerns a Chief Minister retiring and another resigning over failure to disclose a pecuniary interest. Not quite as sensational.

But it is a bad start to an election year for a government that after two terms in office was starting to look old and ragged. And losing a Chief Minister, whatever the gravity of the transgression, is a negative for Labor, and a huge boost for Lia Finocchiaro and the Country Liberal Party.

Redistribution Finalised

This post was in progress before today’s political events unfolded. Last week the redistribution of the Northern Territory’s electoral boundaries was finalised ahead of the August 2024 election.

A very embarrassing “administrative oversight” had delayed the process of boundary drawing. Notices for the earlier stages of the redistribution were not gazetted as required by the Electoral Act. The NT Solicitor’s office advised that the process had to begin again. Despite the extended process, there have been very few changes since the first draft of boundaries were released early in 2023.

The redistribution has been undertaken to bring enrolments in divisions back within the permitted 20% variation from quota.
Read More »Northern Territory Redistribution Finalised (and a Chief Minister Resigns)

Northern Territory Redistribution – Take 2

The Northern Territory Electoral Commission has released its first draft of the Territory’s new electoral boundaries. The boundaries are now open for public comment. Once the redistribution is finalised, the new boundaries will apply for the next Northern Territory election in August 2024.

Those who have been paying attention will know this is actually the second time a first draft set of new boundaries has been released. A very embarrassing “administrative oversight” meant the first attempt at the redistribution had to be abandoned for legal reasons I outline inside this post.

The abandoned redistribution had reached the second draft stage of the process before being terminated. This new first draft is the same as the previous second stage draft though with updated enrolment numbers. I previously analysed these boundaries at the abandoned second stage. You can read about the new margins in this post from August.
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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.
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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

NT Fannie Bay by-election set for 20 August

Voters on the NT Legislative Assembly seat of Fannie Bay will go to the polls on Saturday 20 August following the resignation of MP and former Chief Minister Michael Gunner.

I’m unfortunately on the wrong side of the world to cover the by-election. I don’t have access to the ABC’s election site to publish a preview and will be busy cycling round Italy’s Lake Como on the day results are being reported. Understandably I’m sticking to my bike.

To fill the gap, I’ve pulled together a brief profile of Fannie Bay here on my personal site. No guarantee that I’ll have time to offer further commentary before the election.

All the official information on the by-election can be found on the NT Electoral Commission’s Fannie Bay by-election website. This includes details on when, where and how to vote.

A date for WA’s North West Central by-election has now been named – Saturday 17 September. I’ll publish information on this by-election next week when I return to Australia. Details on the by-election can be found on the WA Electoral Commission’s website. Read More »NT Fannie Bay by-election set for 20 August

Will Saving the NT’s Second House Seat Cost the ACT its Third Seat?

UPDATE: The legislation has been introduced and it does not fix the number of Territory seats at a minimum of two. It instead adopts my proposal to use the harmonic rather than arithmetic mean in determining seat entitlements for the territory. However, the harmonic only applies for quotients under three. That provision might need a re-visit if the Parliament ever increases in size. The statistical error provision has been repealed. The determination in July merging the NT into a single seat has been set aside and two seats restored. Legislating backwards for the harmonic mean was too difficult but under it the NT would have been entitled to two seats.

From the next determination, to take place after the next election, the new rules will apply to the territories. The NT will be entitled to a second seat if its quotient is above 1.3333 rather than the current 1.5. The ACT will be entitled to a third seat with a quotient above 2.4 rather than 2.5. As noted above, this new harmonic mean will not apply above three seats.

The legislation and notes related to it can be found at this link.

Minister’s Second Reading Speech here.

Original post

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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