Victorian State Redistribution with Major Political Implications Starts this Week

The Victorian Parliament began its final sitting week today after a year where the parliamentary schedule has been heavily interrupted by Covid-19.

Parliament rises for the year on Thursday just as a major electoral event gets under way that will have major consequences for the November 2022 state election.

Thursday’s Government Gazette will carry the formal notice triggering a redistribution, a re-drawing of the state’s electoral boundaries.

It is a process with major implications for the electoral prospects of the Andrews Labor government and the Liberal and National opposition.

The scale of Labor’s victory in November 2018 always meant it would be difficult for the Liberal and National Parties to make up enough ground to win the next election.

The redistribution will make that task even harder.

On current enrolments, the redistribution will abolish several seats in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, the Liberal Party’s traditional electoral heartland.

Those seats will be replaced by new seats on Melbourne’s south-east, western and north-western fringe, areas that have been dominated by the Labor Party at recent elections.

Barring events that alter traditional voting patterns, prospects are that the redistribution will buttress the Andrews’ government hold on office, and make victory for the Liberal and National Parties in 2022 just that little bit harder.

The Redistribution Process

Under Victorian electoral law, boundaries for the state’s 88 lower house electoral districts are re-drawn after every second state election. The redistribution is undertaken by the Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC), and its primary task is to bring enrolments in all districts back within the permitted 10% variation from the state average or quota. The process also re-aligns the boundaries of the Legislative Council’s eight regions.

On my calculations the quota will be 48,625, and all new electorates must come out of the redistribution with enrolment between 43,763 and 53,487. (These figures are yet to be confirmed by the EBC.) More information on the redistribution can be found at the Electoral Boundaries Commission’s website.

The last redistribution was finalised in 2013, those boundaries used for the 2014 and 2018 elections.

Since then Melbourne has continued to undergo rapid population growth. It has created hot spots of over-enrolment on Melbourne’s fringes, and also around Geelong.

Growth in the newer suburbs on Melbourne’s edge has left behind middle-distance districts with more settled and stable populations. Some below quota districts are in country areas, but most are in a great swathe of under-quota seats east of the Yarra.

Most of the state’s marginal seats, both Labor and Liberal, lie in Melbourne’s under-quota east. Three seats in the area could be abolished, replaced by new seats on Melbourne’s fringe. Most of the new seats are likely to be relatively safe for Labor.

The enrolment data to calculate the state quota will be based on enrolments as at 30 November 2020. In this post I will analyse the likely changes based on slightly earlier enrolments published on 4 November. Since publication this post has been updated to use the now published 30 November data.

As of 30 November, 28 of the state’s 88 districts were outside the 10% permitted variation from quota, just under a third of the total. All will need their boundaries re-drawn to bring them back within 10% of the quota.

Fifteen districts are between 10% and 20% under-quota, 13 of them in Melbourne’s broadly defined east, the others being Bundoora in the north, and the western rural district of Lowan. The low-quota eastern Melbourne seats include six Liberal seats and three marginal seats gained by Labor at the 2018 election.

There are 13 districts more than 10% over-quota, seven of those are more than 20% over quota, and four districts more than 30% over. Eleven of the 13 are held by Labor. Four of the over-quota districts are clustered in the Cranbourne-Pakenham corridor, including Bass (+41.0% over-quota) and Cranbourne (+41.3%). Four more over-quota seats are clustered around Werribee, while on Melbourne’s north-west fringe, neighbouring Yan Yean (+30.9%) and Yuroke (+38.5%) are well over quota.

The EBC will also release some future enrolment projections. Even taking account of changes in growth patterns induced by Covid-19, the projections will show that enrolment growth continues to be strongest in districts already over-quota. Growth will continue on Melbourne’s edge, while middle distance suburbs will remain in relative decline.

Unlike Federal and NSW redistribution bodies, the EBC does not have to comply with a projected enrolment quota. But the EBC does take into account growth trends, tending to create seats in high growth areas with below quota initial enrolments, while over quota seats are drawn in areas of static and declining enrolment.

Which seats well be abolished is hard to pick, and the names abolished and created are usually less relevant than where the boundaries are drawn. A district name may be retained by the redistribution, but the new boundaries may upend the seat’s past voting pattern.

Mapping State Enrolment

The map below is shaded to show districts that are over or under quota. A colouring scale is shown top-right, with close to quota districts shown in lighter shades, and variation from quota shown by increasingly darker shades. Under-quota districts are in shades of brown, over-quota districts in shades of green.

When you hover over a district, it is highlighted and a pop-up box shows the name of the district, the holding party and margin from 2018, along a value for the percentage variation from quota.

You can use the ‘+/-‘ buttons bottom right to zoom in or out, and you can grab the map to move around the state.

As with all graphics on the internet, the map works much better on a computer with a mouse, and is less useful and difficult to navigate on a smart phone. By experiment, it seems you have to use two fingers to move and zoom on a smart phone.

In the rest of this post I will break down the state into broad regions explaining where change is likely to take place. Note that these broad regions do not align with the eight Regions used to elect the Legislative Council.

Western Victoria

I’ve defined Western Victoria as the region west of the Melbourne metropolitan area and a north-south line from Melbourne to Echuca.

There are 15 districts in this region, including the four Geelong seats and two each based on Ballarat and Bendigo. The table below this discussion sets out the 15 districts in this region, the holding party and margin for each seat, plus the variation from enrolment quota on 4 November.

On current enrolment there will still be 15 seats in the region after the redistribution. The EBC may choose to bolster future enrolment in the region by transferring distinct communities like Bacchus Marsh or Sunbury into a western Victoria seat, but that is not required by current enrolment.

Ten of the 15 seats are under quota, and Lowan (-10.3%), Mildura (-7.6%) and Wendouree (-7.7%) will all need their enrolment boosted. The major over quota seats are Geelong based Bellarine (+9.0%) and South Barwon (+23.3%).

Both Bellarine and South Barwon will shrink, South Barwon likely to shed those parts of the seat in the Surf Coast Council area to Polwarth, potentially changing that seat’s political complexion. From there the consequences become more complex.

What happens to Ripon? If it sheds population to bolster Mildura and Lowan, what can it gain in the east from Ballarat and Bendigo seats to keep it in quota. Will it slip south to take in northern parts of Polwarth as that seat slips further into the Surf Coast? Are there enough numbers to split Portland and Warnambool, together in South West Coast since 2002, and engage in a major re-arrangement of Western Victoria that makes Ripon more rural?

Hint: If you are on a smart phone, these tables read much batter if you turn your phone landscape.

District Party/Margin Enrolment % Variation
Bellarine ALP 11.5 53,021 +9.0
Bendigo East ALP 12.1 51,070 +5.0
Bendigo West ALP 18.6 46,760 -3.8
Buninyong ALP 12.2 47,174 -3.0
Geelong ALP 10.1 48,182 -0.9
Lara ALP 19.1 47,980 -1.3
Lowan NAT 23.5 43,609 -10.3
Macedon ALP 13.2 47,066 -3.2
Mildura IND 0.3 (v NAT) 44,941 -7.6
Murray Plains NAT 24.0 47,514 -2.3
Polwarth LIB 5.4 47,744 -1.8
Ripon LIB 0.1 49,198 +1.2
South Barwon ALP 4.6 59,933 +23.3
South-West Coast LIB 2.3 48,854 +0.5
Wendouree ALP 10.3 44,888 -7.7

Eastern Victoria

Again not corresponding to Eastern Victoria Region, eastern Victoria runs from south Gippsland through the La Trobe Valley and around Melbourne to Euroa and Shepparton in the north.

The area currently has nine seats and on current enrolments will retain nine seats.

Boundary changes are likely to be small, with Narracan and South Gippsland most likely to see change. In the La Trobe Valley, Narracan is over quota thanks to picking up some suburban growth in the west near Pakenham. Any new seat based around Pakenham will solve Narracan’s problem, and could abolish Bass on Melbourne’s fringe and push Bass Coast Council into Gippsland South.

District Party/Margin Enrolment % Variation
Benambra LIB 8.9 50,462 +3.8
Eildon LIB 2.4 45,915 -5.6
Euroa NAT 15.4 50,519 +3.9
Gippsland East NAT 17.6 47,843 -1.6
Gippsland South NAT 15.3 44,065 -9.4
Morwell IND 1.8 v ALP 49,289 +1.4
Narracan LIB 7.3 54,960 +13.0
Ovens Valley NAT 12.6 44,104 -9.3
Shepparton IND 5.3 (v LIB) 49,830 +2.5

Outer South-East Melbourne

Covering Carrum, Narre Warren South, Gembrook and areas to the south and east, this area currently has nine seats but has enough enrolment for 10 seats.

Cranbourne is 41.3% over-quota. Bass is 41.0% over quota and Gembrook 12.7% with rural Narracan to the east 13.0%, all three seats over-quota due to population growth around Pakenham.

There will be a new seat created by the redistribution, with three seats replacing Cranbourne and the northern end of Bass. The rapidly growing areas may still be split between seats to avoid creating one electorate with all the population growth. The Bass Coast Council end of the existing Bass may be transferred to a rural electorate.

District Party/Margin Enrolment % Variation
Bass ALP 2.4 68,545 +41.0
Carrum ALP 11.9 50,094 +3.0
Cranbourne ALP 11.0 68,716 +41.3
Frankston ALP 9.7 44,813 -7.8
Gembrook LIB 0.8 54,815 +12.7
Hastings LIB 1.1 52,158 +7.3
Mornington LIB 5.0 48,067 -1.1
Narre Warren South ALP 6.9 50,815 +4.5
Nepean ALP 0.9 51,867 +6.7

Melbourne East and South of the Yarra

This region fronts Port Phillip Bay and runs east from the Yarra River to Evelyn, Monbulk and Dandenong. It includes 29 seats, but on current and future enrolment only has enough voters for 26 seats.

The area has three broad sub-regions. There are a string of traditionally Liberal seats running along the bay north from Mordialloc. The area between the Monash Freeway and the Yarra is traditional Liberal territory. Between the two is a spur of Labor voting areas running from Dandenong to Oakleigh.

Boundaries Commissioners rarely cross the Yarra River, the current inclusion of North Warrandyte in Warrandyte a rare exception. The Commissioners tend to start drawing boundaries around the bay and then up the Yarra. They start with Kew and Hawthorn and work east.

With every electorate east of Toorak under quota, every seat will extend east and inland. Two to three seats are certain to disappear as quotas are gobbled up by neighbouring seats.

Ferntree Gully (-14.2%), Forest Hill (-18.4%), Mount Waverley (-19.6%), Ringwood (-12.9%) and Rowville (-18.0%) are all well under quota. Further south, the Labor seats of Oakleigh (-12.7%), Clarinda (-8.2%) and Dandenong (-11.1%) are also well under quota.

Even the Premier’s own seat of Mulgrave (-16.0%) is well under quota. If his seat were abolished, a nearby seat would be an obvious replacement.

The redistribution will see district names disappear and new ones appear. Whatever the names that eventually appear on the map, it is the political consequences of the boundaries rather than the names on the map that will be more important. That two and probably three seats will disappear in this politically mixed part of Melbourne, replaced by three Labor seats elsewhere, is the story of this redistribution, not the names on the map.

District Party/Margin Enrolment % Variation
Albert Park ALP 13.1 50,272 +3.4
Bayswater ALP 0.4 44,574 -8.3
Bentleigh ALP 11.9 44,058 -9.4
Box Hill ALP 2.1 44,292 -8.9
Brighton LIB 1.1 45,658 -6.1
Bulleen LIB 5.8 45,016 -7.4
Burwood ALP 3.3 43,557 -10.4
Caulfield LIB 0.3 45,664 -6.1
Clarinda ALP 17.4 44,636 -8.2
Croydon LIB 2.1 43,548 -10.4
Dandenong ALP 23.9 43,216 -11.1
Evelyn LIB 2.6 43,903 -9.7
Ferntree Gully LIB 1.6 41,728 -14.2
Forest Hill LIB 1.2 39,681 -18.4
Hawthorn ALP 0.4 45,246 -6.9
Kew LIB 4.8 44,275 -8.9
Keysborough ALP 14.9 46,942 -3.5
Malvern LIB 6.1 43,509 -10.5
Monbulk ALP 8.6 43,410 -10.7
Mordialloc ALP 12.9 47,003 -3.3
Mount Waverley ALP 1.8 39,105 -19.6
Mulgrave ALP 12.7 40,850 -16.0
Narre Warren North ALP 9.8 45,089 -7.3
Oakleigh ALP 15.8 42,453 -12.7
Prahran GRN 7.5 (v LIB) 50,185 +3.2
Ringwood ALP 2.8 42,368 -12.9
Rowville LIB 5.7 39,869 -18.0
Sandringham LIB 0.6 46,423 -4.5
Warrandyte LIB 3.9 43,429 -10.7

Melbourne North and West of the Yarra

As noted in relation to easterm Melbourne, Boundaries Commissioners rarely cross the Yarra. There are currently 26 seats north and west of the Yarra. On current enrolments, there are enough voters for around 28 seats. Labor currently holds 24 seats in the region, the other two held by the Greens.

All seats in Melbourne’s outer-west are over quota, including Altona (+21.4%), Tareneit (+24.2%), Kororoit (+13.5%) and Melton (+18.5%). Bacchus Marsh might be transferred to the regional seat of Buninyong, but there would still be enough voters for a new seat in outer west and south-west Melbourne.

Inner-city Richmond (+13.4%) and Brunswick (+12.1%) should lose voters, while middle-distance Bundoora (-15.6%) and Eltham (-8.1%) both need to grow.

Further north there is another hot spot around Yan Yean (+30.9%) and Yuroke (+38.5%), areas that continue to grow rapidly.

District Party/Margin Enrolment % Variation
Altona ALP 14.6 59,045 +21.4
Broadmeadows ALP 30.3 44,622 -8.2
Brunswick GRN 0.6 (v ALP) 54,504 +12.1
Bundoora ALP 17.4 41,018 -15.6
Eltham ALP 9.1 44,706 -8.1
Essendon ALP 15.9 49,448 +1.7
Footscray ALP 28.1 53,134 +9.3
Ivanhoe ALP 12.4 47,578 -2.2
Kororoit ALP 25.6 55,198 +13.5
Melbourne GRN 1.3 (v ALP) 52,080 +7.1
Melton ALP 4.3 57,634 +18.5
Mill Park ALP 24.9 47,670 -2.0
Niddrie ALP 12.6 45,405 -6.6
Northcote ALP 1.7 (v GRN) 49,904 +2.6
Pascoe Vale ALP 18.3 52,707 +8.4
Preston ALP 28.5 46,453 -4.5
Richmond ALP 5.5 (v GRN) 55,142 +13.4
St Albans ALP 21.5 46,805 -3.7
Sunbury ALP 14.3 47,120 -3.1
Sydenham ALP 17.9 52,937 +8.9
Tarneit ALP 18.0 60,389 +24.2
Thomastown ALP 27.2 47,553 -2.2
Werribee ALP 12.6 50,480 +3.8
Williamstown ALP 22.1 51,742 +6.4
Yan Yean ALP 17.0 63,631 +30.9
Yuroke ALP 20.3 67,339 +38.5