Part I: Introduction - The redivision process
The redivision process
- The EBC advertised the redivision in metropolitan newspapers on 8 December 2012, and the redivision formally commenced with a notice in the Victoria Government Gazette on 13 December 2012.
- At a public hearing at the County Court on 14 December 2012, the EBC set out the procedures for the redivision and heard evidence from expert witnesses. Mr Paul Strickland, Manager of the Electoral Enrolment Branch of the Victorian Electoral Commission, provided information about enrolment statistics; Dr David Sykes, a senior demographic researcher with the Department of Planning and Community Development, explained detailed population projections that the Department had produced; and Mr Rafe Benli, a project officer with the Office of Geographic Names, gave evidence about place names conventions and electorate names.
- The EBC invited submissions from members of the public about electoral boundaries. Detailed enrolment information and population projections were available on the EBC website for the assistance of those intending to make submissions, as well as an information kit and the paper on electorate names. By the deadline of 1 March 2013, the EBC had received 17 submissions: four from political parties, one from an organisation (the St Kilda Road Precinct and Promotion Committee), and 12 from individual citizens4. Seven submissions covered the whole of the State, one (from The Nationals) covered non-metropolitan Victoria, and nine submissions dealt with particular areas. The EBC values the information provided in submissions. Besides proposals for individual electorates, several submissions included statements about the factors and general principles that the EBC was required to consider. Following are key points from the submissions.
- The Liberal Party’s submission included a section explaining its understanding of the factors in the Act and how they should be used. The Party submitted that “The reference to ‘area’ suggests that, where possible, it is appropriate to avoid creating electorates which are unduly large. The Commission could do so by creating electoral districts in rural areas which have slightly lower than average enrolments (so long as the relevant enrolment is no more than 10% under the average enrolment)”. The submission proposed physical features as boundaries where practicable, and pointed to the Great Dividing Range in eastern Victoria and the Yarra River in metropolitan Melbourne as hard boundaries that should not be crossed. On community of interest, the Liberal Party took existing boundaries as the starting point and proposed adjustments to them, on the grounds that the existing boundaries already reflect past decisions concerning communities of interest, and that many electors will identify closely with boundaries that have been in place for more than 10 years. The submission noted the importance of local government boundaries as denoting possible community of interest. On the likelihood of changes in the numbers of electors, the Liberal Party submitted that a strict application of the idea of setting electorates in fast-growing areas at below average enrolment and electorates in slow-growing areas at above average enrolment “will excessively override community of interest and natural and transport boundaries particularly in respect of rural electorates that are facing relatively declining populations. Therefore, this submission proposes that very fast growing population areas may need to remain over the State average as long as they are all within the permitted variance as at 30 November 2012. Similarly, to meet the other three criteria specified in s 9(1) of the Act, some rural electorates may need to remain under the State average despite facing relatively declining population”.
- In their submission, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) followed the approach of setting enrolments for districts according to growth trends. The ALP submitted that “the settings for those regional Victorian seats (specifically those that border the Murray) must also enjoy a rigorous future population setting criteria. Any result that establishes such seats at a low enrolment starting point acts to effectively disenfranchise Victorians in other areas that are projected to enjoy exceptionally high growth (such as seats along the urban fringe). This is because voters in such projected high growth seats would otherwise be condemned to endure a proportionally lower distribution of Parliamentary representation than that of their counterparts”. Like the Liberal Party, the ALP regarded the demarcation between urban and rural areas as highly significant, used the Yarra River as a boundary throughout metropolitan Melbourne, and adopted local government boundaries as far as practicable. The ALP split as few suburbs as possible, “in order to maximize the Community of Interest outcome and to also provide a simplified conceptual framework”.
- For The Nationals, maintenance of representation for those living in regional Victoria was essential. Regional and rural Victoria should retain a commensurately strong voice in Parliament, and that voice should not be compromised by regional divisions being unduly weighted by the inclusion of fast growing peri-urban localities on the edge of Melbourne. There were community expectations that their local Member of Parliament should have a manageable electorate, should be relatively close and that community of interest would have been a prime factor in determining boundaries. The Nationals stressed the importance of the Murray and the Northern Victoria food bowl, and, to that end, contended that the current number of districts along the Murray should be maintained. The Nationals also argued that the individual districts along the Murray were discrete and should not be lumped together.
- The Australian Greens were very mindful of the rapid changes in Victoria’s population distribution. “Unless other arguments are overwhelming we have tried to look forward, making electorates where growth is likely to be above average smaller than the norm”. The Greens proposed 28 new districts – more than any other submission – and did not necessarily use current boundaries as a starting point. The submission placed considerable weight on uniting local government areas, stating that communities have grown to reflect the structures created in the 1990s.
- Submissions by four private individuals who dealt with the whole State (Mr Martin Gordon, Dr Mark Mulcair, Mr Darren McSweeney and Dr Charles Richardson) took a variety of approaches, though they coincided in regarding local government boundaries as more important markers of community of interest in country areas. Dr Richardson argued that the EBC should aim less for conservatism than for sustainability, with the intention that only minimal change would be required in eight years. He thought that boundaries should be drawn in such a way as to maximise opportunity for future adjustment, and that as far as possible districts should lie along growth corridors rather than across them, making them easier to expand or contract as required.
- The EBC asked those making submissions if they wished to speak at a public hearing in support of their submissions, and the four political parties indicated that they did wish to speak. The EBC agreed to four additional requests to speak. The public hearing was held at the County Court on 8 April 2013. The four political parties spoke first, followed by the other speakers5. After each presentation, the EBC asked questions of the speaker to clarify matters. At the end of the hearing, the speakers had an opportunity to comment on the other presentations. The representatives of the political parties expanded on their written submissions and questioned elements of other parties’ submissions. The four speakers from Portland and environs (Ms Sharon Kelsey, Chief Executive Officer of Glenelg Shire Council, Mr Michael Byrne, Dr Dawn Baudinette and Mr Michael Bell, Chief Executive Officer of the Winda-mara Aboriginal Corporation) opposed the proposal in the Liberal and National Parties’ submissions to include Portland in the Lowan district, pointing to Portland’s distinctive character as a maritime and industrial centre and its strong east-west links in terms of transport, government services and sporting associations. Cr Rob Gersch, Mayor of Hindmarsh Shire Council, citing Hindmarsh’s strong affinity with Horsham and the Wimmera, argued that the Shire should be retained in the Lowan district rather than be transferred to Mildura as the National and Liberal Parties proposed6.
- At the public hearing, the EBC provided maps of the political parties’ submissions, showing each proposed district’s projected population deviation from the average as at 1 July 2018. Some of the speakers expressed surprise and doubt about the projections. The Chairman invited speakers to write to the EBC with further information. On 16 April 2013, the EBC wrote to the political parties, including projections based on forecast enrolment7. The Liberal Party and the Greens wrote to the EBC, on 13 and 23 May respectively, commenting on the enrolment projections and making some suggestions about the boundaries in the party’s submission. The EBC took account of the information in the letters, which were made available on the EBC’s website in the interests of transparency.
See Appendix 1 for a list of those who lodged submissions.×
See Appendix 2 for a list of speakers.×
See paragraph 33 for an explanation of these projections.×