The process of establishing a reformed upper house in Victoria continues. The Electoral Boundaries Commission has just published the transcripts of its public hearings, which took submissions from the political parties – and from Crikey’s psephologist, acting in a private capacity – on how to draw boundaries of the new regions, ready for the November 2006 election.
Instead of the old system of single-member elections, which routinely produced a rubber stamp for an upper house, the new Legislative Council will have eight regions, each electing five members by proportional representation. As you’d expect, the parties have their own self-interested ideas on where the regions should be. The ALP wants to divide up the inner eastern suburbs in ways that dilute the strong Liberal vote; the Liberals want to do the same in the Labor-voting northern suburbs. The National Party wants to assure itself of two seats by corralling as many rural votes as possible into two regions; the Greens want to do the same with their inner-suburban voters. On past performance, the Commissioners are not likely to be taken in by any of this.
Crikey readers might remember that there is already a set of interim regional boundaries (put in the legislation to cover the contingency of an early election), and that many observers had assumed they would just be adopted by the Boundaries Commission. The Liberal Party even established electorate committees based on them. But the Commissioners put paid to this at the first hearing, saying that “these interim regions are not draft boundaries nor are they a starting point for the Commission.” Interestingly enough, not one of the submissions suggests anything remotely like the arrangement of the interim regions.
The Commission plans to release proposed boundaries for comment in on 7 July. That will be the signal for a new outbreak of preselection angst, and should keep Victoria’s players amused for the rest of this year.
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