An
aspect of the “orderly transition” debate which continues to puzzle me
is that so far no one seems to have mentioned the status of Bennelong
as a marginal seat. I believe this fact will influence John Howard in
his decision-making on whether to retire.

Of
the 12 seats in
metropolitan Sydney held by the Liberal Party, Bennelong is the second
most marginal, next only to Greenway. It needs a swing of only 4.4% to
fall to Labor. Currently there is going on a redistribution of
federal seats in New South Wales designed to reduce the number of NSW
seats from 50 to 49.

It is possible that Bennelong will be left
unchanged but I doubt it. All we know is that the NSW quota is 87,931
and the number of current electors in Bennelong is 85,445. Until John
Howard has a better idea of what the new boundaries will be he will not
make up his mind.

We know that on Friday 23 June the document
known as “2006 Proposed Redistribution of Queensland into Electoral
Divisions” will be published. However, that will not be of much
interest outside Queensland. Frankly a redistribution is not of much
interest when a new seat is to be created.

One week later, on
Friday 30 June, the NSW equivalent document will be published.
The interest of that will lie partly in the new Bennelong map but, more
importantly, in knowing which seat is to be abolished. For reasons I
have written before, the seat I would abolish is Lindsay. However, I do
not expect that. In practice marginal seats are never abolished. So I
expect it will be Blaxland.

Recently a Labor Party staffer told
me that would be a dreadful idea because Paul Keating used to be the
member. However, I pointed out to her that Jim Scullin was Prime
Minister in 1930 and 1931 and he represented Yarra. When the numbers
justified it Yarra was abolished in 1969. In other words, there is
nothing in the rules to say that a seat should not be abolished merely
because it was once represented by a Prime Minister.

Peter Fray

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