Queensland might have its problems, but people keep
moving there. Since 1984, population growth has given Queensland four
extra seats in the House of Representatives: Dickson, Longman, Blair
and Bonner. A redistribution now in progress will add a fifth. Draft
boundaries were released last Friday,
making provision for a new seat called “Wright” (after poet Judith Wright) in central Queensland.

It actually makes more sense to think of the
proposed Wright as a revised version of the existing Hinkler, and the
proposed Hinkler, formed from parts of the existing Hinkler and Wide
Bay, as the new seat.

The commissioners, however, wanted to keep the name “Hinkler” attached
to the seat that contains Bundaberg. Both Wright and Hinkler would be
National Party seats – Hinkler comfortably, Wright rather less so. But
Wide Bay would move south into the Sunshine Coast, raising possibilities that the Liberals may try to take it from the Nationals.

William Bowe, the Poll Bludger, has a very good summary of the
political effects. Among the marginals, Dickson and Hinkler will be
better for the government, while Blair, Longman, Moreton and Petrie
will be worse. But none of those changes would really outweigh the
creation of an extra Coalition seat – although, given the Coalition’s
federal dominance in Queensland, any new seat was always likely to be
Coalition-held.

In total, about one voter in seven would shift seats
under the draft boundaries. That’s quite a lot; only two seats (Bonner
and Ryan) would be unchanged, even though 12 seats were within the
required tolerance for projected enrolment. Although they do not seem
to have done anything especially outlandish, the commissioners have
been a good deal more radical than their counterparts in other states.

Queensland, however, is the most decentralised
state, and redistributions in non-metropolitan areas are getting more
difficult. As population becomes more concentrated, it’s harder to move
small numbers of voters around. Along the north and central Queensland
coast, most of the population is in a few big cities, and when a seat’s
boundaries are already at the edge of one of them it severely
constrains the options.

No-one wants to split cities like Bundaberg, Mackay or Rockhampton in
two, but to get equivalent numbers in rural areas requires moving huge
chunks of territory because they are now so sparsely populated.

Objections to the draft boundaries have to be lodged
by 21 July. All the parties will have some grievances, but it is unlikely that they will shift the commissioners’ view to any great extent.

Peter Fray

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