I reported yesterday that the draft redistribution in Queensland
effectively gives the National Party an extra seat, but they were given
little enough time to digest that good news: the proposals for New
South Wales, released this morning, take it away again.

It will take a few days to digest the details, but
the key feature of the proposed boundaries is obvious: NSW
gets one less seat (50 down to 49), due to relative population decline,
and the loss comes in the rural west of the state. The seat of Gwydir,
held by former Nationals leader John Anderson, is to be abolished,
although in effect it merges with the seat of Parkes, also National-held.

When it was first announced last year that NSW would lose a seat, my view was that a rural seat was the most
likely candidate for abolition. When the enrolment projections were
released earlier this year, however, it seemed that the more serious
loss of population was in the inner south-western suburbs of Sydney,
and so, like other observers (including Malcolm Mackerras), I expected
that either Blaxland or Reid would be the seat to go.

Instead, the commissioners have proposed a radical
reshuffling of seats across western Sydney, with the net effect of
moving both Macquarie and Macarthur well out into semi-rural territory.
That means that a rural seat can be abolished, although there are some
odd results: Farrer has to stretch out to include Broken Hill as well
as Albury, Bathurst and Orange go into separate seats (bad news for
independent member Peter Andren), and Eden-Monaro has to cross the
Snowy Mountains to Tumut and Tumbarumba.

One seat that would not be disrupted, however, is
the prime minister’s Bennelong. Despite rumours to the contrary, it
would retain all its existing voters, and gain only small areas from
Parramatta and Berowra to bring it up to quota.

The Nationals were unhappy with the
Queensland proposals, despite the gain of a seat. Expect them to go
ballistic over NSW.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey