Last Friday was the deadline
for objections to the proposed federal redistribution in Queensland,
and yesterday those received were posted
on the Australian Electoral Commission’s website. There are 179 of them
– an enormous number. The previous Queensland redistribution, in 2003, attracted 35.

This could just confirm that the redistribution, as the AEC puts it,
“has been, and continues to be, a consultative process”. It could also
indicate, however, that the commissioners got it wrong and have aroused
massive public resentment.

Another possibility is that the
objections have been orchestrated for political purposes. There may
well be an element of that, since many of those from central Queensland
sound suspiciously similar. But even discounting that, there seems a
remarkable degree of discontent with what the commissioners have done.

Interestingly
enough, the party political implications of the disputed boundaries are
minimal. Central Queensland is National Party territory, and under the
proposals they would gain an extra seat. But politicians hate
disruption to their seats, and the commissioners have certainly played
havoc with existing boundaries. And since Queensland is the main scene
of Liberal-National warfare, such disruption always risks reopening
tensions within the Coalition.

Reworking the proposals would be
most unlikely to change the overall political balance, but it would
greatly help the commission’s image. One of the most persistent
objections is not to a boundary change at all, but to the name “Wright”
for the proposed new seat in central Queensland. Many residents
associate it not, as the commissioners intended, with the poet Judith
Wright, but with the former local MP and convicted sex offender Keith
Wright.

Steve Lewis
, writing in today’s Australian,
links the objections with the slightly reduced overall margin for the
government under the proposed boundaries. But that reduced margin comes
entirely from New South Wales; in Queensland, Labor remains on the
outer. Objections to the NSW proposals close this Friday, and it will
be interesting to see whether the locals there are as aggro as they are in
Queensland.

Peter Fray

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