The redistribution process in
New South Wales advances another stage next week when the Australian
Electoral Commission conducts public hearings into the objections
raised by the draft boundaries, under which NSW must lose a seat due to
relative population decline.

Readers
will recall that the
redistribution committee stirred up a hornet’s nest with its proposal
to abolish the rural seat of Gwydir. Nearly two thousand objections
were received, almost all of them about Gwydir. On Monday, the
Commission published the comments lodged on the objections, and there are another 156 of them.

Sure
enough, most of them again relate to the abolition of Gwydir and its
effect on neighbouring electorates. In fact, most of them are not
really comments at all, just objections that were received too late for
the deadline. Many are form letters, some more obvious than others –
starting with “I/we wish to object most strongly” is a dead giveaway.
None of them seem to have come up with any new arguments.

The
ones lodged by the political parties are real comments, but the
commissioners will find them equally unhelpful: the parties simply use
the opportunity to reiterate the claims made in their original
objections, while taking pot-shots at their political opponents.

Although
there are real concerns about the draft boundaries in rural NSW, most
of the objectors fail to come to grips with them at all, offering no
practical alternatives – former Democrat senator John Cherry is an
honourable exception – and simply asserting over and over again that
geographical area rather than population should be the basis of
representation.

But the Commission is going to hear from its critics first-hand; the first hearing will be on 24 August in Sydney, but
the following day it will convene in Narrabri, in the heart of Gwydir.
Anyone who get out there for it will be assured of a great day’s
entertainment.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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