It occurs to me that Crikey readers may, perhaps, not inspect the website of the Australian Electoral Commission as often as I do. So let me tell you that there is something important there which should be reported. Back at the 2001 federal election Western Australia gained a 15th seat. It was called Hasluck and has become as classic a marginal as any seat, anywhere. It was won by Labor in 2001, Liberal in 2004 and Labor again in 2007.
Western Australia is still entitled to 15 federal seats so one would have expected that there would be no redistribution until there is an entitlement to a 16th seat. However, there is a provision in the Electoral Act for a redistribution every seven years, regardless of whether it is really needed. Hence a redistribution in 2008. I assumed it would be a pretty minor affair but I could not have been proved more wrong.
The problem for the Redistribution Committee was that the truly rural divisions of O’Connor and Kalgoorlie are growing only quite slowly in elector numbers while Western Australia as a whole is growing quite rapidly. They have solved this problem by a complete recasting of the map of rural Western Australia. Under their proposal the seat bearing the name “O’Connor” is really a new seat. It is very similar to the seat of Dampier which was won by the conservative side of politics at the 1913, 1914, 1917 and 1919 general elections. Dampier was abolished at the 1922 redistribution but is now resurrected in 2008 under the name of O’Connor.
The proposed Kalgoorlie is centered on Kalgoorlie but is effectively the southern part of the state. The south west remains in Forrest but the new Kalgoorlie includes the following southern coastal (and semi-coastal) towns: Bridgetown, Manjimup, Walpole, Denmark, Albany and Esperance.
In terms of area the biggest in Western Australia will be O’Connor at 1,587,759 square kilometres. O’Connor will also be the biggest in Australia as a whole. The second biggest will be Lingiari in the NorthernTerritory at 1,347,849 square kilometres. Grey in South Australia and Kalgoorlie in Western Australia will be the other big ones.
Towns included in O’Connor will include Geraldton, Merredin, Derby, Wyndham, Broome and Karratha. These last three voted in Kalgoorlie at every election from 1922 to 2007, inclusive.
The Perth metropolitan area has been less affected. However, the most marginal seat in the state, Swan, should be noted. It was narrowly won by the Liberal Party in 2007 but would be notionally Labor on these boundaries. To the whole of the existing Swan it is proposed to be added the polling places of Ferndale, Ferndale East, Langford and Lynwood. In 2007 the two-party preferred vote in Swan was 36,420 Liberal and 36,256 Labor. My calculation of the new boundary two-party preferred vote is 39,320 Labor and 38,671 Liberal. Thus the Liberal Party would need a swing of 0.5 per cent to retain Swan.
Labor presently holds four WA seats, Fremantle, Perth, Brand and Hasluck. If they also Swan next time there would be five Labor seats. That would leave the Liberal Party with ten seats, compared with the present eleven.