Electoral Newsfile 80: 1999 Redistribution Process Commences

Updated: 5 December 2007

A redistribution of federal electoral boundaries will commence in New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania in 1999. This edition of Electoral Newsfile examines the redistribution process and explains the steps involved in drawing the new boundaries. Following amendments in 1998 to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, some aspects of the process have changed since the last redistribution of electoral boundaries conducted in 1997 in Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.

What is a redistribution?

A redistribution is the redrawing of electoral boundaries to ensure that there are, as near as possible, the same number of people in each electoral division.

Why are redistributions occurring in NSW, SA and Tas?

To ensure equal representation, a redistribution is held at least every seven years. As electoral boundaries were last redistributed in these three States in 1992, a redistribution is required in 1999.

Redistributions are also necessary if the number of parliamentary representatives to which a State is entitled has changed or if the number of electors in more than one third of the divisions in a State or one of the divisions in the Australian Capital Territory deviates from the average divisional enrolment by over 10 per cent for three consecutive months.

When will the redistributions commence?

The Commonwealth Electoral Act requires a redistribution to commence within 30 days after the expiration of the seven year period. This means that the redistributions are expected to commence within 30 days of the following dates:

  • South Australia, 17 January 1999
  • New South Wales, 31 January 1999
  • Tasmania, 1 April 1999

Who redistributes the electoral boundaries?

A separate redistribution committee will be established for each State in which a redistribution has commenced. Thus there will be a separate Redistribution Committee for New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania.

While the specific membership of each committee has yet to be determined, the Commonwealth Electoral Act requires that each committee must consist of the following people:

  • The Electoral Commissioner
  • The Australian Electoral Officer for the particular State
  • The Surveyor General for the State (or the person holding an equivalent office)
  • The Auditor General for the State (or if unavailable a senior Australian public servant)

Each committee has the task of producing a proposed set of boundaries of electoral divisions for the House of Representatives in that particular State.

What criteria are used to draw boundaries?

A Redistribution Committee must develop a set of proposals for dividing each State into a number of divisions equal to each State's entitlement in the House of Representatives. Currently New South Wales has an entitlement to 50 seats, South Australia 12 seats and Tasmania 5 seats.

In developing its proposals, the Committee must:

  • consider public suggestions and comments;
  • as far as possible, ensure that three years and six months after the redistribution, no division will deviate by over 3.5 per cent from the average divisional enrolment at that time; and
  • take into consideration for each proposed division:
    1. community interests within the division, including economic, social and regional interests
    2. means of communication and travel within a division
    3. physical features and area
    4. existing boundaries of divisions.

The Committee may allow for an initial maximum margin of ten percent above or below the average divisional enrolment (but still aim for no more than 3.5 percent deviation in three and a half years time).

What is the three and a half year rule?

Boundaries are drawn so that, as far as possible, three and a half years after the redistribution, the enrolment in each electoral division should not vary from the State average by more than 3.5 percent. Note that the Electoral Act provides separate provisions for the projection time if another redistribution is expected sooner than seven years.

Who makes the final decision?

The augmented Electoral Commission for the State is convened to consider any objections and to make the final determination of boundaries and names.

This decision is not subject to appeal or amendment. Parliament has no power to reject or amend the final determination of an augmented Electoral Commission. However the final report of the augmented Electoral Commission is tabled in the Parliament for the information of Members and Senators.

When are the redistributions due to be completed?

The redistributions are expected to be completed by:

  • South Australia October 1999
  • New South Wales December 1999
  • Tasmania November 1999

When do the new boundaries come into effect?

The new boundaries come into effect at the next general election for Federal Parliament. Any by-elections held prior to the next general election will be conducted on existing boundaries.

What is the quota?

The quota is the average number of electors in each Division. This figure is calculated by dividing the total number of electors by the number of divisions into which the State is to be divided.

Note that following changes to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, the quota will be struck for each State as soon as practicable after the redistribution commences. At previous redistributions, the quota was not struck until after the period for suggestions and comments had closed.

Steps in a redistribution

A redistribution is carried out in accordance with the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. There are a number of stages, including opportunities for public participation, as detailed below.

Step 1 – Quota of electors is struck

After the formal commencement of the redistribution, the enrolment quota must be struck. The quota is determined by the Electoral Commissioner by dividing the number of electors enrolled in the State, by the number of Members of the House of Representatives to be elected in the State at a general election.

Electoral Commissioner invites written suggestions

Before the Redistribution Committee makes its proposal, any interested people or organisations who wish to make suggestions regarding the redistribution have 30 days to forward them in writing to the Redistribution Committee.

Appointment of Redistribution Committee

The Redistribution Committee for the State or Territory is appointed by the Electoral Commission.

Step 2 – Comments on the public suggestions

The suggestions are made available for public inspection. Interested people or organisations may make comments on these suggestions. Any comments must be lodged in writing within 14 days.

Step 3 – The initial redistribution proposal

Having considered the public suggestions and comments, the Redistribution Committee makes a proposed redistribution.

Maps showing proposed boundaries and names of divisions are published and exhibited at all AEC divisional offices in the particular State, the Head Offices in all States and the Northern Territory, and in the Central Office in Canberra.

Step 4 – Objections to the proposed redistribution

Following the publication of the initial proposed redistribution, there is a period of 28 days within which objections to the proposed redistribution may be lodged.

Step 5 – Comments on objections

There is a period of 14 days in which interested people and organisations may make comment on the objections.

Step 6 – Objections considered by the augmented

Objections to the proposed redistribution are considered by the augmented Electoral Commission for the State. The augmented Electoral Commission consists of the members of the Redistribution Committee plus the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mr Trevor Morling QC and the non-judicial Commissioner, Mr Bill McLennan (the Australian Statistician).

The second proposed redistribution

After it has considered all the initial objections, the augmented Electoral Commission will make its own proposed redistribution.

Step 7 – Further objections

If the augmented Electoral Commission's proposed redistribution is significantly different from the proposal made by the Redistribution Committee, the augmented Electoral Commission may invite further objections.

The augmented Electoral Commission has 60 days after the closing date for receipt of initial objections to consider those objections, make its own redistribution proposals and consider any further objections.

Step 8 – Final determination

Having considered any further objections, the augmented Electoral Commission will make a final determination of boundaries and names of the electoral divisions in the particular State.

Please note that the exact dates for SA and NSW on the timetable below are subject to confirmation and may differ slightly within the constraints of the legislative requirements. The dates for the TAS redistribution and later dates for SA and NSW have yet to be determined.

The redistribution timetable
Australian Electoral Commission directs redistribution to commence SA 10 Feb 1999, NSW 26 Feb 1999
Electoral Commissioner invites written suggestions from public SA 17 Feb 1999, NSW 17 March 1999
Appointment of Redistribution Committee SA 10 March 1999, NSW 26 March 1999
Public suggestions  
Closing date for suggestions 30 days
SA 19 March 1999, NSW 16 April 1999
Suggestions available for public comments  
Closing date for written comments 14 Days
SA 2 April 1999, NSW 30 April 1999
Redistribution Committee considers suggestions and comments and develops a set of boundary proposals No time specified
SA 21 May 1999, NSW 2 July 1999
Redistribution Committee publishes and exhibits maps showing proposed boundaries and names No time specified
Public objections to proposals  
Closing date for written objections 28 days
Objections available for public comments  
Closing date for written comments 14 days
Augmented Electoral Commission considers objections and makes final proposal (open hearings) 60 days
Final determination As soon as practicable

AEC Contacts

Central Office

Electoral Commissioner Ph. (02) 6271 4400
Bill Gray

Director, Information Ph. (02) 6271 4415
Brien Hallett

Editor, Newsfile Ph. (02) 6271 4505
Bernadette O'Meara

Head Offices

New South Wales Ph. (02) 9375 6333
Victoria Ph. (03) 9285 7171
Queensland Ph. (07) 3834 3400
Western Australia Ph. (08) 9470 7299
South Australia Ph. (08) 8237 6555
Tasmania Ph. (03) 6235 0500
Northern Territory Ph. (08) 8981 1477

Redistribution Secretariat

Wayne Seymour Ph. (02) 6271 4688