A redistribution of federal electoral boundaries commenced in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in November 2004. This edition of Electoral Newsfile examines the redistribution process.
A redistribution is a redrawing of electoral boundaries. Redistributions occur periodically to ensure that there are, as nearly as practicable, the same number of electors in each division within a State or Territory.
There are three triggers defined in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act) (Section 59) that can cause a redistribution to be held. A redistribution is necessary when:
The ACT was last redistributed on 10 December 1997. A redistribution of federal electoral boundaries in the ACT is now due as seven years have elapsed since that date. In accordance with Section 59 of the Electoral Act, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) directed that a redistribution commence on 30 November 2004.
The enrolment quota is the average number of electors in each of the electoral divisions within a State/Territory. It is calculated by dividing the number of electors enrolled in the State/Territory by the number of members of the House of Representatives to which the State/Territory is entitled.
There are two enrolment quotas calculated during the redistribution process:
The number of electors in proposed electoral divisions must not deviate by more than 10 percent above or below the current quota. Further, at a point in time three and a half years after the redistribution is completed, the number of electors in each division should not deviate by more than 3.5 percent above or below the projected quota.
The enrolment quota for the 2004/2005 ACT redistribution has been calculated as shown in this table.
On 16 February 2005 the Electoral Commissioner invited, by way of notice in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, interested persons or organisations to submit written suggestions regarding the redistribution to the Redistribution Committee for the ACT.
Advertisements calling for public suggestions were also placed in the South Coast Register, the Canberra Times and the Chronicle newspapers.
Persons or organisations wishing to make suggestions have thirty days from the day the invitation is formally announced in which to do so.
In accordance with Section 60 of the Electoral Act, the AEC will appoint a Redistribution Committee for the ACT. The Electoral Act specifies that the Redistribution Committee consist of the Electoral Commissioner, the Senior Divisional Returning Officer for the ACT, the ACT Surveyor-General (or the person holding the office equivalent to the office of Surveyor-General) and the ACT Auditor-General.
The Redistribution Committee has the task of making a proposed redistribution of the State/Territory.
In developing its proposal, the Redistribution Committee must take into consideration:
Consideration of existing boundaries is subordinate to the other considerations set out above.
The suggestions received as a result of the invitation announced on 16 February 2005 will be made available for public inspection at the Office of the Senior Divisional Returning Officer for the ACT from 22 March 2005. Any comments on the suggestions must be lodged in writing with the Redistribution Committee by 1 April 2005.
After considering the written suggestions and comments, the Redistribution Committee will make a proposed redistribution of the ACT. The Redistribution Committee's report along with maps showing the proposed boundaries and names of divisions will be exhibited at the Office of the Senior Divisional Returning Officer for the ACT, and will be available for perusal at AEC Head Offices in each State and the Northern Territory and at the AEC Central Office in Canberra. The maps will also be published in the Canberra Times, the Chronicle and the South Coast Register newspapers.
Written objections to the proposed redistribution can then be lodged with the AEC within a 28-day period. This will be followed by a further 14-day period during which written comments on any objections can be lodged.
An augmented Electoral Commission will consider all objections to the proposed redistribution. This may include holding a public inquiry into objections received. The augmented Electoral Commission for the ACT will comprise the members of the Redistribution Committee for the ACT, the Chairman of the AEC and the non-judicial Commissioner (currently the Australian Statistician).
After it has considered all objections lodged, the augmented Electoral Commission will make its own proposed redistribution of the ACT.
If, in the opinion of the augmented Electoral Commission, its proposed redistribution is significantly different from the Redistribution Committee's proposal, the augmented Electoral Commission will invite further written objections.
The augmented Electoral Commission has 60 days from the closing date for receipt of comments on initial objections to consider those initial objections and comments, make its own proposed redistribution and consider any further objections (if necessary).
Once it has considered all submissions, the augmented Electoral Commission will make a final determination of boundaries and names of the electoral divisions for the ACT.
The determination 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.
It is expected that the redistribution will be completed during October 2005.
The new boundaries come into effect at the next general election. Any by-election held prior to that would be conducted on existing boundaries.
Terry Rushton Ph: (02) 6271 4468