Electoral Pocketbook 2011 - 2 Parliamentary representation

Updated: 17 June 2011

2.6 Electoral divisions

For the House of Representatives, each state and territory is divided into electoral divisions. Population determines the number of divisions. To ensure continued equal representation, the boundaries of these divisions have to be redrawn (redistributed) periodically.

In deciding where the boundaries should be drawn, various factors are taken into consideration such as numerical quotas, means of communication, and community interest.

Timing of redistributions

A redistribution is necessary when:

  • the number of parliamentary representatives to which a state or territory is entitled has changed due to population changes (see population quota),
  • the number of electors in more than one third of the divisions in a state or one of the divisions in the ACT or the NT deviates from the average divisional enrolment by over 10% for a period of more than two consecutive months, or
  • a period of seven years has elapsed since the previous redistribution.

The redistribution process

After the formal commencement of the redistribution, the enrolment quota must be struck. The Electoral Commissioner determines the quota by dividing the number of electors enrolled in the state or territory by the number of members of the House of Representatives to be elected in that state or territory at a federal election.

The Electoral Commission appoints a Redistribution Committee for the state or territory. This committee consists of the Electoral Commissioner and the Australian Electoral Officer (AEO) for the state/territory (except for the ACT where the senior Divisional Returning Officer for the territory is a member), the Surveyor-General and the Auditor-General for that state/territory.

The Electoral Commissioner invites interested people or organisations to submit suggestions about the redistribution within 30 days.

The suggestions are made available for public inspection. There is then a period of 14 days in which written comments on the suggestions may be lodged.

The Redistribution Committee makes a proposed redistribution, taking into consideration a number of factors detailed in the Electoral Act and the public suggestions and comments. Maps showing proposed boundaries and names of divisions, together with the reasons for the proposed redistribution, are published and publicly exhibited.

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

This is followed by a period of 14 days in which written comments on the objections can be submitted.

The augmented Electoral Commission for the state or territory considers objections to the proposed redistribution. The augmented Electoral Commission comprises the three members of the Electoral Commission, the AEO for the state/territory (except for the ACT where the senior Divisional Returning Officer for the territory is a member) and the two state/territory government representatives on the Redistribution Committee.

The augmented Electoral Commission has 60 days after the closing date for receipt of comments on initial objections to finish its considerations. After considering these objections, the augmented Electoral Commission publicly announces a proposed redistribution.

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

Having considered any further objections arising from these comments, the augmented Electoral Commission will make a final determination of boundaries and names of the electoral divisions in the particular state or territory. The final report is submitted to the Minister, and then tabled in both houses.

Quotas

The term 'quota' is used in two contexts in the redistribution process.

1 Population quota

This term is used when calculating the number of members of the House of Representatives to which a state or territory is entitled (i.e. the number of divisions).

Twelve months after the first meeting of the newly elected House of Representatives, the Electoral Commissioner is required to ascertain the population of the Commonwealth (excluding the territories) according to the latest official statistics published by the Australian Statistician. These figures are then used to determine how many members of the House of Representatives (divisions) each state is entitled. A similar exercise is used to calculate the entitlements of the territories.

The determination of representation entitlements at 17 February 2009 (as used for the 2010 federal election):

Step 1
Total population of the six states
= Quota
___________________________________________
2 x number of senators for the states
(The population of the six states divided by twice the number of senators for the states.)
20 807 529
= 144 496.7292
(as at 1.2.2009)
___________________________________________
72 x 2 = 144
Step 2
Total population of individual state or territory
= Number of members
___________________________________________
Quota
State calculations
State Population   Quota Entitlement Divisions
NSW 6 967 271 ÷ 144 496.7292 = 48.2175 = 48
Vic. 5 297 567 ÷ 144 496.7292 = 36.6622 = 37
Qld 4 279 450 ÷ 144 496.7292 = 39.6162 = 30
WA 2 163 251 ÷ 144 496.7292 = 14.9709 = 15
SA 1 601 827 ÷ 144 496.7292 = 11.0856 = 11
Tas. 498 163 ÷ 144 496.7292 = 3.4476 =5*
ACT 344 744 ÷ 144 496.7292 =2.3858 =2
NT 221 972 ÷ 144 496.7292 =1.5362 =2
Total   150

* The Constitution (s.24) states that at least five members shall be chosen from each of the original six states and Tasmania is therefore guaranteed a minimum of five members

In calculating Step 2, if the remainder is more than 0.5, the figure for the number of members is rounded up. If the remainder is less than or equal to 0.5, the figure is rounded down (i.e. 2.5 = 2 members, and 2.52 = 3 members).

For further information about the above calculations, please visit the redistributions page on the AEC website.

2 Enrolment quotas

There are two enrolment quotas calculated during the redistribution process:

  • the current quota or average divisional enrolment, and
  • the projected average divisional enrolment at the projection time (usually three years and six months after the expected completion of the redistribution).

The average divisional enrolment quota is determined as soon as practicable after the redistribution commences. It is calculated by dividing the number of people enrolled in the state by the number of members to which the state is entitled. The number of electors in each proposed division must not vary by 10% more or less than the quota.

The projected enrolment average is calculated by dividing the projected number of people enrolled in the state at the projection time by the number of members to which the state is entitled. As far as practicable, the number of electors in each division at the projection time should not vary by 3.5% more or less than the average number of projected electors.

For example, the quota for NSW was calculated as at 19 February 2009, the commencement date of the redistribution process, as follows:
Number of electors enrolled in NSW (4 528 940)
= 94 353
___________________________________________________
Number of divisions into which NSW is to be distributed (48)

Therefore the number of electors in each division could vary up to 10 per cent from 94 353. That is, the permissible maximum (+10%) would be would be 103 788 and the permissible minimum (-10%) would be 84 918.

The projected quota for NSW was calculated as follows:
Projected enrolment in NSW at 16.07.12 (4 747 516)
= 98 907
___________________________________________________
Number of members NSW is entitled to (48)

Therefore, the projected average enrolment at July 2012 (i.e. the projection time, which is three and a half years time from the date the redistribution was expected to be completed) was 98 907 electors for each division in NSW. As far as practicable, the projected enrolments should not vary from this by more or less than 3.5 per cent (ie 103.5% = 102 369 or 96.5% = 95 445).

Redistribution timetable

The redistribution timetable is available on the AEC website. Please use your browser back button to return to this page.

Dates of redistribution since 1901

Dates of redistribution are available on the AEC website. Please use your browser back button to return to this page.