Proposed redistribution of the Australian Capital Territory into electoral divisions

Updated: 11 September 2015

Chapter 1 - Background and context

This chapter outlines the legislative requirements of the redistribution, ranging from the initial triggering of the process to the release of the proposed redistribution by the Redistribution Committee. The chapter explains how these requirements were met during the redistribution process, and also provides relevant information about the Australian Capital Territory.

  1. A redistribution is a redrawing of electoral boundaries to ensure, as near as practicable:
    • each state and territory gains representation in the House of Representatives in proportion to its population, and
    • there are a similar number of electors in each electoral division for a given state or territory.

Compliance with legislative requirements

  1. TheCommonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act) specifies that a redistribution process should be undertaken when:
    • the number of members of the House of Representatives to which a state or territory is entitled has changed (population change),
    • the number of electors in more than one-third of the electoral divisions in a state (or one of the electoral divisions in the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory) deviates from the average divisional enrolment by over ten per cent for a period of more than two months, or
    • a period of seven years has elapsed since the last redistribution process was determined.
  2. The procedures to be followed in conducting a redistribution process are also specified in the Electoral Act. Appendix A summarises the legislative requirements which have been followed in conducting this redistribution. Each of these requirements is discussed in further detail in this chapter.

Requirement to conduct a redistribution of electoral divisions in the Australian Capital Territory

  1. Paragraph 59(2)(c) of the Electoral Act requires that a redistribution process commence when a period of seven years has elapsed since the last redistribution. As the last redistribution of the Australian Capital Territory was determined on Friday 9 December 2005, a redistribution process was required to commence within 30 days of Saturday 8 December 2012.
  2. The federal redistribution of the Australian Capital Territory was delayed on two separate occasions for the following reasons:
    • proximity of the commencement date to the expiration of the House of Representatives, and
    • possible change to the number of members of the House of Representatives.

Proximity of the commencement date to the expiration of the House of Representatives

  1. Sub-section 59(9) of the Electoral Act provided for the deferral of the redistribution process of the Australian Capital Territory as:
    • the redistribution process was required because it had been seven years since the last redistribution was determined on Friday 9 December 2005, and
    • the commencement date was within one year before the date of expiry of the House of Representatives in the 43rd Parliament on Friday 27 September 2013.
  2. Following this deferral, the redistribution process was required to commence within 30 days of the first meeting day of the new House of Representatives in the 44th Parliament.

Possible change to the number of members of the House of Representatives

  1. As the 44th Parliament met for the first time on Tuesday 12 November 2013, the redistribution process was due to commence by Thursday 12 December 2013.
  2. Sub-section 59(9A) of the Electoral Act provided the redistribution process could again be deferred if:
    • the direction to commence the redistribution process was required to be made at any time within 13 months after the first meeting of a House of Representatives, and
    • the determination of the number of members of the House of Representatives had not yet been made, and
    • the Electoral Commission was of the opinion that the next determination would or may result in an alteration of the number of members of the House of Representatives for the Australian Capital Territory to be chosen at a general election.
  3. On Thursday 5 December 2013, in accordance with sub-section 59(9A), the Electoral Commission directed that the redistribution process be deferred until after the next determination of the number of members of the House of Representatives on the basis that the number of electoral divisions could increase to three.

Determination of the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in states and territories

  1. On Thursday 13 November 2014, the then acting Electoral Commissioner made a determination under sub-section 48(1) of the Electoral Act of the number of members of the House of Representatives each state and territory would be entitled to at the next general election.
  2. As a result of this determination, the Australian Capital Territory’s entitlement remained at two members of the House of Representatives.

Direction for a redistribution of the Australian Capital Territory electoral divisions

  1. In accordance with sub-section 59(1) of the Electoral Act, the Electoral Commission published a notice in the Commonwealth Government Notices Gazette (the Gazette) on Monday 1 December 2014 directing that a redistribution of the Australian Capital Territory into two electoral divisions commence.

Projection time for equality of enrolments

  1. Section 63A of the Electoral Act establishes that the projection time in relation to a redistribution process is the end of the period three years and six months after the final determination of electoral division boundaries and names will be published in the Gazette. Calculating the projection time is an important part of the redistribution process as the Redistribution Committee is required to consider the number of electors projected to be enrolled in each proposed electoral division at this time.
  2. The starting time from which the projection time is calculated, as defined by sub-section 63A(5), is the date at which the augmented Electoral Commission determines the boundaries and names of electoral divisions via publication of a notice in the Gazette. The starting time for the redistribution process for the Australian Capital Territory is Thursday 28 January 2016 as this is the date when the augmented Electoral Commission for the Australian Capital Territory will cause the boundaries and names of electoral divisions in the Australian Capital Territory to be published in the Gazette.
  3. On Monday 1 December 2014, the Electoral Commission noted that to calculate the projection time for equality of enrolments in the redistribution of the Australian Capital Territory:
    • the starting time is Thursday 28 January 2016,
    • the 'standard' period of three years and six months will apply,1 and
    • the projection time is Sunday 28 July 2019.

Current enrolment quota

  1. Section 65 of the Electoral Act requires the Electoral Commissioner, as soon as practicable after the redistribution process commences, to determine the current enrolment quota or average divisional enrolment using the following formula:

Number of electors enrolled in the Australian Capital Territory as at the end of the day on which the redistribution commenced (Monday 1 December 2014)


Number of members of the House of Representatives to which the Australian Capital Territory is entitled

  1. In calculating this quota, sub-section 65(2) of the Electoral Act provides that:
    • where the result is less than 0.5, the number is rounded down to the nearest whole number, or
    • where the result is equal to or greater than 0.5, the number is rounded up to the nearest whole number.
  2. Table A shows the figures used to calculate the current enrolment quota and the resultant range of the permissible maximum and minimum number of electors in an electoral division (discussed further in the section titled 'Statutory requirements for the making of a proposed redistribution').
Table A: Current enrolment quota and permissible range for the Australian Capital Territory
Number of electors enrolled in the Australian Capital Territory as at the end of the day on which the redistribution commenced (Monday 1 December 2014) 269 624
Number of members of the House of Representatives to which the Australian Capital Territory is entitled 2
Current enrolment quota for the Australian Capital Territory 134 812
Permissible maximum number of electors in an electoral division
(current enrolment quota + 10 per cent)
148 293
Permissible minimum number of electors in an electoral division
(current enrolment quota – 10 per cent)
121 330
  1. The then acting Electoral Commissioner signed a written instrument on Monday 8 December 2014, as required by sub-section 65(1) of the Electoral Act, determining the quota of electors for the purposes of the redistribution to be 134 812.
  2. As part of the redistribution process, the Redistribution Committee is required to ensure that the number of electors in a proposed electoral division does not vary by more than or less than 10 per cent from the current enrolment quota (see Appendix B).

Enrolment projections and projected enrolment quota

  1. When making a proposed redistribution, the Redistribution Committee is required by paragraph 66(3)(a) to ensure, as far as practicable, that the number of electors enrolled in the proposed electoral division at the projection time will not vary by more than or less than 3.5 per cent of the projected enrolment quota. This quota is calculated using the following formula:

Estimated total number of electors enrolled in the Australian Capital Territory at the projection time (sunday 28 July 2019)


Number of members of the House of Representatives to which the Australian Capital Territory is entitled

  1. Table B shows the figures used to calculate the projected enrolment quota and the resultant range of the permissible maximum and minimum number of electors in an electoral division at the projection time (discussed further in the section titled ‘Statutory requirements for the making of a proposed redistribution’).
Table B: Projected enrolment quota and permissible range for the Australian Capital Territory
Estimated total number of electors enrolled in the Australian Capital Territory at the projection time (Sunday 28 July 2019) 288 894
Number of Members of the House of Representatives to which the Australian Capital Territory is entitled 2
Projected enrolment quota for the Australian Capital Territory 144 447
Permissible maximum number of electors in an electoral division at the projection time (projected enrolment quota + 3.5 per cent) 149 503
Permissible minimum number of electors in an electoral division at the projection time (projected enrolment quota – 3.5 per cent) 139 391

Appointment of the Redistribution Committee for the Australian Capital Territory

  1. Sub-section 60(1) of the Electoral Act specifies that a Redistribution Committee for the Australian Capital Territory is required to be appointed by the Electoral Commission, via a written instrument, as soon as practicable after the commencement of the redistribution process. Section 60 also specifies the membership of the Redistribution Committee.
  2. The Redistribution Committee for the Australian Capital Territory differs to the redistribution committees for all other states and territories due to the absence of an Australian Electoral Officer for the Australian Capital Territory at any time other than an election.2 Instead, the Electoral Act provides that, for the purposes of the redistribution, the Electoral Commission must determine in writing which of the Divisional Returning Officers in the Australian Capital Territory will be the senior Divisional Returning Officer.3
  3. Following the determination in writing of the senior Divisional Returning Officer for the Australian Capital Territory on Saturday 11 April 2015, in accordance with sub-section 60(7B) of the Electoral Act, the Redistribution Committee was appointed by written instrument on Saturday 11 April 2015.
  4. The membership of the Redistribution Committee for the Australian Capital Territory is outlined in Table C.
Table C: Membership of the Redistribution Committee for the Australian Capital Territory
Position on Redistribution Committee Name Basis for membership
Chair Mr Tom Rogers Electoral Commissioner
Member Mr Andrew Kristjanson Senior Divisional Returning Officer for the Australian Capital Territory
Member Mr Jeff Brown Surveyor-General of the Australian Capital Territory
Member Dr Maxine Cooper Australian Capital Territory Auditor-General
  1. The Redistribution Committee met on:
    • Wednesday 17 June 2015
    • Wednesday 24 June 2015
    • Tuesday 7 July 2015
    • Friday 10 July 2015
    • Tuesday 14 July 2015
    • Monday 20 July 2015

Invitation for interested parties to submit suggestions and comments on suggestions

  1. The Electoral Commissioner is required by sub-sections 64(1) and 64(2) of the Electoral Act to invite written suggestions relating to the redistribution of the Australian Capital Territory and written comments on suggestions via:
    • a notice published in the Gazette on a Wednesday, and
    • a notice published in two newspapers circulating throughout the Australian Capital Territory.
  2. The notice in the Gazette was published on Wednesday 29 April 2015 and notices were published in The Canberra Times and The Australian on Saturday 2 May 2015.4
  3. These notices included information about the steps followed in conducting a redistribution, how to participate in the process and where to find further information. Table D presents information on the options for making a suggestion or comment on a suggestion, and the extent to which these options were used.
Table D: Options to make a suggestion or comment on a suggestion
Options Suggestions Comments on a suggestion
Number Percentage Number Percentage
Form upload on AEC website 5 62.50 2 100.00
Email 3 37.50 0 0.00
Mail 0 0.00 0 0.00
Fax 0 0.00 0 0.00
In person 0 0.00 0 0.00
Total 8 100.00 2 100.00
  1. Interested parties were able to submit written suggestions from Wednesday 29 April 2015 until 6pm (AEST) on Friday 29 May 2015, the 5th Friday after publication of the Gazette notice. During this time, eight suggestions were received by the Redistribution Committee (see Appendix C).
  2. As required by paragraph 64(3)(b) of the Electoral Act, copies of these suggestions were made available to the public for perusal at the office of the senior Divisional Returning Officer for the Australian Capital Territory in Canberra from Monday 1 June 2015. The suggestions were also made available on the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website from this date.
  3. Interested parties were able to submit written comments on suggestions received from Monday 1 June 2015 until 6pm (AEST) on Friday 12 June 2015, the 7th Friday after publication of the Gazette notice. During this time, two comments on suggestions were received by the Redistribution Committee (see Appendix D).
  4. From Monday 15 June 2015, interested parties were able to view these comments on suggestions on the AEC website.

Redistribution Committee’s consideration of suggestions and comments on suggestions

  1. The Redistribution Committee is required by sub-section 64(4) to consider all suggestions and comments on suggestions which were received by the required specified lodgement times.
  2. In formulating its proposed redistribution of the Australian Capital Territory, the Redistribution Committee considered each of the eight suggestions and two comments on suggestions. Appendix E outlines the key themes contained in these suggestions and comments on suggestions, and how the Redistribution Committee responded to them, having regard to the requirements of the Electoral Act.

Statutory requirements for the making of a proposed redistribution

  1. Section 66 of the Electoral Act required the Redistribution Committee for the Australian Capital Territory to adhere to specific criteria in forming the proposed boundaries.
  2. The Redistribution Committee endeavoured to ensure that the number of electors in each proposed Australian Capital Territory electoral division would:
    • not be less than 90 per cent or more than 110 per cent of the current enrolment quota (see Table A for the permissible maximum and minimum number of electors at this time), and
    • not be less than 96.5 per cent or more than 103.5 per cent of the projected enrolment quota at the projection time of Sunday 28 July 2019 (see Table B for the permissible maximum and minimum number of electors at this time).
  3. The Redistribution Committee also gave due consideration to:
    • community of interests in the proposed electoral divisions including economic, social and regional interests,
    • means of communication and travel in the proposed electoral division,
    • the physical features and area of the proposed electoral divisions, and
    • the boundaries of existing electoral divisions.
  4. Further details regarding these requirements are in Appendix B.
  5. Appendix F outlines the mechanics of constructing proposed electoral divisions.

Population and enrolment in the Australian Capital Territory

  1. The periodic redrawing of electoral boundaries is required to:
    • address changes in the population of a state or territory, which may result from natural increase, natural decrease, net overseas migration or net interstate migration, and/or
    • address changes in the distribution of electors in the state or territory.

The population of the Australian Capital Territory

  1. On Thursday 13 November 2014, the then acting Electoral Commissioner ascertained the Australian Capital Territory's population was 386 092.5 This represents growth of 6.53 per cent in population since the previous ascertainment of the population on 29 September 2011.
  2. Similarly, Figure A shows the estimated resident population of the Australian Capital Territory has grown annually over this period.6 7 However, from Figure A it is also evident that:
    • growth of the estimated resident population of the Australian Capital Territory has slowed, and
    • unlike in the 12 months to 30 June 2011 and 30 June 2012, the estimated resident population for Australia as a whole is growing at a greater rate than the estimated resident population of the Australian Capital Territory.
Figure A: Growth of estimated resident population of the Australian Capital Territory and Australia in the 12 months to 30 June, 2011 to 2014
Growth of estimated resident population of the Australian Capital Territory and Australia in the 12 months to 30 June, 2011 to 2014

Source: ABS, 3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2013–14
ABS, 3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2012–13
ABS, 3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2011–12
ABS, 3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2010–11

Where is population growth in the Australian Capital Territory located?

  1. At June 2014, 54.92 per cent of the estimated resident population of the Australian Capital Territory resided in the northern part of the territory.8 Figure B shows that not only is there a significantly higher portion of residents living in the north, but that much of the population growth has occurred in this part of the Australian Capital Territory. In contrast, the estimated resident population in the southern part of the Australian Capital Territory has remained comparatively stable.
  2. Much of the growth in the northern part of the Australian Capital Territory is the result of an increase in high- and medium-density dwellings in and around the City and Belconnen business centres. Growth has also occurred in new suburbs located in the south-western area of the Australian Capital Territory.9
  3. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has observed that, in the ten years to 2014, the centre of population in the Australian Capital Territory has moved 1.6 kilometres north to the banks of Lake Burley Griffin, in the suburb of Yarralumla. This reflects population growth in the northern suburbs, especially in the suburbs of Gungahlin.10
Figure B: Location of growth in the Australian Capital Territory, 2011 to 2014
Location of growth in the Australian Capital Territory, 2011 to 2014

Source: ABS, 3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2013–14
ABS, 3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2012–13
ABS, 3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2011–12 

Enrolment in the Australian Capital Territory

  1. When the redistribution of the Australian Capital Territory commenced on Monday 1 December 2014, 269 624 electors were enrolled to vote. By the projection time of Sunday 28 July 2019, it is projected that the size of the federal electoral roll for the Australian Capital Territory would have grown by 7.15 per cent to 288 894 electors.
  2. Table E shows that while both current electoral divisions are expected to grow in the period Monday 1 December 2014 to Sunday 28 July 2019, the Division of Fraser is expected to grow at a faster rate than the Division of Canberra.11 This aligns with the trends in population growth in the Australian Capital Territory discussed previously.
  3. Faster growth in the Division of Fraser is also consistent with enrolment trends in recent years. Figure C illustrates that not only are more electors enrolled in the Division of Fraser, but that the level of enrolment has grown more rapidly than in the Division of Canberra.
Table E: Projected growth of current electoral divisions
Current division Enrolment as at Monday 1 December 2014 Projected enrolment as at Sunday 28 July 2019 Percentage growth
Canberra 128 007 135 838 6.12
Fraser 141 617 153 056 8.08
Total 269 624 288 894 7.15
  1. As discussed previously, in making a proposed redistribution, the Electoral Act requires the Redistribution Committee to ensure the number of electors in each proposed Australian Capital Territory electoral division would:
    • not be less than 90 per cent or more than 110 per cent of the current enrolment quota, and
    • not be less than 96.5 per cent or more than 103.5 per cent of the projected enrolment quota at the projection time of Sunday 28 July 2019.
Figure C: Enrolment in the Divisions of Canberra and Fraser, 30 June 2012 to 31 December 2014
Enrolment in the Divisions of Canberra and Fraser, 30 June 2012 to 31 December 2014

Source: Enrolment statistics available from www.aec.gov.au

  1. Figure D shows that, on the current boundaries, the number of electors enrolled in both the Divisions of Canberra and Fraser meet the requirement to be not less than 90 per cent or more than 110 per cent of the current enrolment quota. However, Figure E indicates that neither electoral division meets the second requirement as:
    • the Division of Canberra is less than 96.5 per cent of the projected enrolment quota at the projection time of Sunday 28 July 2019, and
    • the Division of Fraser is more than 103.5 per cent of the projected enrolment quota at the projection time of Sunday 28 July 2019.
  2. As a consequence, the Redistribution Committee was required to adjust the boundaries of both current electoral divisions to meet the requirements of the Electoral Act.
Figure D: Current Divisions of Canberra and Fraser – enrolment as at Monday 1 December 2014, current enrolment quota and permissible range of electors
Current Divisions of Canberra and Fraser – enrolment as at Monday 1 December 2014, current enrolment quota and permissible range of electors

Source: Available from www.aec.gov.au/act-redistribution

Figure E: Current Divisions of Canberra and Fraser – projected enrolment as at Sunday 28 July 2019, projected enrolment quota and permissible range of electors
Current Divisions of Canberra and Fraser – projected enrolment as at Sunday 28 July 2019, projected enrolment quota and permissible range of electors

Source: Available from www.aec.gov.au/act-redistribution


  1. Section 63A of the Electoral Act provides for this period to be varied where the Electoral Commission is of the opinion a redistribution process will or may be required to be undertaken as a result of a change in the number of electoral divisions a state or territory is entitled to sooner than seven years after the starting time.
  2. Sub-section 30(1) of the Electoral Act provides that, for the purposes of each election, the Electoral Commission shall appoint an Australian Electoral Officer for the Australian Capital Territory with the appointment terminating at the completion of the election.
  3. Paragraph 60(7A)(b) provides for references to ‘the Australian Electoral Officer for the State’ to be read as a reference to ‘the senior Divisional Returning Officer for the Australian Capital Territory’.
  4. Sub-section 64(2) of the Electoral Act notes that the newspaper notices do not need to be published on the same day as the Gazette notice.
  5. This ascertainment was made using statistics supplied to the then acting Electoral Commissioner by the then acting Australian Statistician on Wednesday 22 October 2014 in accordance with section 47 of the Electoral Act and published in Table 8 of 3101.0 – Australian Demographics Statistics, Mar 2014 on Thursday 25 September 2014. Under sub-section 4(1) of the Electoral Act, the Jervis Bay Territory is taken to be part of the Australian Capital Territory. Under sub-section 46(2) of the Electoral Act, a Norfolk Island resident who is enrolled in a territory under sub-section 95AA(3) of the Electoral Act is also included in the count of the population of the territory for the purposes of this determination.
  6. Estimated resident population is the ABS official estimate of the Australian population, which links people to a place of usual residence in Australia. Usual residence in Australia refers to that address at which the person has lived or intends to live for six months or more in a given reference year. Estimates of the resident population are based on Census counts by place of usual residence (excluding short-term overseas visitors in Australia), with an allowance for Census net undercount, to which are added the estimated number of Australian residents temporarily overseas at the time of the Census. For further information, see the explanatory notes in 3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2013–14, available at: www.abs.gov.au
  7. Please note that the estimated resident population differs from the population ascertained on Thursday 13 November 2014.
  8. ABS, 3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2013–14
  9. ibid.
  10. ibid.
  11. The current boundary between the electoral divisions in the Australian Capital Territory is the Murrumbidgee River, the Molonglo River, Lake Burley Griffin and the Queanbeyan River – the Division of Fraser is located to the north of this line (supplemented by Jervis Bay, which is located on the south coast of New South Wales) and the Division of Canberra is located to the south of this line (see Figure I).