Australian Electoral Commission

Redistributions – Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: 28 September 2011

When was the last entitlement?

The last entitlement determination was made on 29 September 2011. A total of 150 seats will be contested at the next federal election for the House of Representatives after this entitlement determination in accordance with the following table.

State entitlements
State Entitlement
New South Wales 48 seats
Victoria 37 seats
Queensland 30 seats
Western Australia 15 seats
South Australia 11 seats
Tasmania 5 seats
Australian Capital Territory 2 seats
Northern Territory 2 seats

When will the next entitlement determination occur?

The determination is published within 13 months after the first sitting of the next House of Representatives.

Who organises the redistribution of electoral boundaries?

A separate Redistribution Committee is established for each State or Territory in which a redistribution has commenced. The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 requires that each Redistribution Committee must consist of the following people:

  • the Electoral Commissioner;
  • the Australian Electoral Officer for the particular State or the Northern Territory (the Senior Divisional Returning Officer in the case of the ACT);
  • the State Surveyor-General for the State or the person holding an equivalent office; and
  • the Auditor-General for the State or if unavailable a substitute.

Each Committee has the task of producing a proposed set of boundaries and names for electoral divisions for the House of Representatives in that particular State or Territory.

What criteria are used to draw the boundaries?

A Redistribution Committee must develop a set of proposals for dividing each state or territory into a number of divisions equal to its entitlement in the House of Representatives. In developing its proposals, the Committee must remain within the numerical quotas for current and projected enrolment. The Committee also shall give due consideration to:

  • community interests within the proposed division, including economic, social and regional interests;
  • means of communication and travel within the proposed division;
  • physical features and area of the proposed division; and
  • existing boundaries of divisions in the State or Territory.

What is the three-and-a-half year rule?

Boundaries are drawn so that, as far as practicable, three and a half years after the redistribution has been completed, the enrolment in each electoral division should not vary from the State average by more than 3.5%. 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 or territory considers any objections and makes the final determination. The final report of the augmented Electoral Commission is tabled in the parliament.

How do I know if I have been affected by a Redistribution?

Electors affected by changes to divisional boundaries will be notified of this change before the next federal election.

When do the new boundaries come into effect?

The enrolment of new electors and changes to existing enrolments are implemented immediately following the determination of new boundaries. However, for the purpose of electing members of parliament, the new boundaries do not come into effect until the next federal election.

Note: If a by-election is held prior to the next federal election, the by-election will be conducted on existing boundaries not the redistributed boundaries.

What if a federal election is held before the redistribution process is completed?

If the writ for an election was issued before the completion of a redistribution and there was no change to the number of electoral divisions for the state or territory, the election would be contested on the old boundaries. The work of the Redistribution Committee would continue irrespective of the election.

If the writ for an election was issued before the completion of a redistribution which was occurring due to a change of entitlement, a mini-redistribution would be held (The Electoral Act s.76). A mini-redistribution takes place as follows:

  • Where a state is entitled to one more member than the number of existing divisions, the two contiguous divisions with the highest combined enrolment are split into three divisions. The newly-created division is given a hyphenated name – a combination of the names of the two divisions from which it was created.
  • Similarly, when a state is entitled to one less member than it has divisions, the pair of contiguous divisions with the lowest combined enrolment will be redistributed to create one division where there had been two. The name of the newly created division would be a combination of the two divisional names.