Electoral Newsfile 88: 2000 Redistribution Process Commences

Updated: 5 December 2007

A redistribution of federal electoral boundaries will be undertaken in Western Australia and the Northern Territory this year. This edition of Electoral Newsfile examines the redistribution process.

The Australian Electoral Commissioner has announced that, as a result of changes in population, the Parliamentary representation entitlements of Western Australia (WA) and the Northern Territory (NT) will change.

The Electoral Commissioner made the determination of the number of representatives to which each State and Territory is entitled, based on figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and other sources. These figures confirmed that WA and the NT will each gain an extra seat in the House of Representatives.

Following the determination, the Electoral Commission met to direct the commencement of these redistributions. The Electoral Commission comprises the Electoral Commissioner, the Chairperson of the Commission and one part time non-judicial member. Notice of the redistributions was published in the Commonwealth Gazette on 23 December 1999.

How was the determination made?

The determination was made by dividing the total population figure for all the States, excluding the Territories, by twice the number of Senators for the States to obtain a quota. Each State population was then dividedby the quota, rounding the result to the nearest whole number to determine the entitlement. (See below for detailed explanation of the calculations.)

The determination of representation entitlements was made under sections 46 and 48 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (CEA) which require the Electoral Commissioner to ascertain the population of the Commonwealth and the States and Territories during the thirteenth month after the first meeting of the newly elected House of Representatives and to then determine each State and Territory's representation entitlements at the next general election.

Changes to entitlements in a State or Territory trigger a redistribution of electoral boundaries.

A Redistribution Committee for a State consists of the Electoral Commissioner, the Australian Electoral Officer for the State, the Surveyor-General (or equivalent) for the State and the State Auditor-General. If these people are not available, their deputies or, failing that, senior officers of the Australian Public Service from that State are appointed. Under the CEA the Northern Territory is regarded as a State for the purposes of a redistribution.

What causes a redistribution?

There are three triggers as defined in the CEA (s.59) that can cause a redistribution to be held. A redistribution is held:

  1. when the number of parliamentary representatives to which a State or the ACT is entitled has changed;
  2. when the number of electors in more than one-third of the Divisions in a State or in one of the Divisions in the ACT deviates from the average Divisional enrolment by more than 10 per cent in three consecutive months; or
  3. if seven years has elapsed since the last redistribution.

When were redistributions last held?

A redistribution was triggered in Western Australia in 1996 as seven years had elapsed since the previous redistribution in 1989. This is the first time that a redistribution has been required in the Northern Territory.

Can people have a say in the process?

After the Redistribution commences the Electoral Commissioner invites public suggestions as to how the new boundaries should be drawn and suggested names of the electoral Divisions. Following this period the suggestions are available for public comment for a further 14 days. The Redistribution Committee then develops a redistribution proposal and publishes and exhibits maps showing proposed boundaries and names. The public then has 28 days to lodge objections to the proposals.

An augmented Electoral Commission for a State or the ACT has 60 days in which to consider the objections (including initial and any further objections). The augmented Electoral Commission for a State or the ACT consists of the members of the Redistribution Committee for that State or Territory, plus the two members of the Electoral Commission who were not on the Redistribution Committee.

If the augmented Commission proposes to set boundaries that are significantly different from the initial proposals, further objections may be lodged. The augmented Electoral Commission may hold public hearings to consider objections.

What is considered by the Committee?

In developing its proposal, a Redistribution Committee must take into consideration:

  • community of interest, including economic, social and regional interest;
  • means of communication and travel;
  • physical features and area;
  • boundaries of existing Divisions; and
  • enrolment (both current enrolment and `projected' enrolment three and a half years after the redistribution).

What is the three and a half year rule?

Boundaries are drawn with the aim that three and a half years after the redistribution, the enrolment in each electoral Division should not vary from the State or Territory average by more than three and a half percent.

How will an election affect the redistribution?

The new boundaries do not come into effect until the next general election. Any by-election held prior to the next general election would be conducted on existing boundaries.

If a general election is called before the redistribution has been completed a mini-redistribution must be held. This takes place as follows:

Where a State or the ACT is entitled to one more Member than the number of existing Divisions, the two adjacent 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.

For example, if Brand and Fremantle had the highest combined enrolment in WA, the newly created Division would be called Brand-Fremantle. The Divisions of Brand-Fremantle would also continue to exist.

Similarly, when a State or the ACT is entitled to one less Member than it has Divisions, the pair of adjacent 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.

Central Office
Electoral Commissioner
Andy Becker (acting)
Ph. (02) 6271 4400
Director, Information
Anthea Wilson (acting)
Ph. (02) 6271 4415
Editor, Newsfile
Margaret Meneghel
Ph. (02) 6271 4505
Head Offices
Australian Electoral Officer
Western Australia
Ph. (08) 9470 7299
Australian Electoral Officer
Northern Territory
Ph. (08) 8982 8000
Redistribution Secretariat
Wayne Seymour
Ph. (02) 6271 4688
The Determination of Representation Entitlements 9 December 1999
The Population
State/Territory* Number of people
New South Wales 6 411 772
Victoria 4 712 186
Queensland 3 512 434
Western Australia 1 861 018
South Australia 1 493 077
Tasmania 470 266
The Commonwealth ** 18 460 753
The Australian Capital Territory*** 310 935
Northern Territory**** 195 366

The Quota

The quota is calculated by dividing the number of people of the Commonwealth by twice the number of Senators for the States:

18 460 753
72x2 = 144    = 128 199.67

The Entitlement

The number of Members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in each State and Territory is determined by dividing the number of people in each State and Territory by the quota, and rounding the result to the nearest whole number.

The Entitlement
State/Territory Quota Number of members to be chosen Change
New South Wales 50.0139 50 -
Victoria 36.7566 37 -
Queensland 27.3982 27 -
Western Australia 14.5166 15 +1
South Australia 11.6465 12 -
Tasmania***** 3.6682 5 -
Australian Capital Territory 2.4254 2 -
Northern Territory 1.5239 2 +1
Total   150  

*Under section 38A of the CEA, the Territory of Norfolk Island is not taken to be a Territory for the purposes of this determination, but certain Norfolk Island residents are included in the State and ACT population figures.

**Under section 45 of the CEA, the total number of the people of the Commonwealth does not include the numbers of people of the Territories.

*** Under section 4 of the CEA the population figure for the ACT includes Jervis Bay for the purposes of this determination.

****Under section 48 (2C) of the CEA the population figure of the Northern Territory includes Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island for the purposes of this determination.

***** Under section 24 of the Constitution Tasmania is guaranteed a minimum of five Members.

The redistribution timetable

Australian Electoral Commission directs redistribution to commence and quota of electors determined.

Electoral Commissioner invites written suggestions from public.

Appointment of Redistribution Committee

NT 23 December 1999
WA 23 December 1999

NT 2 February 2000
WA 23 February 2000

Public suggestions

Closing date for suggestions

30 days
NT 3 March 2000
WA 24 March 2000

Suggestions available for public comments
Closing date for written comments

14 days
NT 17 March 2000
WA 7 April 2000

Redistribution Committee considers suggestions and comments and develops a set of boundary proposals

No time specified

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.

Augmented Electoral Commission makes final proposal (open hearings)

60 days
As soon as practicable

Final determination

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