Proposed redistribution of New South Wales into electoral divisions

Updated: 9 October 2015

Executive summary

This report provides the Committee’s proposed redistribution of New South Wales into 47 electoral divisions.

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

The Electoral Act authorises the redistribution process, including the various stages involved in a redistribution, the extent of public involvement and the relevant timelines to be observed.

The current New South Wales redistribution is required by paragraph 59(2)(a) of the Electoral Act as the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen for New South Wales at the next general election has altered from 48 to 47.

The redistribution process commenced with an Electoral Commission direction on 1 December 2014. Public contributions were invited by way of a notice published in the Commonwealth Government Notices Gazette (the Gazette) on 22 April 2015 and by way of newspaper advertisements in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph and The Australian on 25 April 2015 and The Land on 30 April 2015. Twenty-three suggestions were made available for public perusal on 25 May 2015, with 157 written comments on suggestions also made available on 10 June 2015.

The Committee considered all suggestions and comments on suggestions in its deliberations. The Committee’s proposed redistribution has been informed by these considerations and compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.

The redistribution proposal covers:

  • defining the boundaries of electoral divisions,
  • abolishing an existing electoral division, and
  • naming of electoral divisions.

Defining the boundaries of proposed electoral divisions

In making its proposed redistribution, the Electoral Act requires the Committee to ensure that enrolment numbers for each proposed electoral division remain within both current and projected enrolment parameters.

At the commencement of the redistribution on 1 December 2014, there were 4 863 593 electors enrolled in New South Wales. The current enrolment quota was therefore 103 481. The range of tolerance (within plus or minus 10 per cent) of this figure, requires the Committee to construct 47 new electoral divisions containing between 93 132 and 113 829 electors.

Projected enrolment in New South Wales at the projection time of 25 August 2019 is 5 195 490. The projected enrolment quota for each of the 47 electoral divisions is 110 542. The range of tolerance (within plus or minus 3.5 per cent) of this figure, requires the Committee to construct new electoral divisions which contain between 106 673 and 114 411 electors.

In addition to the numerical requirements of the Electoral Act, the Committee was mindful to consider:

  • community of interests in the proposed electoral divisions,
  • means of communication and travel in the proposed electoral divisions, and
  • the physical features and area of the proposed electoral divisions.

The Committee also applied, to the extent possible, the following principles when considering the new electoral boundaries:

  • proposed boundaries should not cross the major geographic features of the Great Dividing Range, the Hawkesbury River and Sydney Harbour,
  • community of interests represented by local government areas (LGAs) and localities are kept together, particularly in rural areas,
  • strong and readily identifiable features such as major roads, railway lines and waterways are used to define electoral division boundaries, and
  • the maximum numbers of electors are retained in their current electoral division.

The Committee identified that the existing electoral divisions within the state fell into three categories:

  • those within 3.5 per cent of the projected enrolment quota (19 inner and outer metropolitan electoral divisions, three provincial electoral divisions and one rural electoral division),1
  • those above 3.5 per cent of the projected enrolment quota (six inner and outer metropolitan electoral divisions), and
  • those below 3.5 per cent of the projected enrolment quota (one outer metropolitan electoral division, five provincial electoral divisions and 13 rural electoral divisions).

The Committee reasoned that a strategy of supplementation from those six metropolitan electoral divisions with projected enrolment above the permissible 3.5 per cent tolerance combined with the required abolition of an electoral division would bring all proposed electoral divisions within the numerical requirements of the Electoral Act. The Committee acknowledged that, for the supplementation strategy to be effective, changes would be needed to the majority of electoral divisions, despite 23 electoral divisions being within the 3.5 per cent tolerance of projected enrolment.

The Committee noted the location of those electoral divisions that would provide supplementation. Their location, in and around central Sydney and outer metropolitan western Sydney, requires surrounding metropolitan and provincial electoral divisions south and west of Sydney Harbour to move north-easterly to accommodate the necessary transfer of surplus projected enrolment from the Divisions of Wentworth, Sydney, Grayndler, Reid, Greenway and Chifley. The supplementation strategy draws the Division of Hume further into the Greater Sydney Region thus allowing the rural electoral divisions south and west of its location to acquire the additional electors required to build those proposed electoral divisions.2

The Committee also acknowledged that defining electoral boundaries must start in locations adjacent to the state’s boundaries or one of the other significant geographical features identified above. The location of the electoral division to be abolished would be determined by the application of this strategy.

In proposing its boundaries the Committee recognises it has proposed a number of changes to electoral boundaries that may be regarded as significant. Examples of these include:

  • the increased geographic size of the proposed Division of Parkes and consequential reduction in the size of the proposed Division of Farrer,
  • the relative increase in the geographic size of the proposed Division of Lyne and the consequential decrease in the proposed Division of Paterson,
  • the reduction in geographic size of the proposed Divisions of Hume and Riverina contributing to a consequential increase in the size of the proposed Division of Eden-Monaro, and
  • the inclusion of the major mid-north coast centres of Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour in the same electoral division.

The supplementation strategy enabled the Committee to propose five electoral divisions with no elector movement. These are the Divisions of Bennelong, Kingsford Smith, Lindsay, Mackellar and Macquarie. The boundaries of the remaining electoral divisions were adjusted to meet the numerical requirements of the Electoral Act.

However, the Committee recognised the opportunity to better align some existing electoral division boundaries and proposes to amend these boundaries where appropriate. This alignment of boundaries, in some cases, does not involve any elector movement, and instances where this occurred are detailed in the discussion of proposed electoral divisions for the electoral divisions involved.

Abolishing an electoral division

The Committee’s decision regarding which electoral division to abolish was guided by the provisions of the Electoral Act namely, the numerical requirements and the obligations relating to community of interests, means of communication and travel, the physical features and area of the proposed electoral division and the boundaries of existing electoral divisions. Of the 23 suggestions received, 11 proposed one or more specific electoral divisions for abolition,3 with 13 different electoral divisions named.

Eleven suggestions advocated that the electoral division to be abolished should be located in the coastal area from the Hawkesbury River to the Queensland border. Most suggestions nominated electoral divisions located in this region while other suggestions expanded their area of consideration to include those electoral divisions located on the western side of the Great Dividing Range.

In support of their suggestion to abolish an electoral division in that part of the state, several suggestions noted a significant shortfall of projected enrolment in that region.4 Other suggestions particularly noted that there are currently 12 electoral divisions in this area, whereas projected enrolment figures provide for an entitlement of 11 electoral divisions only.5

Of the 12 electoral divisions located in this area, the Division of Robertson is the only electoral division that meets the numerical requirements of the Electoral Act. The remaining electoral divisions all need to gain electors to meet these requirements.

The capacity for building the electoral divisions between the Hawkesbury River and the Queensland border is limited by that border, the Great Dividing Range and the coast. The Division of Richmond located in this north-eastern corner of the state must be the starting point. The redrawing of boundaries for electoral divisions in this corridor between the mountains and the coast progressively moves each of these proposed electoral divisions towards the Hunter Valley Region.

Similarly, in redrawing the boundaries for those electoral divisions located immediately north of the Hawkesbury River, the Division of Robertson must be the starting point. These proposed electoral divisions also move towards the Hunter Valley Region. Further, the Committee notes that this region provides the first opportunity to move westward without crossing the Great Dividing Range or a significant spur of the range. Part or all of the existing Divisions of Charlton, Hunter, Newcastle, Paterson and Shortland fall within the Hunter Valley Region.

The ‘push’ towards the Hunter Valley Region by the existing electoral divisions to its north and south result in the movement westward of these Hunter Valley Region electoral divisions. This movement results in the existing Division of Charlton needing a considerable number of electors to meet the numerical requirements of the Electoral Act. The Committee notes that these can only be obtained from the existing Division of Hunter. With contributions made to the proposed Divisions of Charlton and Paterson the existing Division of Hunter retains only 11.71 per cent of itself.

In these circumstances, the Committee unanimously proposes the abolition of the existing Division of Hunter.

Naming of electoral divisions

A number of suggestions and comments on suggestions supported changing the names of a number of existing electoral divisions.6 Consideration was given by the Committee as to whether there were very strong reasons to change the name of existing electoral divisions, in accordance with the ‘Guidelines for naming federal electoral divisions’ (the guidelines, which are contained in Appendix H of this report).

Of the 47 proposed electoral divisions in New South Wales, the Committee proposes that 45 retain their existing name.

Mindful of the guidelines regarding retaining Federation names,7 the Committee considered whether it is appropriate to rename the proposed Division of Charlton as ‘Hunter’. The Committee noted that the existing Division of Charlton provides more than 50 per cent of the proposed electoral division. However, the Committee recognised that a name change will retain the name of a Federation electoral division and also recognise the changed socio-demographic nature of the proposed Division of Charlton. In these circumstances the Committee proposes renaming the proposed Division of Charlton as ‘Hunter’.

Numerous submissions proposed naming an existing electoral division in honour of the former Prime Minister, the Hon. Edward Gough Whitlam, AC, QC. The Committee notes that such action is consistent with the guideline that consideration should be given to naming electoral divisions after former Prime Ministers. Therefore the Committee proposes renaming the proposed Division of Throsby as ‘Whitlam’.

The Committee’s full reasons are provided in Chapter 2 of this report.


The Committee considers its proposed redistribution of New South Wales will result in electoral divisions which:

  • meet the requirements of the Electoral Act, and to the extent possible:
  • reflect the population trends identified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS),
  • maintain and/or unite communities of interest,
  • make use of LGA boundaries, particularly in rural areas, and
  • provide strong and readily identifiable electoral division boundaries.

The Committee noted that, in the absence of any other changes, some two per cent of electors must be moved in order that the number of electoral divisions can be reduced from 48 to 47.

Overall, 19.42 per cent or 944 592 electors would change their federal electoral division as a result of the proposed redistribution.8

  1. Appendix A provides the demographic classification of existing electoral divisions in New South Wales.
  2. The Greater Sydney Region is generally defined as the area bounded by the coastline north to Wyong and Gosford LGAs, west to the Blue Mountains, Wollondilly and Hawkesbury LGAs and south to Sutherland LGA.
  3. Appendix F indicates the electoral divisions which were proposed for abolition by those making suggestions.
  4. The shortfall in projected enrolment in this region was identified by: S7 – Jeff Waddell, S12 – Mark Mulcair and S16 – Darren McSweeney.
  5. The difference between the current number of electoral divisions and entitlement based on projected enrolment was noted in: S17 – Paul Blackman, S19 – The Greens NSW, S20 – Liberal Party of Australia New South Wales Division and S22 – The Nationals.
  6. Refer Appendix E for details of specific suggestions and comments on suggestions proposing the name of electoral divisions be changed.
  7. Federation names are the names of the electoral divisions created for the first federal election held in 1901.
  8. Electors from the existing Division of Throsby who are retained in the proposed Division of Whitlam are not included in these numbers.