Get Your Hand Off It: Queensland Redistribution An Embarrassment

HAD Annastacia Palaszczuk wished to signal Queensland’s resumption of its status as a laughing stock, no better way could be found than the idiotic redivision of state boundaries; not content with rigging the electoral system, Palaszczuk has now seen fit to leave a lasting, and embarrassing, mark. Her electoral commissioners should, to put it crudely, get their hands off it — and give place names to electorates, not slogans or jingoistic rubbish.

It is the end of a long week and I’m tired, and there are weightier matters than this that we will canvass over the weekend: that much I promise.

But in a break between work and a meeting I had last night, a quick scan of the Murdoch mastheads over a hurried dinner revealed a nugget of excrement from the Sunshine State that made me shake my head in disbelief.

And worst of all, it is apparently serious.

It is always a bad sign when supposedly independent electoral commissions trumpet the pending release of a redistribution of boundaries in whatever jurisdiction they are located in; for days there has been a steady stream of (what I gather was intended as) suspense-building pronouncements about a release today by the Queensland Redistribution Commission of a redraw of that state’s electorates.

The only problem? Some bastard leaked it to the Fairfax press, and in turn, it’s been published everywhere else in the past 24 hours, including in the Courier Mail, from which you can read some coverage here and here.

And as the Courier Mail bluntly noted, the Commissioners haven’t just rejigged the boundaries — they’ve smashed and reshaped the electoral map.

The addition of four new electorates to what had since 1985 been an 89-seat unicameral Parliament is, on its own, no particular cause for outrage or ridicule; provided these — called for by the LNP as a way of gently scaling down vast rural electorates that have grown in size due to population drift toward the coast and cities — adhered to the principle of “one vote, one value” enshrined after the Fitzgerald Inquiry, with a small weighting for a handful of the largest rural electorates, nobody would have cause to quibble.

But as the bill to establish them came before Parliament, Labor rammed through an amendment to discard the optional preferential voting system (again, a direct legacy of the Fitzgerald probity reforms) and instead restore compulsory preferential voting — for no other reason than to guarantee itself a much higher flow of Communist Greens preferences, and thus substantially rig the entire system in its own favour.

Happily, the growing likelihood that the emergence of One Nation will, thanks to that change, also guarantee the Queensland LNP a much higher flow of preferences too will probably negate that ill-gotten advantage altogether: this is the problem with cynical rorting of political processes — one day, it will rebound on you altogether if you are stupid enough to try it on.

Even so — and undaunted — word is going around that Palaszczuk is about to call a snap election to avoid having to fight on the new boundaries; and so, idiosyncratically, Queenslanders are likely to head to the polls on the boundaries as they stand today — but not on the existing optional preferential voting system, which Labor has trashed in the brazen interests of self-advantage without consultation or debate.

Confused? You’d have every right to be. It isn’t a good look, and with One Nation thrown into the mix for good measure, Queensland politics is about to better resemble a lottery than a serious exercise in ascertaining who is most fit to govern the state.

At the very minimum, Palaszczuk and her cohorts are merrily turning Queensland back into the national laughing stock it was lampooned as for decades during the Bjelke-Petersen years — albeit without the tangible, commensurate legacy of state development and economic growth that accompanied the former National Party strongman’s tenure during what was a rotten regime to boot.

It’s some achievement, to be sure, and a dubious one indeed.

Yet it’s often the little things that really make a bad change stink, and the thing that leapt out at me — as I perused the proposed new boundaries over a mouthful of salmon last night — was the unfathomably idiotic and in some cases downright ridiculous names the Queensland Redistribution Commission has seen fit to allocate to some of the heavily redrawn state electorates.

A new electorate of “Bonney” on the Gold Coast. Where in hell is that? Glass House being renamed “Tibrogargan” makes a crumb of sense, given the mountain there, but the change smells dangerously of some smartarse thinking a trendy and puerile idea ought to be enacted. Calling what was Mount Isa “Traegar” is laughable. An electorate centred on Taringa, St Lucia and Mount Coot-tha, called “Maigar,” is ridiculous.

Yes, Coopers Camp Road runs obliquely through what was Ashgrove, and Cooper himself is probably a minor local historical figure of mild note, but to rename the electorate after him?

Brisbane Central — which does exactly what it says on the packet — is going to be far less obvious to the outsider and the local alike once it becomes “McConnell.”

And in the silly politician-speak phrase that begins “The people of…,” what subterranean point is there in having an electorate called “Hill” south of Cairns?

Some of these electorate names appear to have an indirect link to roads and topographical features they contain; some seem to be a tokenistic sop to Aboriginal culture, as has become all too fashionable these days; and some are just impermeable in terms of any rational person being likely to be able to ascertain just what the hell the Commissioners were thinking.

The practice of naming electorates after people of note has never sat all that well with me; it is hokey and jingoistic. “The people of Burt,” an electorate created in WA at the last federal redistribution was, I thought, the ultimate piece of electoral crassness, but I think “the people of Hill” have them covered now, or at least soon will.

Even if it takes another electoral cycle for “Hill” to exist at all, if only as a dumb name for a state seat.

Now, Queensland is set to have a state littered with such monuments to the stupidity of people too busy trying to look important and far less deserving of their salaries than their job titles would otherwise suggest.

Bancroft. Oodgeroo. Jordan. Ninderry. Miller. Toohey. I’m pretty sure the last two aren’t describing beer brands, but who in hell would know?

Seriously, these electorates — and the massive changes they inflict on the political landscape in Queensland — will have profound ramifications for all parties to coming electoral contests, with the radically redrawn boundaries likely to unleash a colossal degree of brawling and internal warfare across the political divide, as factions and vested interests set out to seize and protect as much turf as they can, and to protect MPs at high risk of defeat in seats some retain little connection to on their reformed configurations.

But taken in aggregate with the Palaszczuk’s rigging of the electoral system, the opacity of whether the next election will be fought on the old boundaries or the new, and the cringeworthy (and frankly imbecilic) names some of these seats have been given, it isn’t unfair to say that Palaszczuk has directly and indirectly turned Queensland into a joke — and not the kind run out of illicit brothels and casinos in Fortitude Valley under the benign gaze of corrupt Police during the Bjelke-Petersen era, who in any case were far shrewder and more astute than anyone sitting in the ALP party room today, even if they did deploy those attributes toward such improper ends.

Irrespective of who wins the next election in Queensland — whenever that is, and whichever boundaries it is conducted on — the new boundaries themselves have been created through a process that is entirely proper and in accordance with the legislative framework set out in Tony Fitzgerald’s recommendations: that much we do not dispute.

They will not be redrawn again until three elections, or eight years (whichever comes first) have been held or passed: this, too, is entirely appropriate.

But the minute Palaszczuk is thrown out of office and forcibly ejected from the Premier’s suite — hopefully, the day her cynical snap election is held in the near future — the LNP should rename all of the “interesting” electorates the process has created, and resume the system that has always applied in Queensland, whereby electorate names actually describe the places they cover and in terms normal people recognise and understand.

And in the meantime — not to put too fine a point on it — the Queensland Redistribution Commission should get its collective hand off it.

For a state that pompously declares itself to be the “smart” state, this is just dumb, dumb, dumb. And a bit too smart by half.

Rigged: ALP Fights Fair Electoral Boundaries In SA

SINCE 1982, SA Liberals have won the two-party vote at 8 of 10 state elections, but won two; many observers — me included — have long felt SA boundaries are rigged. SA is the Liberals’ biggest failure; now, the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission has produced a redraw notionally giving the Liberals office on 2014 votes. Like a toddler in meltdown, Labor is off to the SA Supreme Court. The rort offers national insight into the rotten ALP mentality.

In any discussion of “gerrymanders” in South Australia, what many casual observers (and even some seasoned ones) overlook is the fact that it was a Liberal state government which, in 1968, abolished electoral malapportionment in SA and in so doing, redistributed itself out of office; even so, what Labor has perpetuated in the Croweater State in the name of being “fair” over the past 40 years has been anything but, and now the rort is ending, the ALP is screaming blue murder.

I am including articles today from The Australian and Adelaide’s Advertiser newspaper — the latter including more links to other relevant coverage — that readers can access here and here; but first, a little history.

Step back 50 years, and most Australian states had electoral boundaries that incorporated some kind of malapportionment; the thinking at the time — before reliable air travel and fast, safe road transport was as prevalent as it is today — was that rural MPs should be accommodated with smaller electorates to service than their city cousins, and this guiding principle meant that state elections (by their nature) gave the man on the land a vote that was more heavily weighted than the man about town.

It is also one of the reasons why some of the long-term state Premiers of the past — Tom Playford, Frank Nicklin, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Henry Bolte — were conservatives representing country electorates; but the impact of this philosophy was not universal and was not consistent, as 24 years of ALP rule in more urban NSW between 1941 and 1965 shows by way of example.

As the state “gerrymanders” (which they were commonly called, despite more correctly being termed malapportionments) went, the SA boundaries were the heaviest in Australia, believed to weight country votes against city votes by a 6:1 margin; the example most commonly railed against by Labor (and which the ALP itself introduced, its latter-day declamations notwithstanding) and the one fine-tuned by Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland was also the least distorting, giving weight to rural votes at about 3:1.

The Queensland “zonal” boundaries also meant any party winning 50% of the vote after preferences would win power, which is exactly what Labor did when it won a majority of the two-party vote in 1989 for the first time since 1956.

It goes without saying that fair elections, conducted on the principle of “one vote, one value,” are absolutely imperative; I am no apologist for boundaries that are rigged in favour of conservatives, and have railed in this column against attempts to gain electoral advantage through fiddling with electoral apparatus by either side ever since I started it.

But after Steele Hall committed electoral suicide by redistributing himself out of office in South Australia in 1968, Labor — under the guise of “fairness” — legislated a special commission that would review that state’s boundaries after every election, and “adjust” them based on the most recent results to ensure that as closely as practicable, the party which won a majority of two-party votes at the next poll would win office.

In practice, this has meant that the Liberal Party — despite itself, and we’ll get back to that — has been almost completely locked out of office in SA since David Tonkin was beaten by John Bannon (with Labor scoring a minority of the vote) in 1982, save for the 1993 boilover in the wake of Labor’s State Bank disaster and a narrowly acquired second term four years later.

The effect of this has become more pronounced in recent years, with SA Liberals losing elections in 2010 and 2014 with well over 50% of the statewide vote: in 2014, the Liberal Party under Steven Marshall won more than 53%, and didn’t just lose, but lost convincingly.

Now — in a breath of fresh air — the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission has finalised its redraw of boundaries ahead of the 2018 state election, which moves five seats on paper into the Liberals’ column and with them, makes an end to the most recent long-term Labor government in SA look likelier in 18 months’ time.

And Labor, having benefited from rigged boundaries for decades, is trying to raise merry hell about it.

In its “appraisal” of the latest redistribution, the ALP makes much of the fact that almost 400,000 voters (or almost one in three) are shifted into different electorates: hardly much of a surprise, given the distortions that have existed to this point, and which most recently gave Labor a majority win with a tick over 46% of the statewide vote.

It somehow seeks to claim that because the usually safe Liberal seat of Waite — held by turncoat and general piece of shit Martin Hamilton-Smith — returns to the Liberal column on paper, this is more evidence of a “biased” redraw. But Waite voters were sold down the river by Hamilton-Smith, who tossed principle overboard to jump into bed with the ALP and pocket a fat ministerial salary, and there is no obligation on the Commission’s part to somehow sanction this piece of bastardry just because it suits the Labor Party.

And the outrage Labor types seem to profess at the fact that some seats have been “flipped” on paper to the Liberals is fatuous, given the whole point of redistributions is to more equably apportion electorates based on the most recent electoral results, and if Labor now suggests that “notional” electorates should never emerge from a redistribution process it’s an indictment on its power-crazed entitlement mentality and an insight into the anti-democratic instincts that now underpin Australia’s oldest party.

The ALP has also made a lot of noise about the variable enrolments in the new seats, as good as declaring the new boundaries are rigged. But the Commission’s report clearly shows no electorate is above the 10% tolerance that is standard in Australia these days at all state and federal redistributions, and Labor’s bleating is no more than an attempt to smear and defame those who refuse to do its bidding: in this case a statutory government authority, which for once appears to have produced a fair outcome.

It should be emphasised that the SA Liberals — despite their lack of success at elections, which is in turn at least a partial consequence of past outcomes of the Commission — have in other respects been their own worst enemies, with bitter faction fighting and other divisive, self-destructive behaviour more entrenched and rampant in that division than anywhere else in the country; there is no guarantee at all the party will win the state election that is now less than 18 months away.

The Liberals retain a leader in Steven Marshall whose electoral appeal and ability to govern remain unclear, and they retain inside Parliament and out powerful factional players (such as Bragg MP Vicky Chapman, a perpetual target of this column) without whom they would well and truly be better off.

And the rising presence of Nick Xenophon’s NXT team, on its home turf, might well derail any prospect of a Liberal win altogether, as this left-leaning influence has at the federal level siphoned votes off the Liberal pile and disproportionately sent them on preferences to Labor.

But for all that, the changes in SA should be welcome: and are at least a decade overdue.

I don’t propose to discuss any issues that particularly apply to SA politics today, for the focus is the electoral system: it would, however, be remiss not to note the statewide blackouts that occurred there recently, and to note that for a party in office for 14 years (and for 25 of the past 34) Labor has nobody to blame but itself for anything SA voters are motivated to take up baseball bats over.

But the disturbing thing about these changes, and Labor’s reaction to them, is the pattern of anti-democratic thuggery it continues where the ALP’s approach to elections and government is concerned.

Federally, it is unable to accept it is in opposition, and uses the Senate not as an instrument of review, but as a battering ram to try to destroy the government.

In Queensland, it stealthily fiddled the electoral system, abolishing optional preferential voting (supported by at least the 60-70% of voters who no longer allocate preferences there) to give itself the best chance of harvesting Greens’ votes. In so doing, it abolished its own electoral fix, introduced when it ended the gerrymander in 1992.

In Victoria and Queensland, Labor sends out union officials at state elections masquerading as essential services workers, and in Victoria in 2014 even had “nurses” ring old and sick people to lie to them about what a Liberal state government would do if re-elected.

And where outright lying is concerned, the so-called “Mediscare” fracas during the recent federal election continues the theme of an ALP prepared to literally say anything to barge its way into the corridors of power, where patronage and influence can be handed out to union thugs and other filth that resides in the Labor tent.

In this sense, the ALP’s recourse to the South Australian Supreme Court should surprise nobody; it is the action of a sore loser, and one whose profit from a shabby rort has been allowed to go on for too long as it is.

My bet is that the Court will dismiss any challenge the ALP brings, although I don’t wish to pre-empt such a finding: it just seems so cut and dry as to be a frivolous and vexatious attempt to maintain advantage by legal intimidation and brutality.

And in this sense, there is a message for voters in every other state, and federally.

Next time you hear Bill Shorten, or any of the other parrot puppets the ALP sends out to address the media, talking about “fairness” and “equity,” what they are really talking about is their own self-interest and unfair advantage.

Labor is so concerned with fairness that it seeks to rig and rort the mechanics of elections to either keep itself in power forever, or destroy any government by someone else that voters have the nerve to install in its place.

Once again, what is going on in SA merely shows Labor is rotten to the core, and frankly, if SA voters needed an extra reason to throw the ALP out in 2018, Labor itself is handing it to them.

But even this is no guarantee, for the SA Liberals have repeatedly demonstrated the capacity to make themselves unelectable. For its trouble and its lack of real principle, SA Labor may yet prevail if the Liberals, once again, prove unable to get their shit together ahead of a state election at which they should be a lay-down misere.

 

Detailed Breakdown Of The Victorian State Redistribution

AS PER NSW recently, this is for readers into in all things psephological; the latest redistribution is in Victoria, and I’m again sharing information from ABC election supremo Antony Green, who has analysed the draft boundaries published by the Victorian Electoral Commission for the 2014 election.

You can access a link to Antony’s page here. (I suggest you refresh this page over the weekend, as it’s clear Antony is still updating some sections of it).

A few observations on key points, as I see them:

The number of lower house seats is unchanged at 88, although 12 seats on the old boundaries have been abolished and replaced, or substantially modified and renamed.

Two seats have been abolished altogether: the uber-safe National Party seat of Rodney, in the state’s north, and the safe Liberal seat of Doncaster (held by Health minister Mary Wooldridge) in Melbourne’s outer north-east.

Labor notionally picks up an additional seat in its western suburbs heartland (Werribee, at the centre of Julia Gillard’s federal electorate of Lalor), whilst a new, notionally safe Liberal seat appears in Eildon, just south of Seymour.

Seymour — speaking of central Victoria — switches on paper from a Liberal Party seat to a National Party seat, and becomes much safer for the Coalition overall.

Opposition leader Daniel Andrews’ traditionally safe Labor electorate of Mulgrave becomes quite marginal as a result of this redivision, and now sits on a notional margin of 2.5% (as opposed to 8.5% at the 2010 state election).

The effect of these draft boundary changes is to notionally alter the state of the parties, thus: Liberal Party 37 seats (+2); National Party 9 (-1); ALP 42 (-1).

The result of this redraw of the boundaries is that the Coalition now controls, on paper, a notional 46 of the 88 lower house seats, and I have to say that this tally seems more in line with the 51.6% result recorded at the 2010 election, when former Premier Ted Baillieu led the Coalition back to office on a swing of some 6.1%.

I have long suspected the state boundaries in Victoria contain an inherent bias towards the ALP, largely on account of the swathe of electorates it holds (and almost always holds) in Melbourne’s north and west, where most of the highest population growth in Victoria also happens to occur.

And to prove it — and I’m not talking about anything sinister — based on these revised boundaries, a 3.2% swing to the ALP in 2014 (which would produce the same 51.6% result for the winner as occurred in 2010) would see Labor win seven seats on paper from the Liberals for a total of 49: three more than these draft electorates currently show for the Coalition.

So whilst this redistribution (and it isn’t final as yet) does redress that bias to an extent, adding one paper seat to the tally the Coalition recorded in 2010, it doesn’t eliminate it either.

Anyhow, for those who like to crunch the numbers and pore over the minutiae — enjoy!

The Commission will gazette finalised boundaries toward the end of 2013.

Detailed Breakdown Of The NSW State Redistribution

FOR THOSE who are interested in things psephological, this short post is purely to share some information from the ABC’s election genius, Antony Green, who has published quite a detailed analysis of the draft boundaries published by the NSW Electoral Districts Commission for the 2015 election.

You can access a link to Antony’s page here.

Just as few observations on key points, as I see them:

The number of lower house seats is unchanged at 93, although seven seats on the old boundaries have been abolished and replaced.

Rural NSW loses a seat overall, which reappears in suburban Sydney.

Former Premier Nathan Rees’ seat of Toongabbie has been abolished, and replaced with a safe-ish Liberal electorate (on paper) of Seven Hills.

A new inner-city seat of Newtown appears to give the Greens an excellent prospect to pick up a second seat at the next election.

The effect of these draft boundary changes is to notionally alter the state of the parties, thus: Liberal Party 53 seats (+2); National Party 18* (unch); ALP 18 (-2); Greens 2 (+1); “Others” 2 (-1).

The result of this redraw of the boundaries is that the Coalition now controls, on paper, a notional 71 of the 93 lower house seats; my comment is that such a tally would seem more in line with the 65% two-party preferred result it scored at the 2011 election than the 69 seats it won on the night.

And interestingly, this redistribution sees the National Party draw level with the ALP in terms of numbers of seats; if this is replicated at the 2015 election — and assuming the Liberals and Nationals remain in coalition, which would seem a foregone conclusion — Labor would face the absurd situation of being outnumbered by the junior Coalition partner on the floor of the Legislative Assembly.

Anyhow, for those who like to crunch the numbers and pore over the minutiae — enjoy!

The Commission will gazette finalised boundaries toward the end of 2013.

*Includes the National Party’s by-election win in Northern Tablelands, which it won back following the disgraced resignation of Independent MP Richard Torbay.