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Committee report on electoral redistributions

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Chair Mr Laurie Ferguson MR


In late December the Joint Standing on Electoral Matters reported on its Inquiry into "the effectiveness and appropriateness of the redistribution provisions of Parts III and IV of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918'.

The Committee found that the processes for redistributing House of Representatives electoral boundaries, largely implemented in the electoral reforms of 1983/4, have stood the test of time well. The Chair of the Committee, Mr Laurie Ferguson MR, stated that redistributions are widely acknowledged as being "conducted in accordance with well-defined principles by expert, independent bodies".

In its report the Committee endorses the fundamentals of the system while finetuning some aspects. Among the Committee's 23 recommendations are: that the very tight constraints on enrolment variations between electorates be slightly relaxed, to allow "community of interest" factors to be properly considered; that the Australian Bureau of Statistics be given an enhanced role in

reviewing enrolment projections; that comments and objections to a redistribution be made available for public scrutiny, with an expanded opportunity for the public to object to proposed boundaries; and that the conventions used to name electoral divisions be amended, to avoid a repeat of the confusion surrounding the use of the names "Forde" and Rankin" at the 1994 redistribution of Queensland.

The Committee also notes the possible implications of the coming High Court decision in McGinty v. Western Australia (the challenge to the WA State electoral boundaries), and considers (but rejects) suggestions that the Commonwealth Electoral Act should expressly guarantee that a party receiving a majority of the two-party preferred


vote shall form government. The composition of the bodies responsible for redistributions is endorsed, with the exception of amendments to the composition of redistribution committees for the ACT.

Copies of the report are available near the press boxes. For further information, contact the Committee secretariat on ph. (06) 277 2374.