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East meets norths: Early poll risks electorate chaos and creation of mega Sydney Harbour seat

Dylan Caporn
The Nightly
An early Federal election held before October would risk the creation of an electorate split in half by Sydney Harbour.
An early Federal election held before October would risk the creation of an electorate split in half by Sydney Harbour. Credit: Andrew Holt/Getty Images

An early Federal election held before October would risk the creation of an electorate split in half by Sydney Harbour in an electoral quirk of Australia’s independently drawn boundaries.

Amid rumours of the Prime Minister’s eagerness to call an election early in a bid to avoid further interest rate rises and more inflation pain while capitalising on cost of living measures — The Nightly can reveal such a tactic would run afoul of redistributions across the country.

An election called as early as next month would see redistributions abandoned in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia and instead force the Electoral Commission to hold “mini-redistributions”.

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Under entitlements for the next election, NSW and Victoria are both set to lose a seat each in Federal Parliament — the process for which is underway by the Electoral Commission.

Proposed boundaries in both states have seen the abolition of the Teal seat of North Sydney in NSW — held by Kylea Tink — and Labor’s Victorian electorate of Higgins — won at the last election by Michelle Ananda-Rajah.

But under electoral laws, if an election is called before those boundaries are confirmed, the plans are scrapped and the Commission holds a “mini-redistribution”.

Under such a move, the two neighbouring electorates with the lowest combined voter total are merged into a new seat, to be contested for that election.

In NSW, if an election is called before October 17, this would see the Teal seats of Warringah and Wentworth merged on current enrolment numbers of 211,000 voters.

The new seat of Warringah-Wentworth would stretch from Brookvale in the north to Centennial Park and Clovely in the south — with Sydney Harbour running through the middle, cutting off at Potts Point in the west.

Zali Steggall - Warringah Independent MP
Warringah’s Independent MP Zali Steggall. Credit: Facebook/Facebook

The mega harbourside seat would force Zali Steggall — who defeated former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2019 — or Allegra Spender to contest the seat, or step aside for the other.

In Victoria, the seats of Chisholm and Higgins would be merged to create Chisholm-Higgins if an election is called before October 10 — when proposed boundaries are set to be confirmed.

While Higgins is already set to be abolished, the new seat would be home to some 221,000 voters.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 21: Labor Leader Anthony Albanese alongside Labor candidate Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah (R) meets with voters at a polling booth in the electorate of Higgins on May 21, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. Australians head to the polls today to elect the 47th Parliament of Australia, with a tight battle between incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison of the Coalition party and Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese. The Coalition party has led government since 2013. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
Labor Leader Anthony Albanese and Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah in Higgins. Credit: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

In WA, where the entitlement is set to grow to 16, an additional seat is created by dividing two neighbouring electorates into three

In what would be a death knell for the proposed new seat of Bullwinkel in Perth’s east and the Wheatbelt, the electorates of Hasluck and Durack would be split into three equally sized seats, if an election was held before mid-September.

Durack — which stretches from WA’s far north coast, including Kununurra — down to Bullsbrook near Perth, and Hasluck — which includes a large portion of Perth’s eastern suburbs — have a combined enrolment of more than 253,000.

While the two seats would shrink, a new seat — named Durack-Hasluck — would sit in between the pair, and include parts of Ellenbrook, Gingegannup and Northam and stretch across to WA’s coast up to just south of Geraldton.

A federal election is due to be held before the end of May, next year.

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