Fairness and Equality: Drawing Election Districts in Australia

Electoral Regulation Research Network Seminar

Thursday, 18 February 2016


  • Antony Green, ABC Election Analyst
  • Warwick Gately, Victorian Electoral Commissioner
  • Jenni Newton-Farrelly, Electoral Specialist
The audience and the speaker

About the Seminar:

The Liberal Party strongly criticised a recent Federal electoral redistribution in New South Wales, which notionally put at risk at least three Coalition seats. A columnist in Adelaide’s Sunday Mail has declared the Electoral Commission’s work a disgrace, because the boundaries it established have failed to reflect the popular will in three of the past four State elections. Electoral boundaries matter politically.

In her recently published book, Fairness & Equality: Drawing Election Districts in Australia, Jenni Newton- Farrelly points out that redistributions are inevitably political, and that any set of boundaries will have political effects. She acknowledges that Australian redistribution authorities are impartial and transparent in carrying out their task, but is critical of their refusal to consider the political ramifications of their maps. Ms Newton- Farrelly discusses the experiences of South Australia and New Jersey, and argues that redistribution authorities should take party-political effects into account in devising boundaries that are equal, fair and responsive to changes in voters’ opinions.

In this seminar, the ABC’s election analyst Antony Green, who has analysed dozens of electoral redistributions, formally launched the book and discussed the issues raised in it. Victoria’s Electoral Commissioner Warwick Gately spoke from the perspective of the redistribution authorities, and Jenni Newton-Farrelly replied.

About the Speakers:

Jenni Newton-Farrelly is the Electoral Specialist at South Australia’s Parliamentary Research Library. She has advised that Parliament’s Members on elections since 1985 and in that role has helped to develop methodology for the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission to comply with South Australia’s fairness requirement. Her PhD from Swinburne’s Institute for Social Research was on redistribution methodology.

Antony Green has worked for the ABC as its Election Analyst for more than two decades. He designed the ABC election night computer system and has covered more than 60 federal, state and territory elections, as well as elections in the United Kingdom, Canada and new Zealand. He produces regular publications on electoral matters for Australian parliamentary libraries, and in 2015 was appointed an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney.

Warwick Gately’s early career was with the Royal Australian Navy. Joining the Western Australian Electoral Commission in 2003, he conducted three State general elections as well as referendums on retail trading hours and daylight saving. He oversaw the redrawing of the State’s electoral boundaries under “one vote, one value” legislation and conducted local council elections. In April 2013, he was appointed as the Electoral Commissioner for Victoria with responsibility for the administration of the State’s register of electors (the roll) and the conduct of Parliamentary and local council elections as well as referendums and various statutory polls in Victoria.

The four speakers from the event