Redistribution of the Northern Territory into electoral divisions

Updated: 14 February 2017

Chapter 1: Background and context

This chapter outlines the legislative requirements of the redistribution from the release of the Redistribution Committee’s proposed redistribution to the determination of the names and boundaries of electoral divisions by the augmented Electoral Commission.

  1. A redistribution of electoral divisions is the process whereby electoral divisions and their names and boundaries are reviewed, and may be altered, to ensure, as near as practicable:
    • each state and territory gains representation in the House of Representatives in proportion to their population, and
    • there are a similar number of electors in each electoral division for a given state or territory.

Compliance with legislative requirements

  1. The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act) specifies that a redistribution process should be undertaken when:
    • the number of members of the House of Representatives to which a state or territory is entitled has changed (relative population change)
    • the number of electors in more than one-third of the electoral divisions in a state (or one of the electoral divisions in the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory) deviates from the average divisional enrolment by more than plus or minus ten per cent for a period of more than two months, or
    • a period of seven years has elapsed since the last redistribution process was determined.1
  2. The procedures to be followed in conducting a redistribution process are also specified in the Electoral Act. Appendix A summarises the legislative requirements which have been followed in conducting this redistribution. Each of these requirements is discussed in further detail in this chapter.

Background to this redistribution

  1. The steps followed from the commencement of the redistribution of the Northern Territory to the release of the Redistribution Committee’s proposed redistribution are outlined in Chapter 1 of the Redistribution Committee’s report: Proposed redistribution of the Northern Territory into electoral divisions.2

Requirement to conduct a redistribution of electoral divisions in the Northern Territory and commencement

  1. Paragraph 59(2)(c) of the Electoral Act requires that a redistribution process commence when a period of seven years has elapsed since the last redistribution. As the last redistribution of the Northern Territory was determined on Friday 19 September 2008, a redistribution process was required to commence within 30 days of Saturday 19 September 2015.3
  2. In accordance with sub-section 59(1) of the Electoral Act, the Electoral Commission published a notice in the Commonwealth Government Notices Gazette (the Gazette) on Thursday 15 October 2015 directing that a redistribution of the Northern Territory into two electoral divisions commence.4

Current enrolment quota

  1. Section 65 of the Electoral Act requires the Electoral Commissioner, as soon as practicable after the redistribution process commences, to determine the current enrolment quota or average divisional enrolment using the following formula:

Number of electors enrolled in the Northern Territory as at the end of the day on which the redistribution commenced (Thursday 15 October 2015)


Number of members of the House of Representatives to which the Northern Territory is entitled

  1. In calculating this quota, sub-section 65(2) of the Electoral Act provides that:
    • where the result is less than 0.5, the number is rounded down to the nearest whole number, or
    • where the result is equal to or greater than 0.5, the number is rounded up to the nearest whole number.
  2. Table A shows the figures used to calculate the current enrolment quota and the resultant range of the permissible maximum and minimum number of electors in an electoral division (discussed further in the section titled 'Statutory requirements for the making of a redistribution').
Table A: Current enrolment quota and permissible range for the Northern Territory
Number of electors enrolled in the Northern Territory as at the end of the day on which the redistribution commenced (Thursday 15 October 2015) 129 571
Number of members of the House of Representatives to which the Northern Territory is entitled 2
Current enrolment quota for the Northern Territory 64 786
Permissible maximum number of electors in an electoral division (current enrolment quota + 10 per cent) 71 264
Permissible minimum number of electors in an electoral division (current enrolment quota – 10 per cent) 58 308
  1. The Electoral Commissioner signed a written instrument on Wednesday 21 October 2015, as required by sub-section 65(1) of the Electoral Act, determining the quota of electors for the purposes of the redistribution to be 64 786.
  2. As part of the redistribution process, the augmented Electoral Commission is required to ensure that the number of electors in an electoral division is not more than plus 10 per cent or less than minus 10 per cent of the current enrolment quota (see Appendix B).

Enrolment projections and projected enrolment quota

  1. When determining a redistribution, the augmented Electoral Commission is required by paragraph 73(4)(a) of the Electoral Act to ensure, as far as practicable, that the number of electors enrolled in the electoral division at the projection time will not be more than plus 3.5 per cent or less than minus 3.5 per cent of the projected enrolment quota (see Appendix B). This quota is calculated using the following formula:

Estimated total number of electors enrolled in the Northern Territory at the projection time (Friday 7 August 2020)


Number of members of the House of Representatives to which the Northern Territory is entitled

  1. For the purposes of this redistribution, projected enrolment has been estimated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The enrolment figures, together with the projected enrolment and processes used to calculate these projections, were made available on the AEC website when the invitation was extended to interested parties to submit suggestions and comments on suggestions.
  2. Table B shows the figures used to calculate the projected enrolment quota and the resultant range of the permissible maximum and minimum number of electors in an electoral division at the projection time (discussed further in the section titled ‘Statutory requirements for the making of a redistribution’).
Table B: Projected enrolment quota and permissible range for the Northern Territory
Estimated total number of electors enrolled in the Northern Territory at the projection time (Friday 7 August 2020) 141 376
Number of members of the House of Representatives to which the Northern Territory is entitled 2
Projected enrolment quota for the Northern Territory 70 688
Permissible maximum number of electors in an electoral division at the projection time (projected enrolment quota + 3.5 per cent) 73 162
Permissible minimum number of electors in an electoral division at the projection time (projected enrolment quota – 3.5 per cent) 68 214

Release of proposed redistribution of the Northern Territory

  1. Sub-section 66(1) of the Electoral Act requires the Redistribution Committee to make a proposed redistribution, with section 67 requiring that written reasons for the proposed redistribution be provided.
  2. In its report Proposed redistribution of the Northern Territory into electoral divisions, the Redistribution Committee outlined its proposed redistribution of the Northern Territory and in Chapter 2 explained the reasons supporting its proposal.5 On Friday 9 September 2016, this report was made available on the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) website and in the AEC office located in the Northern Territory.
  3. In addition, and as required by sub-section 68(1) of the Electoral Act, the following information was also made available at the AEC office in the Northern Territory from Friday 9 September 2016:
    • maps showing the names and boundaries of each proposed electoral division in the Northern Territory, and
    • copies of the six suggestions and one comment on suggestions made to the redistribution.

Invitation for interested parties to submit objections and comments on objections

  1. The Redistribution Committee is required by sub-sections 68(1) and (2) of the Electoral Act to draw attention to the redistribution material available for inspection at AEC offices in the Northern Territory and to invite written objections relating to the proposed redistribution of the Northern Territory and written comments on objections via:
    • a notice published in the Gazette on a Friday,
    • a notice published in two newspapers circulating throughout the Northern Territory, and
    • notices published in such regional newspapers circulating in regions affected by the proposed redistribution as determined by the Redistribution Committee.
  2. The notice was published in the Gazette on Friday 9 September 2016. Newspaper notices were published in:
    • the NT News and The Weekend Australian on Saturday 10 September 2016,
    • the Palmerston Sun on Tuesday 13 September 2016,
    • The Atoll on Thursday 15 September 2016,6
    • The Islander and the Centralian Advocate on Friday 16 September 2016,7 and
    • the Koori Mail on Wednesday 21 September 2016.8
  3. In accordance with section 68 of the Electoral Act, these notices included a brief outline of the proposed redistribution, where to view the proposed redistribution, how to participate in the process and where to find further information.9 As required by paragraph 68(1)(d), the notices published in the Palmerston Sun and the NT News included maps showing the names and boundaries of each proposed electoral division in the Northern Territory.
  4. Table C presents information on the options for making an objection or comment on an objection, and the extent to which these options were used.
Table C: Options to make an objection or comment on an objection
Options Objections Comments on an objection
Number Percentage Number Percentage
Form upload on AEC website 2 50.00% 1 100.00%
Email 2 50.00% 0 0.00%
Mail 0 0.00% 0 0.00%
Fax 0 0.00% 0 0.00%
In person 0 0.00% 0 0.00%
Total 4 100.00% 1 100.00%
  1. Interested parties were able to submit written objections from Friday 9 September 2016 until 6pm (ACST) on Friday 7 October 2016, the 4th Friday after the publication of the Gazette notice.10 During this time, four objections were received by the Electoral Commission (see Appendix C).
  2. As required by sub-section 69(2) of the Electoral Act, copies of these objections were made available to members of the public for perusal at the office of the Australian Electoral Officer for the Northern Territory in Darwin from Monday 10 October 2016, the 5th Monday after the publication of the Gazette notice. The objections were also published on the AEC website on this date.
  3. Interested parties were able to submit written comments on objections received from Monday 10 October 2015 until 6pm (ACST) on Friday 21 October 2015, the 6th Friday after the publication of the Gazette notice.11 During this time, one comment on objections was received by the Electoral Commission (see Appendix D).
  4. As required by sub-section 69(4) of the Electoral Act, a copy of this comment on objections was made available to members of the public for perusal at the office of the Australian Officer for the Northern Territory in Darwin from Monday 24 October 2016, the 7th Monday after the publication of the Gazette notice. The comment on objections was also published on the AEC website on this date.

Augmented Electoral Commission for the Northern Territory

  1. Sub-section 70(1) of the Electoral Act specifies that, for the purposes of a redistribution of the Northern Territory, an augmented Electoral Commission for the Northern Territory is established. The membership of the augmented Electoral Commission is specified by sub-section 70(2).
  2. The membership of the augmented Electoral Commission for the Northern Territory is outlined in Table D.
Table D: Membership of the augmented Electoral Commission for the Northern Territory
Position on the augmented Electoral Commission Name Basis for membership
Chairperson The Hon. Dennis Cowdroy OAM QC Chairperson of the Electoral Commission
Member Mr David Kalisch non-judicial member of the Electoral Commission
Member* Mr Tom Rogers Electoral Commissioner
Member* Mr Mick Sherry Australian Electoral Officer for the Northern Territory
Member* Mr Craig Sandy Surveyor-General of the Northern Territory
Member* Ms Julie Crisp Auditor-General for the Northern Territory

Note: * indicates the members of the Redistribution Committee (chaired by Mr Rogers)

  1. The augmented Electoral Commission met on:
    • Monday 21 November 2016, and
    • Tuesday 22 November 2016.

Consideration of objections and comments on objections by the augmented Electoral Commission

  1. The augmented Electoral Commission is required by sub-section 72(1) of the Electoral Act to consider all objections and comments on objections.
  2. In formulating its redistribution of the Northern Territory, the augmented Electoral Commission considered each of the four objections and one comment on objections. The augmented Electoral Commission found the written submissions made throughout the redistribution process to be a valuable contribution and is appreciative of the time and effort expended by all those who contributed.
  3. Chapter 2 and Appendix E outline the key themes contained in these objections and comments on objections, and how the augmented Electoral Commission responded to them, having regard to the requirements of the Electoral Act.

Inquiry by the augmented Electoral Commission into objections

  1. Sub-section 72(3) of the Electoral Act requires the augmented Electoral Commission to hold an inquiry into an objection unless it is of the opinion:
    • the matters raised in the objection were raised, or are substantially the same as matters that were raised, in:
      • suggestions relating to the redistribution lodged with the Redistribution Committee; or
      • comments lodged with the Redistribution Committee; or
    • the objection is frivolous or vexatious.
  2. Analysis of the four objections to the proposed redistribution indicated the matters to be inquired into as the:
    • electoral division in which Wagait Shire is to be located;
    • use of suburb and statistical area boundaries as electoral division boundaries;
    • electoral division in which Litchfield Municipality is to be located;
    • electoral division in which the suburbs of Farrar, Johnston, Mitchell, Zuccoli and Yarrawonga are to be located;
    • alignment of federal electoral division boundaries with territory electoral division boundaries; and
    • origin of enrolment projections.
  3. The manner in which inquiries into objections is to be conducted by the augmented Electoral Commission is specified in sub-sections 72(4) to 72(9) of the Electoral Act.
  4. The augmented Electoral Commission held one inquiry on Tuesday 22 November 2016 in Darwin.
  5. Invitations to attend the inquiry were sent to those who made objections to the proposed redistribution or commented on objections. A notice of invitation was placed in the NT News on Saturday 12 November 2016 and in the Palmerston Sun on Tuesday 15 November 2016.
  6. Appendix F lists those who made submissions to the inquiry and a transcript is included with this report. The augmented Electoral Commission found the submissions presented by those participating at the inquiry to be a valuable contribution and is appreciative of the time and effort expended by those who contributed.
  7. The augmented Electoral Commission's response to the matters raised at the inquiry is summarised in Chapter 2 and Appendix E.

Conclusion of consideration of objections by the augmented Electoral Commission

  1. Sub-section 72(2) of the Electoral Act requires the augmented Electoral Commission to conclude its consideration of the objections before the expiration of 60 days after the close of comments on objections. As comments on objections closed on Friday 21 October 2016, the augmented Electoral Commission was required to conclude its consideration by Tuesday 20 December 2016.
  2. Consideration of objections by the augmented Electoral Commission was concluded on Monday 5 December 2016.

Statutory requirements for the making of a redistribution

  1. Section 73 of the Electoral Act requires the augmented Electoral Commission to adhere to specific criteria in determining boundaries of electoral divisions.
  2. The augmented Electoral Commission endeavoured to ensure that the number of electors in each Northern Territory electoral division would:
    • meet the requirement of sub-section 73(4) of the Electoral Act for the number of electors in an electoral division to not be less than 90 per cent or more than 110 per cent of the current enrolment quota of 64 786 electors (Table A indicates the number of electors enrolled in each electoral division in the Northern Territory must therefore be between 58 308 and 71 264), and
    • meet the requirement of paragraph 73(4)(a) of the Electoral Act for the number of electors projected to be in an electoral division to not be less than 96.5 per cent or more than 103.5 per cent of the projected enrolment quota of 70 688 at the projection time of Friday 7 August 2020 (Table B indicates the number of electors projected to be enrolled in each electoral division in the Northern Territory at the projection time of Friday 7 August 2020 must be between 68 214 and 73 162).
  3. The augmented Electoral Commission also gave due consideration to the requirements of paragraph 73(4)(b) of the Electoral Act:
    1. community of interests in the electoral divisions including economic, social and regional interests,
    2. means of communication and travel in the electoral division,
    1. the physical features and area of the electoral divisions, and
    2. the boundaries of existing electoral divisions, with this factor being subordinate to consideration of factors i, ii and iv.
  4. Further details regarding these requirements are in Appendix B.
  5. Appendix G outlines the mechanics of constructing electoral divisions.

Public announcement by the augmented Electoral Commission

  1. Once its inquiries into objections are completed, sub-section 72(10) of the Electoral Act requires the augmented Electoral Commission to:
    • make a proposed redistribution of the territory, and
    • make a public announcement.
  2. While the augmented Electoral Commission is able to choose the means by which this public announcement is issued,12 sub-section 72(12) requires the following content:
    • the substance of the augmented Electoral Commission's findings or conclusions on the initial objections to the Redistribution Committee's proposed redistribution,
    • the augmented Electoral Commission's proposed redistribution of the territory, and
    • a statement whether, in the opinion of the augmented Electoral Commission, its proposed redistribution is significantly different from the Redistribution Committee's proposed redistribution.13
  3. The augmented Electoral Commission did not consider their proposed redistribution to be significantly different to that of the Redistribution Committee. The text of the augmented Electoral Commission's public announcement, which was made on Wednesday 7 December 2016, is at Appendix H.

Determination made by the augmented Electoral Commission for the Northern Territory

  1. In accordance with sub-section 73(1) of the Electoral Act, the names and boundaries of electoral divisions for a territory are determined when the augmented Electoral Commission publishes a notice in the Gazette.
  2. The text of the notice published in the Gazette on Tuesday 7 February 2017 is at Appendix I.

Footnotes

  1. Sub-section 59(2) of the Electoral Act specifies when a redistribution process should be undertaken.
  2. Redistribution Committee for the Northern Territory, Proposed redistribution of the Northern Territory into electoral divisions, June 2016, page 8–15
  3. Paragraph 59(2)(c) of the Electoral Act requires the redistribution to commence within 30 days after the expiration of the period of seven years.
  4. Section 55A of the Electoral Act provides that when the Electoral Commissioner has determined the Northern Territory is entitled to two or more members of the House of Representatives, a reference to a State in Part IV of the Electoral Act includes a reference to the Northern Territory.
  5. Redistribution Committee for the Northern Territory, op. cit., page 21–29
  6. The Atoll is published on a fortnightly basis and covers the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
  7. The Islander is published on a fortnightly basis and covers the Territory of Christmas Island
  8. The Koori Mail is published on a fortnightly basis and is the national indigenous newspaper.
  9. A disc included in Proposed redistribution of the Northern Territory into electoral divisions provided the material which sub-section 68(1) of the Electoral Act specifies is to be made available at each office of the AEC in the territory undergoing redistribution.
  10. This requirement is specified by paragraph 68(2)(a) of the Electoral Act.
  11. This requirement is specified by paragraph 68(2)(b) of the Electoral Act.
  12. Paragraph 72(10)(b) of the Electoral Act states the announcement may be made by a statement to the media or by other expeditious means.
  13. In the event the augmented Electoral Commission considers their proposed redistribution to be significantly different to that of the Redistribution Committee, paragraph 72(12)(d) specifies the inclusion of additional information in the public announcement.
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