Redistribution of the Northern Territory into electoral divisions

Updated: 14 February 2017

Executive summary

This report outlines the augmented Electoral Commission for the Northern Territory’s (the augmented Electoral Commission’s) redistribution of the Northern Territory into two electoral divisions.

The augmented Electoral Commission has adopted all elements of the Redistribution Committee for the Northern Territory’s (Redistribution Committee) proposed redistribution.

The two electoral divisions in the Northern Territory are therefore the Division of Lingiari and the Division of Solomon.

The Division of Lingiari consists of:

  • the Alice Springs Municipality, Barkly Shire, Belyuen Community Council, Central Desert Shire, Coomalie Community Government Council, East Arnhem Shire, Katherine Municipality, Litchfield Municipality, MacDonnell Shire, Roper Gulf Shire, Victoria Daly Shire, Wagait Shire, West Arnhem Shire and West Daly Region,
  • the towns of Alyangula, Nhulunbuy and Yulara,
  • the unincorporated areas north and east of Litchfield Municipality, south-east of Coomalie Shire, and west of Litchfield and Palmerston Municipality,
  • part of the Palmerston Municipality, specifically the suburbs of Farrar, Johnston, Mitchell, Yarrawonga and Zuccoli,
  • Tiwi Islands,
  • Groote Eylandt,
  • the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and
  • the Territory of Christmas Island.

The Division of Solomon consists of:

  • the Darwin Municipality,
  • the Palmerston Municipality, with the exception of the suburbs of Farrar, Johnston, Mitchell, Yarrawonga and Zuccoli, and
  • the unincorporated areas of the Darwin Rates Act Area and East Arm.

Background

A redistribution of electoral divisions is the process where 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.

The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (the Electoral Act) makes provision for the conduct of redistributions, including procedures, processes and timelines to be followed and how and when public consultation is to occur.

A redistribution of electoral divisions in the Northern Territory was required as more than seven years have elapsed since the last redistribution was determined. The Northern Territory remains entitled to two members of the House of Representatives.

The redistribution process commenced with a direction from the Electoral Commission on Thursday 15 October 2015.

The Redistribution Committee released its proposed redistribution on Friday 9 September 2016. Interested individuals and parties were invited to make written objections on the proposed redistribution and written comments on objections via notices published in:

  • the Commonwealth Government Notices Gazette (the Gazette) on Friday 9 September 2016,
  • 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,
  • The Islander and the Centralian Advocate on Friday 16 September 2016, and
  • the Koori Mail on Wednesday 21 September 2016.

Four objections were made available for public perusal on Monday 10 October 2016. One comment on objections was made available from Monday 24 October 2016. An inquiry into objections was held on Tuesday 22 November 2016 in Darwin at which two submissions were made.

The augmented Electoral Commission found the written submissions made throughout the redistribution process, together with the submissions presented by those participating in the inquiry, to be a valuable contribution and is appreciative of the time and effort expended by all those who contributed. The redistribution has been informed by a thorough consideration of these submissions and the augmented Electoral Commission has taken them into account in making its determination. However, the augmented Electoral Commission felt unable to implement some aspects of these submissions for the reasons set out in Chapter 2 of this report.

This redistribution complies with all relevant provisions of the Electoral Act.

Legislative requirements

The Electoral Act requires the Northern Territory to be divided into the same number of electoral divisions as the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the Northern Territory at a general election. As the Northern Territory is entitled to two members of the House of Representatives, the augmented Electoral Commission has redistributed the Northern Territory into two electoral divisions.

In making its redistribution, the Electoral Act imposes two strict numerical requirements on the augmented Electoral Commission. These two numerical requirements provide an overall constraint to ensure that there are approximately equal numbers of electors in each electoral division so that each elector in the Northern Territory has equality of representation in the House of Representatives.

All electoral divisions are required to be not more than plus 10 per cent, or less than minus 10 per cent, of the current enrolment quota. At the end of Thursday 15 October 2015, the day on which the redistribution commenced, 129 571 electors were enrolled in the Northern Territory. The current enrolment quota was therefore 64 786. As the Electoral Act requires electoral divisions to be within plus or minus 10 per cent of this quota, the augmented Electoral Commission was required to construct electoral divisions which contain between 58 308 and 71 264 electors.

All electoral divisions are also required to be not more than plus 3.5 per cent, or less than minus 3.5 per cent, of the projected enrolment quota at the projection time of Friday 7 August 2020. As the number of electors projected to be enrolled in the Northern Territory at this time is 141 376, and the projected enrolment quota is 70 688, the augmented Electoral Commission was required to construct electoral divisions which are projected to contain between 68 214 and 73 162 electors on Friday 7 August 2020.

In relation to each electoral division, the augmented Electoral Commission is also required by the Electoral Act to give due consideration to:

  1. community of interests within the electoral division, including economic, social and regional interests,
  2. means of communication and travel within the electoral division,
  1. the physical features and area of the electoral division, and
  2. the boundaries of existing electoral divisions in the Northern Territory, with this factor being subordinate to the consideration of i, ii and iv.

The augmented Electoral Commission can only balance the different criteria against each other so far as they affect each of the two electoral divisions in the Northern Territory, and try and achieve the best balance overall. Given the primacy of the two numerical requirements, it is impossible to satisfy all the statutory criteria to the same extent.

The augmented Electoral Commission is also required to locate the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the Territory of Christmas Island in the same electoral division in the Northern Territory.

Redistribution of the Northern Territory

The redistribution covers:

  • the names of the two electoral divisions, and
  • where to draw the boundary between the two electoral divisions.

Names of electoral divisions

The Redistribution Committee proposed retaining the names of the Division of Lingiari and the Division of Solomon.

Support for retaining the names of both electoral divisions was noted in one objection.

The augmented Electoral Commission adopted the Redistribution Committee’s retention of the names of both electoral divisions for the reasons set out in Chapter 2 of this report.

Boundaries of electoral divisions

In determining the boundaries of electoral divisions in a territory, the Electoral Act requires the augmented Electoral Commission to ensure the enrolment numbers for each electoral division remain within the two ranges of the permissible maximum and minimum number of electors in an electoral division.

While the Northern Territory’s entitlement to members of the House of Representatives remains at two, the augmented Electoral Commission was required to alter the divisional boundaries as neither electoral division fell within the range for the permissible maximum and minimum number of projected electors as at Friday 7 August 2020. As a consequence, the augmented Electoral Commission was obligated to alter the existing divisional boundaries until this requirement could be met.

The augmented Electoral Commission noted that the Redistribution Committee’s proposal met the requirements of the Electoral Act and proposed electoral divisions that can accommodate growth while keeping existing communities of interest together where possible and providing strong and readily identifiable features as boundaries where possible. Further, the augmented Electoral Commission noted the Redistribution Committee’s proposal was consistent with the suggestions and comments on suggestions received.

In the augmented Electoral Commission’s opinion, the objections to the proposed redistribution, comment on objections and submissions to the inquiry did not improve on the proposed redistribution, and some did not meet the two statutory numerical requirements. The augmented Electoral Commission therefore agreed to implement the Redistribution Committee’s proposal without change.

Elector movements

Overall, 2 680 electors enrolled in the Northern Territory (or 2.07 per cent of all electors enrolled in the Northern Territory on Thursday 15 October 2015) will change their federal electoral division as a result of this redistribution.

Implementation of this redistribution

Changes to electoral divisions as a result of this redistribution will apply from the day on which a notice of determination is published in the Gazette. This notice will be published on Tuesday 7 February 2017.

Electoral events will not be contested on these new federal electoral divisions until a writ is issued for a general election following the expiry or dissolution of the House of Representatives.

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