News / Politics

New electorate boundaries boost Green MP’s chances

The redrawing would increase Tim Read’s margin to more than 2% ahead of next year’s election

A comparison of the new electorate (shaded in red) and the parts that will be lost (shaded in blue). Source: Electoral Boundaries Commission

Mark Phillips
Wednesday, July 14, 2021

THE re-election prospects of Greens MP for Brunswick Tim Read have been boosted by a proposed redrawing of the electorate’s boundaries that is likely to increase his share of the primary vote.

Labor will now need a swing of more than 2% to win back the seat they lost in 2018, according to election analysts.

But there is better news for Labor in the federal arena where Wills MHR Peter Khalil’s grip on the seat would be strengthened by a minor redrawing of the boundaries that is likely to slightly improve his primary vote.

A review of electorate boundaries by the Victorian Electoral Boundaries Commission has recommended parts of the Labor strongholds of Coburg, Pascoe Vale South and Brunswick South West to be removed from the electorate.

At the same time, Brunswick would pick up parts of the Green-tinged Carlton North/Princes Hill and Fitzroy North.

The areas to be removed from Brunswick were among the strongest for Labor in the 2018 election. In Pascoe Vale South, Labor recorded 62.5% of votes after the allocation of preferences. In Coburg West it received 54.9% and in Coburg East it secured 50.2%.

Similarly, in Brunswick South West, which would become part of the electorate of Melbourne, Labor outpolled the Greens after preferences in 2018.

But the polling booths where the Greens were strongest in 2018, such as Blyth and Brunswick East, remain in the electorate.

The ABC’s election analyst Anthony Green has calculated that the redrawing of the boundaries would increase Dr Read’s margin from 0.6% in 2018 to 2.3%, making it the safest of the Greens’ three lower house seats.

He says the new boundaries would reduce Labor’s primary vote from 38.02% to 37.9%, while the Greens would increase from 40.06% to 42.4%.

Crucially, the Greens’ vote after the distribution of preferences would rise from 50.57% in 2018 to 52.3% now, according to the ABC election guru’s analysis.

This is because the Greens would have a net gain of 649 votes from the redrawing of the boundaries, while Labor would have a net loss of 499.

Dr Read made history in 2018 when he seized the seat from the ALP for the first time.

Brunswick MP Tim Read.

After the allocation of preferences, Dr Read secured the seat with a margin of 50.57% to Cindy O’Connor’s 49.43%, the result of a 2.53% swing away from Labor following the move of incumbent member Jane Garrett to an upper house seat.

Dr Read said he was not taking the next election for granted whatever the outcome of the redrawing of the boundaries.

“I’m sad to be losing parts of Brunswick West and Coburg,” he said.

“I’ve worked with the local community and parents to increase school funding and make the streets safer for children getting to and from school.

“We’ve had some successes and I look forward to working with whoever is lucky enough to represent the good people of these neighbourhoods.

“I look forward to the new boundaries being confirmed in October this year.

“I’ll let the psephologists argue over the percentage points, my job is to represent the wishes of my electorate to the best of my ability.”

Affluent Princes Hill, near the Melbourne General Cemetery, would be included in the redrawn Brunswick electorate.

In its report, the Electoral Boundaries Commission said the electorates of Brunswick, Melbourne and Richmond were all bulging with new enrolments as a result of high-density development and had to shed some voters to neighbouring electorates.

With 3701 voters per square kilometre, Brunswick has one of the highest voter densities in Victoria, surpassed only by Prahran and Richmond.

It has decided that Brunswick should pick up 6608 more voters from Carlton North and Princes Hill (currently in Melbourne), and 6927 from Fitzroy North (currently in Richmond), while losing 1195 in West Parkville to Melbourne.

At the northern end of the electorate however, 14,731 voters in Pascoe Vale South and Coburg will be transferred to the Pascoe Vale electorate.

The final outcome is a mish-mash of recommendations from the Greens and Labor. In a submission to the EBC, the Greens recommended that the northern boundary of Brunswick should be Moreland Road, which has been adopted by the commission. Labor also recommended uniting all of Pascoe Vale in the one electorate and including Fitzroy North in Brunswick. But the EBC did not pick up on the ALP’s suggestions of transferring the Coburg parts of Brunswick to the neighbouring electorate of Preston and uniting all of Parkville within Brunswick.

The result of the EBC’s changes is a net reduction of 2391 voters in the size of the Brunswick electoral district. However, with continued population growth as apartment developments boom, the size of the electorate is projected to increase by 9.5% to 57,083 voters by July 2026.

Minor changes to federal seat

In the federal arena, the Australian Electoral Commission is proposing a slight redrawing of the boundaries of the seat of Wills to move a section of south east Brunswick into the Green held seat of Melbourne.

It has recommended transferring Brunswick East south of Glenlyon Road and east of Lygon Street to the electorate of Melbourne, which would remove 3876 votes from Wills.

This would most likely benefit Mr Khalil, who already enjoys a comfortable advantage over the Greens following a strong swing towards him in 2019.

At the 2019 federal election, the booth of Brunswick East delivered the Greens’ candidate Adam Pulford 40.9% of the primary vote to Mr Khalil’s 38.6%. In the Brunswick South East booth, Mr Pulford attracted 47.4% of the primary vote to Mr Khalil’s 35.6%, and in Brunswick South Mr Pulford drew 42.9% to Mr Khalil’s 36.6%.

Labor is traditionally stronger the further north into the seat of Wills the vote travels, so the proposed transferral of those booths would cost the Greens more than Labor.

In 2019, Mr Khalil had 44.08% of the total primary vote in Wills to Mr Pulford’s 26.62%. After preferences, Mr Khalil had an even bigger margin of 58.17% to Mr Pulford’s 41.83%, the result of a 3.24% swing to Labor.

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