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NSW finally federally redistributed

Finalised new federal boundaries for New South Wales diminish Anthony Albanese's incentive to abandon Grayndler for Barton, while still leaving the Liberals with their preselection headache in Hume.

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The Australian Electoral Commission today published the finalised federal boundaries for New South Wales, which have not fundamentally changed what in some ways was a controversial draft proposal. In other words, the plan is still to abolish a seat in the Hunter region by merging the seats of Hunter and Charlton, with the latter name put into retirement, producing knock-on effects that cause the fairly safe Liberal seat of Paterson to become highly marginal through the absorption of Hunter territory just north of Newcastle. However, politically important revisions have been made to the boundary between Grayndler and Barton, and the boundary between McMahon and Fowler. The AEC’s accounting of the changes is detailed here, though maps will have to wait until the end of next month. My calculations of margins based on the draft boundaries can be found here, with the most consequential changes (and non-changes) as follows:

• The boundary between Grayndler and Barton has been revised in a manner that may upset Anthony Albanese’s calculation that he would be best served by abandoning the former electorate for the latter. Whereas the original draft gave Labor a notional margin of 7.5% in Barton, it’s now looking more like 3.5% – which is correspondingly good news for Nick Varvaris, who won Barton for the Liberals in 2013 by a margin of 0.3%. The draft had Barton moving north to absorb more than 20,000 voters around Marrickville and other areas immediately north of Cooks River, but the final boundaries cut that transfer in half. To balance that out, Grayndler will not gain the Drummoyne peninsula from Reid as proposed, and Barton will gain Hurstville and surrounding areas from Banks. Banks, which was won for the Liberals in 2013 David Coleman, now stands to have a Liberal margin of a bit over 2%, compared with 1.8% at the election and 2.6% in the draft proposal.

• The draft proposal complicated matters for senior Labor front-bencher Chris Bowen by transferring the Labor stronghold of Fairfield from his seat of McMahon to neighbouring Fowler, cutting his margin from 5.4% to 2.1%. The final boundaries reverse that, with McMahon instead to absorb a more marginal area around Bossley Park further to the west. The Labor margin in McMahon will now be around 4.5%, while that in Fowler now stands to be 14.1%, compared with 16.8% at the election and 17.7% in the draft proposal. At the very least, this reduces Bowen’s incentive to take over Fowler from Chris Hayes, who might instead have filled the vacancy created in Werriwa (where he originally replaced Mark Latham in 2005, before moving to Fowler after the last NSW redistribution in 2010) by the looming retirement of Laurie Ferguson.

• The reversal of the planned transfer of the Drummoyne peninsula from Grayndler to Reid, and Reid’s counterbalancing loss of territory around Auburn to Blaxland, causes the Liberal margin in Reid to be increased to just shy of 4%, compared with 0.9% at the election and 1.0% under the draft proposal. The seat was gained by the Liberals in 2013 by Craig Laundy.

• The other important news is what hasn’t been changed, namely the transfer of the Sydney fringe centre of Camden from Macarthur to Hume, with the latter losing rural territory around Cootamundra, Cowra and Young. This is reportedly setting the scene for a Liberal preselection contest that would see Macarthur MP Russell Matheson attempt to dislodge Angus Taylor in Hume, reflecting the former’s factional strength around Camden. This is part of a series of Liberal preselection turf wars resulting from the ascendant moderate faction flexing its muscles, which I wrote about at length in a paywalled Crikey article today.

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