The Greens have accused Labor of a “gerrymander” after the Australian Electoral Commission published a draft redistribution creating two new Labor-leaning seats and other knock-on changes that potentially benefit the federal opposition.
The new boundaries propose a third seat in the Australian Capital Territory – to be named after war historian Charles Bean – and a new seat in Melbourne’s west to be named after the former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser.
In addition to the notionally Labor seats of Bean and Fraser, the Liberal MP Chris Crewther’s seat of Dunkley, centred on Frankston in Melbourne’s south-east, has also become notionally Labor due to parts of the Labor-held Isaacs being added to the electorate.
According to an analysis by psephologist William Bowe, the biggest winner is the Labor MP Julian Hill, whose marginal seat of Bruce gains a massive notional swing of 11.7% to Labor, which he would then hold on 65.8% of the two-party vote.
“Julian Hill has won the lottery,” said one Labor left MP.
In Bowe’s analysis – supported by a Labor right MP consulted by Guardian Australia – Labor gets a small swing in its favour in Liberal-held Corangamite but the Liberal party benefits from swings in its seats of Chisholm and La Trobe.
The ABC election analyst Antony Green summarised the changes by suggesting they were so beneficial to Labor they “effectively wipe out the government’s majority”.
The draft redistribution fulfils expectations of party operatives that the new Victorian seat would be created in Melbourne’s west due to the large number of surplus voters in neighbouring seats Gellibrand, Calwell, Gorton and Maribyrnong – all Labor strongholds.
The two new seats are created in areas with growing populations, according to AEC formulas to improve the balance of each electorate to more closely reflect the principle of one vote, one value.
But it is the downstream effect of shifting boundaries that has outraged the Greens.
The party’s Victorian state director, Clare Quinn, said it was still looking at the detail and would formally respond to the proposal but “we’re concerned that Labor’s proposed gerrymander to lock the Greens out of the inner city has been taken up”.
The Greens are concerned that areas rich with Greens votes in Labor-held Wills and Batman have moved into Melbourne, which is already held by the Greens.
Melbourne loses parts of Flemington and Ascot Vale, which could benefit Labor in Melbourne by moving Liberal voters into Maribyrnong.
A Labor left MP acknowledged that Melbourne shrinking on its western edge was beneficial to Labor but said “the Greens can’t say that’s not a legitimate choice for the AEC to make”.
With no incumbent Labor MPs displaced by the redistribution, the boundaries won’t necessarily inflame a dispute that emerged when a new factional grouping proposed displacing a long-running stability pact.
But the creation of the new seat of Fraser gives Labor the welcome problem of dividing the spoils through a preselection process that will test the strength of the new group, which failed to command majority control of the party at large but enjoys higher support in the west.
Despite setbacks in Melbourne, the Greens are more upbeat in the ACT, where all three seats are notionally Labor. The Greens believe they are a shot in the seat of Canberra, which takes in the city centre, inner north and inner south.
“The seat of Canberra is now one of the greenest in the country,” said the ACT Greens co-convenor Emma Davidson.
“Finally Canberrans have a chance to send someone to parliament who will truly represent them.”
ACT Labor sources believe the Greens are overly-optimistic about their chances, and expect a third Labor MP to join Andrew Leigh and Gai Brodtmann in the lower house, with speculation St Vincent de Paul Society chief executive John Falzon will put his hand up for the backing of Labor Left.
Labor’s preselections won’t be decided until the high court decides the eligibility of Senator Katy Gallagher, who may lose her seat to her Labor running mate David Smith but could return at the next Senate election.
Falzon said he had “no comment” on the suggestion he could contest the third seat for Labor.
All changes are provisional, pending objections and a final redistribution in July.