5 June 2024

Electoral redistribution proposal swaps out Higgins in Victoria for the new WA seat of Bullwinkel

| James Day
Start the conversation
Higgins MP Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah speaking from a lectern.

The seat of Higgins, created in 1949, was dominated by the Liberal Party until its first Labor member, Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah, was elected in 2022. Photo: Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah MP Facebook.

As part of its regular review of electoral divisions’ boundaries and names, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has proposed to eliminate the Victorian seat of Higgins and create ‘Bullwinkel’ for Western Australia.

Recently the AEC released its proposals for electoral redistribution in Victoria and WA, with information on the proposals for the Northern Territory and NSW to be made available in the coming weeks. Two rounds of public submissions have already been held in each state for the most recent proposals, with another two planned to consider proposed changes before a final decision is made at the end of the year.

These electoral redistribution proposals are part of the AEC’s efforts to ensure each state and territory gains representation in the Lower House in proportion to their population and there are a similar number of electors (voters) in each division.

Ben Raue wrote in an analysis of the proposal for The Guardian, that these boundaries represent a net gain of one seat for Labor and a loss of one seat for the Liberal Party. This he largely credits to the creation of Bullwinkel, abolition of Higgins, and redrawing of Menzies into a “notional” Labor seat.

However Mr Raue said “there are many other seats which have been changed, in subtle ways that could be important”.

READ ALSO Victoria delivers nation’s ‘most significant overhaul of parliamentary oversight’ after MP’s sacking

The most contentious recommendation is for the abolishment of Higgins, held by Labor’s Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah, to create a seat named in honour of Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel.

Chair of the Redistribution Committee and Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said the move was required to accommodate population changes, by shifting the number of federal seats from 39 to 38 in Victoria and 15 to 16 in WA.

After surviving the sinking of the SS Vyner Brooke following the evacuation of Singapore, Ms Bullwinkel was the sole survivor of the 1942 Bangka Island massacre and a prisoner of war for three and a half years. She retired from the army in 1947 and became director of nursing at Melbourne’s Fairfield Hospital, devoting much of her life to the victims of war crimes and making nursing education a tertiary responsibility.

The new electoral division named after her, has been positioned in the outer eastern suburbs of Perth.

It is centred on the Shire of Beverley, Shire of Northam, Shire of Toodyay and Shire of York, and includes parts of the City of Armadale, City of Gosnells, City of Kalamunda and City of Swan and part of the Shire of Mundaring.

This locale was chosen to reflect the significant growth in the outer suburban areas of the metropolitan area and relatively even population growth to the north and south of the Swan River, together with the strong community of interests among the Perth hills communities.

Higgins was one of 12 electoral divisions in consideration for abolition, the majority of which were in metropolitan areas.

In the end Higgins was chosen to address all growth corridors across Melbourne while minimising the movement of electors between divisions. Its electors will be shared among the surrounding divisions of Chisholm, Hotham, Kooyong, Macnamara and Melbourne.

READ ALSO The Water Cooler: Comings, goings and consultations

Following the draft boundaries announcement, Dr Ananda-Rajah said she was “obviously disappointed” that her seat was proposed for abolishment.

“I remain as committed as ever to represent this great electorate – a seat of two former prime ministers [Harold Holt and Sir John Gorton],” said the Labor MP. “This is a draft proposal and there is now a process to go through.

“We will have more to say once that process is complete.”

For Victoria, the AEC also proposed:

  • Altering the boundaries of 34 seats in Victoria
  • Most divisions having a rural, provincial, or metropolitan focus
  • One metropolitan division crossing the Yarra River
  • More clearly defined electoral boundaries.

Whereas for WA it also recommends:

  • Removing high growth areas from seats which exceed the maximum number of projected voters permitted by the electoral act
  • Removing high enrolment areas from fast growing outer suburban seats to allow for future population growth
  • Rearranging boundaries across all 15 existing seats to accommodate placement of Bullwinkel and improving communities of interest where possible.

The AEC will accept written objections in favour or against any aspect of the proposals for Victoria and WA by 28 June.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.