The NT covers approximately 1,620,000 square kilometres and has 25 Legislative Assembly divisions; each represented by one elected Member of the Legislative Assembly. Electoral divisions are very different in geographical size and can range from as little as four square kilometres to almost 450,000 square kilometres. However, each division has approximately the same number of electors, around 5,000.
Electoral divisions may also be know as constituencies, electorates or seats - the term electorate can also refer to the electors enrolled in that division.
What is a redistribution?
In accordance with Part 8, division 2, s138(2) of the Electoral Act 2004 the redistribution process must start and finish as soon as practicable two years and six months after election day for the previous general election. The boundaries of each division are reviewed and changed, if necessary, so that the number of electors in each division are as near to equal as practicable. Any changes become effective at the next general election.
The redistribution process is managed by the Redistribution Committee and consists of the following members:
- the Electoral Commissioner
- the Surveyor-General
- the Auditor-General
- the appointed member (a person who has served as, or is qualified for appointment as, a Supreme Court Judge or Local Court Judge, is not a member of a political party and does not have a recent political affiliation).
NOTE: The appointed member is the Chairperson of the Redistribution Committee.
- calls for public suggestions
- publishes those suggestions and invites comments on those suggestions
- publishes a first proposed redistribution after considering suggestions and comments received
- calls for objections to the first proposed redistribution
- prepares the second redistribution and invites objections
- considers objections, decides redistribution and prepares a redistribution report.
The redistribution is carried out in accordance with the Electoral Act 2004 and the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978. It is an impartial and transparent process, free of political interference and provides several opportunities for public participation; any individual or organisation has the opportunity to present suggestions, comments or objections to the committee.
History of redistributions in the NT
A partly elected, partly nominated Legislative Council was established for the governance of the Northern Territory between 1947 and 1974. Five redistributions were carried out – the first in 1947 for six elected members, the second in 1959 when the number of elected members was increased to eight, 1962 when Aboriginals were given the vote, 1965 and lastly in 1968 when elected members increased to eleven.
The first distribution into 19 electoral divisions for a wholly elected legislature for the Northern Territory was established by the Minister for the Territory in early 1974 and reported in September 1974. A redistribution in 1977 took account of population movements following Cyclone Tracy.
Following self-government in 1978, electoral terms were extended from three to a maximum of four years. Set-term elections every four years became effective in 2012.
Early distributions were carried out by a three person Distribution Committee, comprising the Chief Electoral Officer, the Surveyor-General and a person appointed by the Administrator. Suggestions were submitted to the committee which released a proposed map, received objections and forwarded a report to the Minister for tabling in, and the approval of, the legislature.
The following table indicates all electoral boundary deliberations for a wholly elected Northern Territory Legislative Assembly since 1974.
|Year||Number of divisions||Election when changes came into effect|
|1977||19||August 1977, June 1980|
Object, principles and matters to be considered in redistribution
Object of redistribution
The object of a redistribution is to ensure that, at the time of the next general election, the number of electors in each proposed division is as near to equal as practicable.
Principles of redistribution
To satisfy the object of redistribution, the Redistribution Committee must have regard to the following principles:
- (a) the physical area of a division containing rural and remote areas should be as small as practicable
(b) the demographic characteristics of a division should be as uniform as practicable
(c) the geographic features of a division should be as uniform as practicable
(d) each identifiable community should be included in only one division if practicable
(e) subject to paragraphs (a) to (d), changes to existing divisions should minimise the number of electors being transferred from one division to another.
Naming of division during redistribution:
(1) The name of a division must not be changed by a redistribution unless the existing name is no longer appropriate.
(2) If a new name is proposed for a division, the use of locality names should be avoided.
Matters to be considered in redistribution
- (a) community of interests in each proposed division, including economic, social and regional interests
- (b) types of communication and travel in each proposed division, with special reference to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance
- (c) the trend of population changes in the Territory
- (e) the area of each proposed division
- (f) the physical features of each proposed division
- (g) the existing boundaries of the following:
- (i) divisions
- (ii) local government areas and wards under the and suburbs and towns
- (iii) division or subdivision under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918
- (iv) areas of Aboriginal Land Councils established by or under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth)
- (h) all suggestions and comments.
(1) The number of electors in each proposed division meets the requirement of section 13(4) of the Northern Territory (Self Government) Act relating to divergence from one-fifth of a quota.
(2) In addition, the Redistribution Committee must give proper consideration to the following matters:
|Public suggestions : The Redistribution Committee places notices in the Gazette and Territory newspapers inviting public suggestions. Suggestions are to be given to the committee, in writing, within 30 days after the notice is published in the Gazette.||Electoral Act s141|
|Inviting comments on suggestions : The Redistribution Committee must, as soon as practicable after the 30 days, make available for public inspection copies of all suggestions given to it within the 30 days. Notices are placed in the Gazette and Territory newspapers advising of the availability for inspection of the copies of the suggestions. Comments on the suggestions are to be given to the committee, in writing, within 14 days after the notice is published in the Gazette.||Electoral Act s142|
|Preparing first proposed redistribution : The committee considers the public suggestions and comments and prepares a first proposed redistribution of the Territory into divisions with proposed names.||Electoral Act s143|
|Maps showing first proposed redistribution : The Redistribution Committee, as soon as practicable after preparing the first proposed redistribution, places notices in the Gazette and Territory newspapers advising the availability of maps showing the names and boundaries of all proposed divisions.||Electoral Act s144|
|Inviting objections against first proposed redistribution : The Redistribution Committee places notices in the Gazette and Territory newspapers inviting objections on the first proposed redistribution. Objections are to be made in writing to the Redistribution Committee within 30 days after the notice is published in the Gazette.||Electoral Act s145|
|Preparing second proposed redistribution : After giving proper consideration to all objections, the Redistribution Committee, as soon as practicable after the 30 days, must prepare the second proposed redistribution of the Territory into divisions. The second proposed redistribution must include proposed names for the proposed divisions.||Electoral Act s145A|
Inviting objections to second proposed redistribution : If the second proposed redistribution would result in the following, the Redistribution Committee must invite objections to the second proposed redistribution.
If the Redistribution Committee invites objections to a second proposed redistribution the committee must make available for public inspection maps showing the names and boundaries of all proposed divisions and publish a notice in the Gazette and Territory newspapers inviting objections to the second proposed redistribution. Objections must be made in writing to the Redistribution Committee within 14 days after the notice is published in the Gazette.
Despite the above, the Redistribution Committee is not required to invite objections to the second proposed redistribution if the committee is of the opinion that:
|Electoral Act s145B|
|Considering objections : The Redistribution Committee must give proper consideration to any objections made under section 145B(4)(b)(ii).||Electoral Act s146|
|Deciding redistribution : The Redistribution Committee must, by Gazette notice (a redistribution declaration notice), redistribute the Territory into divisions.||Electoral Act s147|
Report about redistribution : As soon as practicable after publication of the redistribution declaration notice, the Redistribution Committee must prepare a report about the redistribution (a redistribution report). The report must:
The Electoral Commissioner must, as soon as practicable after the receipt of the redistribution report:
The Speaker must table a copy of the report in the Legislative Assembly within three sitting days after the Speaker receives the report.
|Electoral Act s148|
|When redistribution takes effect : The redistribution takes effect for the next general election after publication of the redistribution declaration notice.||Electoral Act s150|
|Decisions are final : A decision of the Redistribution Committee made, or purporting to be made, is final and conclusive. The decision cannot be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed, set aside or called into question in any court or tribunal on any ground and is not subject to any proceeding for an injunction, declaration or order for prohibition or mandamus.||Electoral Act s151|
When is the next redistribution?