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, the redistribution process must be conducted as soon as practicable after 2 years and 6 months after election day for the 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 two committees:
The Redistribution Committee: A three person committee consisting of the NT Electoral Commissioner, who chairs the committee, the Surveyor-General and Auditor-General. This committee:
- calls for public suggestions
- publishes those suggestions and calls for comments on those suggestions
- publishes a proposed redistribution after considering suggestions and comments received
- calls for objections to the proposed redistribution.
The Augmented Redistribution Committee: A four person committee, that is convened once boundary proposals are published by the Redistribution Committee. The Augmented Committee determines the final boundaries to apply after considering the published proposals and objections received from the public and interested parties. Its decision is final. The Augmented Committee consists of the members of the Redistribution Committee plus an appointed member who acts as chair of the Augmented Committee. The appointed member must either:
- have served as, or is qualified for appointment as, a Supreme Court Judge or Local Court Judge, or
- have other appropriate qualifications and experience and is not a member of a political party - in this case the Minister must consult the leader of each political party represented in the Legislative Assembly and all independent MLAs.
The redistribution is carried out in accordance with the Electoral Act and the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act. 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 committees.
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.
Since the passing of the Electoral Act, a three person Redistribution Committee receives suggestions and releases a proposal; an Augmented Redistribution Committee then receives objections and produces an independent report, which is final.
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|
Objects and matters to consider
Objects of redistribution
The objects of a redistribution, set out in section 139 of the Electoral Act, are as follows:
(a) at the time of the next general election the number of electors in each proposed division should be as near to equal as practicable
(b) the physical area of each proposed division containing rural and remote areas should be kept as small as practicable
(c) the demographic and geographic nature of each proposed division should be as uniform as practicable
(d) identifiable communities should be included in only one proposed division if practicable
(e) the names of existing division should not be changed unless an existing name is no longer appropriate
(f) if a new name is proposed for a division, the use of locality names should be avoided
(g) subject to paragraphs (a) to (f) (inclusive), proposed changes to existing divisions should, as far as practicable, minimise the number of electors being transferred from one division to another.
Matters to be considered
(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 Committees must give proper consideration to the following matters:
- (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:
|Public suggestions - The Redistribution Committee places notices in the Gazette and Territory newspapers inviting public suggestions.||Electoral Act s141|
|Timeframe - 30 days|
|Closing date for suggestions - Interested persons or organisations wishing to make suggestions regarding the redistribution forward written suggestions to the Committee.|
|Timeframe - as soon as practicable after the 30 days|
|Comments on the suggestions - The Redistribution Committee places notices in the Gazette and Territory newspapers advertising, and making available for public inspection without fee, copies of all suggestions and inviting public comments on the suggestions.||Electoral Act s142|
|Timeframe - 14 days|
|Closing date for comments on the public suggestions - Interested persons or organisations to forward written comments on the suggestions to the Committee.|
|Timeframe - as soon as practicable after the closing date|
|The Committee considers the public suggestions and comments and prepares a proposed redistribution of the Territory into divisions with proposed names.||Electoral Act s143|
|The Redistribution Committee places notices in the Gazette and Territory newspapers advising the availability of map(s) showing the proposed divisions and names and inviting objections.||Electoral Act s144 and s145|
|Timeframe - 30 days|
|Closing date for objections on the proposed divisions - Interested persons or organisations who wish to make objections on the proposed divisions to forward objections in writing to the Augmented Redistribution Committee.|
|Objections considered by the Augmented Redistribution Committee - The Augmented Redistribution Committee considers all objections made under section 145 and may hold public hearings into objections.||Electoral Act s146|
|Timeframe - as soon as practicable after the closing date|
|Decision - The Augmented Committee makes a final redistribution of the Territory into divisions and declares the redistribution by notice in the Gazette.||Electoral Act s147|
|Report - The Augmented Committee presents a report to the Minister as soon as practical, including the details of all public submissions and maps showing the names and boundaries of all divisions.||Electoral Act s148|
|Timeframe - within 5 sitting days|
|The Minister tables the report in the Legislative Assembly.||Electoral Act s148(3)|
|Timeframe - as soon as practicable after the report is tabled|
|The report and maps are made available for public inspection, free of charge.||Electoral Act s149|
|The redistribution takes effect for the next general election.||Electoral Act s150|
|The decision of the Augmented Redistribution Committee is final.|