Saturday, 6 May 2017

Towards the Council Elections

It was recently pointed out to me that elections for the merged Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) are due in September this year.

11 Councillors will be elected (a fair drop from the 9 in Palerang and 10 - including the Mayor - in Queanbeyan). A concern has been expressed that the likely makeup of the merged Council will be 10 from Queanbeyan and 1 from Palerang.  The basic numbers don't support that view.

This post summarises the criteria eligibility to enrol to vote and then estimates the numbers potentially eligible from 2011 Census data.  (With of course a few amusing comments added in.)  This enables an assessment of the relative numbers of voters in each of the two former components of QPRC.  The post concludes with a few thoughts about the make-up of the 'new' Council afterthe election.

Who can vote?

Although people can enrol from the age of 16 they can't vote until they are 18.  I initially suspected that was invented by the Ministry for Funny Walks, but it has some validity since to be able to vote on their 18th birthday folk have to enrol at least  a few weeks before the election.

You also have to be an Australian citizen and to have lived at your current address for 1 month.  I'm not sure how the State Electoral Commission deals with homeless people, who by definition don't have a fixed address!

Numbers potentially enrolled

There are some nuances in those rules, and not everyone who can enrol will do so. but it's possible to approximate the likely number of folk enrolled using data from the 2011 Census.  (Data from the 2016 Census isn't yet available - and from what I observed in Carwoola is going to need some careful scrutiny before its use.)

The first thing to look at is the total population of the two previous LGAs.

On this measure Palerang had 27.4% of the combined population.

I next looked at adjusting this to measure the number of folk eligible to vote (if they had enrolled).  It was simple, using the ABS Table Builder facility to extract the number of people in each LGA by age and citizenship status (ie whether people claimed to be Australian citizens).  It wasn't possible to assess how many people had lived at the address for less than one month, but I don't see that as important since the numbers are:
  • likely to be small; and
  • probably far outweighed by the number who didn't enrol.
A nuance is that some people did not provide an answer to the citizenship question.  This was a slightly higher % in Palerang (6.6%) than Queanbeyan (5.36%).  However from looking  at a cross classification of answers to the citizenship question against year of arrival in Australia, for Palerang 98% of people and for Queanbeyan 96% of people, who didn't answer the citizenship question had year of arrival coded to "Not Applicable": ie they were born in Australia. Probably they thus thought answering the citizenship question was not necessary.  So they are in fact nearly all Ockers and  can be added to the numbers eligible for enrolment.

So here is the second chart of numbers of people who could vote.
You may think this chart looks rather similar to the previous one.  That is not an optical illusion as the proportion of voters in the combined area is 28.0%.  Within the capability of the data this is the same as for the population.

Applying this last percentage to the 11 Councillors to be elected for the combined Council suggests that 3 Councillors should come from, or at least represent, the former Palerang area.

The real question or problem.

Obviously 3 Councillors will not be a majority on the 11 member Council, and they almost certainly wouldn't vote as a bloc on every/any issue.  They would give a fair voice for the rural element especially if the other Councillors are interested in addressing issues rather than playing politics.

It is not a matter of the size of the population.  This is quite simply whether three (or more) good candidates put forward who can represent the interests of the rural part of the LGA.  If a good candidate (and I am not prescribing what the attributes of such a candidate might be) from Nerriga, Carwoola, Burra, Captains Flat or Majors Creek (or at a pinch Bungendore or Braidwood) puts themselves forward there would seem to be enough folk in the area to get them elected. (And if they are really good they may even find some of the residents of  Queanbeyan - eg the 250 eligible denizens of the (former) Queanbeyan part of Carwoola - will vote for them!)

However if there aren't good candidates from the rural area at the next election we'll have the opportunity to select good candidates who reside at the bottom of the hill.


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