Ballarat electorates to change: Maps

THE Coalition government could take advantage of a redrawing of state electoral boundaries which will see the seats of Ballarat East and Ballarat West abolished.

Labor MP Geoff Howard’s seat of Ballarat East will become Buninyong under the proposal by the Victorian Electoral Commission released on Thursday.

The seat’s boundaries will be radically redrawn, losing the surrounds of Daylesford, Creswick and Kyneton, and gaining the areas of Smythesdale, Snake Valley and Haddon.

The change will provide further motivation for the Liberal Party, which has strived to take Ballarat seats off the hands of Labor since 1999.

There will also be changes for Ballarat West Labor MP Sharon Knight, whose renamed electorate Ballarat would lose Sebastopol to the new seat of Buninyong.

ABC election analyst Antony Green calculated that the changes meant Ballarat was now notionally an ultra marginal Liberal seat with a 0.1 per cent buffer.

Along with Ballarat East, Ballarat West is already one of the most marginal seats in the state with a margin of 1.1 per cent.

Ms Knight said the new maps were still drafts at this stage and that she would look into what it meant for her seat.

“For me, for now, I’m the member for Ballarat West. I will continue to represent Ballarat West and work really hard,” Ms Knight said.

Mr Howard conceded the change to his seat would see the loss of strong Labor voting areas and may mean a narrowing of the seat’s margin. 

At the 2010 election, Mr Howard won nearly twice as many two party preferred votes in Daylesford as his Liberal opponent. While he was disappointed to lose Hepburn Shire and Macedon Ranges from his electorate, he said the new additions would provide a new challenge.

“Those towns in the Golden Plains area and Sebastopol, they all have a reasonable fit within the electorate,” Mr Howard said.

Mr Howard said he was still considering his future as an MP and that the redistribution would not be a “key issue” in his decision.

The Electoral Boundary Commission reviews Victoria’s electoral boundaries after two state elections to ensure roughly the same amount of people live in each seat. 

Labor MP Joe Helper’s seat of Ripon, which takes in Beaufort, Ararat and Maryborough, will also see a significant change, taking in more areas around Bendigo and Swan Hill. 

The Victorian Electoral Commission will take written submissions and objections to the proposed changes until July 29.

If approved, the changes will come into effect for the 2014 state election.

tom.cowie@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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