Same coast, new vote? Electoral redivision could separate Surf Coast communities

February 18, 2021 BY

Torquay is part of the South Barwon electorate.

REDRAWN state electoral boundaries could see Torquay and Jan Juc pushed out of South Barwon and into an ill-fitting electorate.

Under the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act 1982, boundaries for state government seats must be adjusted every eight years to ensure each district has about the same number of voters.

South Barwon Labor MP Darren Cheeseman said South Barwon’s population increase meant the region had “a lot more voters than it is entitled to”.

Due to rapid growth in areas such as Armstrong Creek, the Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC) could redistribute southern towns including Torquay and Jan Juc into the Polwarth electorate.

Polwarth, located in south-west Victoria covering rural and Otways areas, has been a Liberal seat since 1976.

Mr Cheeseman said the community reaped the rewards of being in South Barwon, which covers the area between Highton, Moriac and Jan Juc.

“There’s no doubt that the South Barwon electorate has been a marginal seat and has the attention of the political parties,” he said.

“I am a proud, passionate member of the Torquay community and I have advocated effectively over the years to secure the best possible outcome for the area.”

Polwarth Liberal MP Richard Riordan said shifting Torquay and Jan Juc into Polwarth would fail to represent the Surf Coast and country towns effectively.

“I will do my best to represent whoever I have to represent, but my concerns are more about the demographic dilution of country seats,” Mr Riordan said.

“This will make the few country seats we have even bigger and it concentrates city seats to be even smaller.”

Mr Riordan believes the Torquay and Jan Juc communities share little interest with the areas west of Colac.

Torquay and surrounding areas have a greater alignment with the Geelong region beyond their geographic location, including economic connections, schooling and work, and sporting clubs.

“I would like to see the commission work hard to make sure Geelong gets genuine Geelong region seats to represent it more effectively and not at the expense of country seats,” Mr Riordan said.

“It is disheartening to see the disparity of country people compared to the city, and the Greater Geelong region is going to suffer unless they get another seat.”

EBC secretary Paul Thornton-Smith said it was too early to determine what would happen in South Barwon.

“We are receiving written submissions from the public that include a wide variety of possible boundaries,” Mr Thornton-Smith said.

“The EBC will take account of population trends and the arguments in submissions when deciding on new electoral boundaries.

“Proposed boundaries will be released on June 30.”

The redivision process is open for public submission, with Member for Western Victoria and Animal Justice Party member Andy Meddick

saying the community often feels detached from government decisions.

“They think the only time they get a say is in an electoral booth, they don’t know there are other processes they can be a part of that influences how things work for them on a daily basis,” he said.

Mr Cheeseman is encouraging community members to make a strong submission ahead of the closing date on March 1.

“We send kids to school, play sport and exchange workers in Geelong,” he said.

“I would encourage the Torquay community to make their views known whether they fit the western district lifestyle or whether they organise their lives and communities more around the south suburbs.

“I am passionate about the Torquay community, I live there, I love the place and I want to represent it.”

To make a submission, head to submissions.ebc.vic.gov.au.