- Final Report on Electoral Reform from the independent Expert Panel tabled in Parliament
- Constitutional and Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Equality) Bill 2021 introduced
- Legislative Council to become a whole State electorate with 37 Members
- Group Voting Tickets to be abolished and optional preferential voting introduced
Every vote for Legislative Council candidates will carry equal weight in a single, State-wide electorate under historic reforms introduced to State Parliament to improve fairness in Western Australia's voting system.
The democratic reforms of WA's electoral laws will also do away with 'preference harvesting' using Group Voting Tickets, which enabled secret preference deals that allowed a minor party candidate to be elected on just 98 primary votes at this year's State election.
The reforms are based on the recommendations of the Final Report by the independent Ministerial Expert Committee on Electoral Reform, which has been tabled in Parliament.
The report was compiled by an independent expert advisory panel led by Malcolm McCusker AC CVO QC, who was Western Australia's 31st Governor, along with three eminent electoral and constitutional law experts: Professor John Phillimore, Professor Sarah Murray and Professor Martin Drum.
Under the Constitutional and Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Equality) Bill 2021, WA will join other States and the Commonwealth in abolishing Group Voting Tickets and introducing optional preferential voting, to diminish the impact of secret preference deals.
This will give electors the choice of selecting one or more parties above the line or as many candidates as they choose, subject to a minimum of 20, below the line. In one region at the last election, electors had to vote for all 64 candidates if they chose to vote below the line on the ballot paper.
The report's primary recommendation and the key provision in the Bill is to abolish the three metropolitan and three non-metropolitan regions in favour of a single electorate comprising the entire State, as exists in the New South Wales and South Australian Legislative Councils. It also mirrors the Senate, where WA is one electorate which elects 'Senators for Western Australia', not for a particular district or region.
Currently in WA, the six regions each return six Legislative Councillors, despite having wildly different populations. The independent Ministerial Expert Committee found the best way to overcome this unfair vote weighting, which gives some electors more than six times the say of their fellow Western Australians, was to implement a single State-wide electorate.
Under the whole State electorate, regional representation is enhanced with 37 Legislative Councillors representing the whole State. Parties and candidates could locate their electorate offices wherever they choose across the State and additional resourcing for regional members of Parliament will remain. This will give the President, like the Speaker of the 59-seat Legislative Assembly, a meaningful casting vote.
The Ministerial Expert Committee report is available at http://www.waelectoralreform.wa.gov.au
Comments attributed to Premier Mark McGowan:
"The March 2021 State election clearly demonstrated that the current system was outdated, broken and not operating in the best interests of democracy.
"The Group Voting Tickets system in the WA Legislative Council has been roundly criticised.
"In addition, the Council currently is the most undemocratic of any State or Territory in Australia. It lags behind most parliaments in the developed world.
"I thank the members of the independent expert panel for thoroughly reviewing the electoral system for the Legislative Council, and to everyone who had their say by making a submission on this important reform."
Comments attributed to Electoral Affairs Minister John Quigley:
"Equality is the cornerstone of democracy and in modern Western Australia everybody's vote should carry the same weight regardless of where they live.
"At the last election for the Legislative Council, a vote in Kalgoorlie was worth three and a half times a vote in Albany. A vote in Wundowie was worth four times more than a vote in Wooroloo, just nine kilometres away.
"WA has previously phased out enhanced voting rights based on land ownership, race, gender and wealth. This is the necessary next step to bring about full voting equality.
"It is similarly beyond time to end the practice of 'preference harvesting' in WA. The community was rightly dumbfounded this year when one Legislative Councillor was elected on 98 votes while 27,000 votes could not secure a seat elsewhere.
"These are sensible and proportionate reforms which will enhance the franchise of all Western Australians and adopt electoral best practice from interstate and overseas."
Premier's office - 6552 5000
Electoral Affairs Minister's office - 6552 6800