17/05/2005 - 22:00

Joe Poprzeczny: State Scene - Cadby the one that got away

17/05/2005 - 22:00

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Now that Labor’s One-Vote-One-Value legislation is finalised, let’s consider how parties and voters, the latter allegedly its beneficiaries, have emerged from this drawn-out tussle.

Now that Labor’s One-Vote-One-Value legislation is finalised, let’s consider how parties and voters, the latter allegedly its beneficiaries, have emerged from this drawn-out tussle.

Before the passage of the Jim McGinty bills, which became law because of backing from the upper houses Greens and former Liberal MLC Alan Cadby, the Coalition required a swing of 2.1 per cent to win four Labor seats to form government.

Under the new electoral landscape the Coalition needs a swing of between 4 and 5 per cent to win nine Labor seats to form government.

That’s a hefty boost to Labor and one for which Mr McGinty has undoubtedly been congratulated by colleagues, who will undoubtedly feel more secure.

But this was achieved by twice selling out the one-vote-one-value principle Labor allegedly cherishes.

Firstly, Mr McGinty imposed a strange arithmetical method that ensures seats larger than 100,000 square metres will have imputed, or imaginary, voters. In other words, marked vote weighting in seven lower house rural seats.

With Labor assured of winning four of these he’ll undoubtedly be commended for this, even though it contradicts the one-vote-one-value principle so precious to Labor.

And he’s agreed to boost lower house MP numbers from 57 to 59.

With each MP costing taxpayers about $1 million annually – for salary, super, staffers, stationary, cars, travel for spouses, and boyfriends or girlfriends and other overheads – that’s about $8 million more over the life of four-year parliaments.

And he also agreed to the Greens’ idea of having six upper house MPs in each of that chamber’s six regions, meaning two more MPs there and another $8 million.

These changes will, therefore, cost taxpayers around $16 million between 2009 and 2015, plus inflationary and other increments ad infinitum on that amount in all future parliaments.

Another outcome of the six-by-six formula will be a greater degree of vote weighting in the upper house than previously, so Labor’s precious prize has once again been ignored.

To therefore gain something resembling one vote one value in 52 of the lower house’s 59 seats, Mr McGinty created seven vote-weighted ones in that chamber and made the upper house less democratic than previously.

However, he can’t be entirely blamed for this selective ignoring of the one-vote-one-value principle.

One reason critics should go easy on him is that the Liberals wouldn’t talk turkey with him.

If they had we could possibly have ended up with a proper and equitable one-vote-one-value arrangement in both chambers.

So why were the Liberals mute?

There are several reasons for their traditional intransigence, not least what Perth political scientist Mike Pepperday outlined in his Masters thesis that’s available in the parliamentary library.

Mr Pepperday, who analysed Burke-led Labor’s moves to ease the inequity of vote weighting in 1987, highlighted the fact that as early as 1923 the conservatives couldn’t bring themselves to negotiate this issue with Labor.

He quoted Curtin University academic Professor David Black, who had shown that in the early 1920s, after refusing to talk to Labor, the conservatives found themselves being “obliged to accept [Labor’s] 1928 amendments and the 1929 redistribution on a less favourable basis than would have been the case in 1923”.

That short-sighted obstinacy, plus their refusal to discuss vote weighting with Labor in 1987, prompted Mr Pepperday to conclude in 2002 that: “The Liberal paralysis on vote weighting is pathological.

“The party failed to tackle genuine reform during the Charles Court years, and was unable to make up its mind on one vote one value during the 1990s and presumably the party will eventually again be obliged to accept a Labor plan.

“A deeper cause of the malaise lies with the party’s structurally-determined dependence on the leader and the corresponding endemic instability of Liberal leadership when in opposition.”

There it is, actually predicted by Mr Pepperday in his second paragraph,      “ … and presumably the party will eventually again be obliged to accept a Labor plan”. Current Liberal leader Matt Birney has behaved, in 2005, exactly like his predecessors in the 1920s, 1980s and 1990s. Mr McGinty, therefore, naturally turned to the Greens, who wanted, among other things, more MPs, with the resulting $16 million bill for taxpayers in perpetuity.

Another bizarre twist in the implementation of the costly Greens-McGinty blueprint was that it could only come about with Mr Cadby’s support, since he had the crucial 18th vote that ensured it gained the needed absolute majority final vote.

Mr Cadby, a long-time one-vote-one-value sympathiser, was dumped during last year’s Liberal pre-selection season.

That dumping was due to machinations by a group headed by Richard Ellis, a former senior Colin Barnett staffer, and Colin Edwardes, a Senator Ian Campbell senior staffer, Mr Cadby has told parliament.

Little wonder recriminations burst onto the political stage once the McGinty-Greens-Cadby blueprint was passed.

Within 24 hours of the final vote Lorraine Allchurch, once head of the Liberals’ powerful Curtin Division and campaign manager for former premier Richard Court, fired the first broadside at last year’s Liberal pre-selection manoeuvrings.

“People like myself have spent 30 years working to keep the Liberal Party in power and in government, and now we will have reduced numbers and election campaigns will be longer and harder to win,” she said.

“If Alan Cadby had been allowed to continue on I feel fairly sure that we wouldn’t have reached this stage.”

But she wasn’t the first to make this point.

The first time was in a letter of May 14 2004 to all Liberal divisional presidents, just as the Senator Campbell-controlled state council was to vote to confirm or otherwise the dumping of Mr Cadby.

The author of that 20-paragraph letter was the former Liberal deputy parliamentary leader, Dan Sullivan.

“As undoubtedly you are aware the media has speculated that if the party drops Alan Cadby to an unwinnable position on the upper house ticket for North Metropolitan Region he might be left with no option but to see out the remainder of his term as an independent,” he wrote.

“This could pave the way for Labor to recommit, and pass, its anti-country electoral laws.”

His concluding paragraph said: “Consequently, I sincerely trust that the facts will be taken into consideration in relation to the party’s North Metropolitan pre-selection process.”

State council voted by two votes to confirm the Ellis-Edwardes initiated anti-Cadby move.

And, as that old saying goes, the rest is history. But let’s also not forget the addition of the $16 million or so to all future four-year parliaments.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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