17/11/2021 - 12:00

Upper house passes historic voting reform

17/11/2021 - 12:00

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Western Australians will mark off a state-wide ballot paper for the upper house when they head to the polls in 2025, following passage of the state government's electoral reforms overnight.

Upper house passes historic voting reform
John Quigley has argued upper house reforms would not lead to a reduction in political representation. Photo: David Henry

Western Australians will mark off a state-wide ballot paper for the upper house when they head to the polls in 2025, following passage of the state government's electoral reforms overnight.

Members of the upper house have historically been elected from six regions, with two electorates covering metropolitan Perth and four covering regional WA.

The Legislative Council will now comprise 37 members, an increase of one, with all candidates contesting their spot via a state-wide vote, as is the case in South Australia and NSW.

If that system was to be applied to the most recent state election, Labor would’ve come away with 22 seats, the Liberals would’ve come away with six, the Greens with two and the Nationals with just one, with the remaining six seats available via preferences.

“Under the new system of voting in the Legislative Council, the proportion of votes a political party receives will determine the proportion of seats they win,” John Quigley, the attorney-general and electoral affairs minister, said.

“We have also abolished group voting tickets, which have already been abolished federally and in NSW and South Australia.

“It will be an adjustment for all of us to think of our Legislative Councillors representing the whole state rather than particular geographical regions.

“However, this is not a reduction in political representation but in fact the opposite.

“The new, fair system will allow a diverse range of aspiring political representatives to vie for a realistic chance at election.

“One state-wide electorate puts the level and range of diversity largely into the hands of the electors.”

Premier Mark McGowan labelled today a historic day for WA, arguing the state government had just delivered a fair voting system.

"One person's vote should not be worth more than another's just because they live in a different part of the state," he said.

"Political candidates should not be elected by engaging in the shadowy practice of preference harvesting.

"The era of unfair voting is over, electoral equality is here."

Passage of the state government’s electoral reforms follow staunch opposition from opposition leader Mia Davies, who at a Business News Politics & Policy event held earlier this month criticised the proposed laws as negatively impacting regional representation.

Steve Thomas, the state’s shadow treasurer, this morning lashed the state government over the reforms, arguing Labor had gutted regional representation by shifting to state-wide elections for the upper house.

“The standard of your highways, your schools and your hospitals are dependent on the level of your representation and slashing that representation will inevitably impact badly on regional communities,” Mr Thomas said.

“It impacts on the level of service you receive and the standard - in fact the very existence - of the facilities you get to use and enjoy in the regions.”

Other electoral reforms, including amendments to the state's political donation laws, are also a priority for the state government, which attempted to lower disclosure thresholds in 2019 against opposition from the Liberal and National parties.

A spokesperson for Mr Quigley told Business News earlier this year that amendments would be reintroduced in the current term with further improvements.

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