Western Australia

Early Voting at Western Australian Elections

As has been the case at other elections held in the last year, the 2021 Western Australian election will see major changes in when people vote.

As at the Northern Territory, ACT and Queensland elections in 2020, the WA Electoral Commission has responded to Covid-19 by actively encouraging voters to take advantage of postal and pre-poll voting options ahead of the state’s official polling day on Saturday 13 March.

As with every other Australian jurisdiction, the last decade has seen Western Australians move away from voting on election day. At the 2017 election, only 64.1% of votes were cast on polling day compared to 85.5% two decades ago.

Chart 1 below shows the percentage of formal votes cast in each vote category at WA elections since 1989.
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Updating the Parties Registered to Contest the 2021 Western Australian Election

Updates

19 January – the Small Business Party name change to WAXit Party has been approved.
13 January – the No Mandatory Vaccination Party has now been registered.


In December 2020 I published posts on controversial applications to change the names of two Western Australian political parties. Both applications are attempts by minor parties to adopt ballot paper party names that could easily be confused with the Liberal Party.

The first post dealt with an application by Flux the System! to appear on ballot papers as Liberals for Climate. The second was an application by the Daylight Saving Party to appear on ballot papers as the National Liberals.

Both changes, plus applications to register new parties, indicate that WA voters are set to face large upper house ballot papers from a record number of registered parties. It’s all part of a typical preference harvesting strategy by minor and micro-parties, still possible in Western Australia as the state continues to use group ticket voting to elect the Legislative Council.

Such arranged preference deals were abolished federally with reform of the Senate’s electoral system in 2016.

To keep track of what’s going on as the WA election approaches, I’ll use this post to follow the late rush of applications to change and/or register parties.
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More Party Name Change Nonsense Ahead of the Western Australian election

First it was Flux trying to re-name itself “Liberals for Climate”. (See the detail in this post)

Now it is the Daylight Saving Party trying to change its name to the “Daylight Saving Party – The National Liberals”.

What in my opinion is politically scandalous is the application attempts to adopt “National Liberals” as the party name that will appear on the ballot paper.

So not only is the party trying to confuse voters looking for the Liberal or National parties on the Legislative Council ballot paper, but wants to adopt a name that does not let voters know the party’s one big policy, to introduce daylight saving in Western Australia. Voters in Western Australian have rejected daylight saving at four referendums over the past 50 years.

In my opinion, adopting “National Liberals” as the new party name to appear on the ballot paper instead of “Daylight Saving Party” is a clear attempt to mis-lead voters as to the party’s identity and policies.
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What’s in a Party Name?

For a party that argues “Australian democracy is broken”, that claims to be “Australia’s most transparent political party”, the Flux Party of Western Australia has taken a breathtakingly cynical step ahead of next March’s Western Australian election.

As shown below, the party has proposed to change its name and hopes to appear on ballot papers in March as “Liberals for Climate”.

I can’t see this as anything else but an attempt to mislead voters into confusing Liberals for Climate with the Liberal Party. It is an attempt to boost the party’s Legislative Council vote and manipulate the group voting ticket system still used in Western Australia.

The question is, will there be enough objection to this cynical name change, and strong enough legal argument against it, to prevent “Liberals for Climate” appearing on next year’s ballot papers?
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The Growing Weight of Country and Remote Votes in the WA Legislative Council

In my last post I published an analysis of the new state electoral boundaries for Western Australia. The boundaries were drawn on one-vote one-value principles, a signature reform introduced by the Gallop government in 2005, and one that helped deliver Labor a record majority at the 2017 election. (see this post)

The unfinished business of the 2005 reforms was the Legislative Council. One-vote one-value only applied to the Legislative Assembly, the state’s lower house. It undid a two-to-oneĀ  weighting against Perth that had applied since 1989, but left in place a three-to-one weighting in the Legislative Council, the state’s upper house.

In 2005, Labor and the Greens could not agree on a reform model for the Legislative Council. As part of the deal for lower house reform, the Greens wanted the existing six regions retained, but with six member per region instead of the existing five and seven member regions. This left in place the three-to-one weight against Perth, but added a new bias to the system by increasing the weight of votes in Agricultural Region and Mining and Pastoral Region at the expense of South West Region. At the 2017 election, a vote in Mining and Pastoral Region carried seven times the weight of a vote in Perth, a weighting that can only increase at future elections.

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2019 Western Australian State Redistribution

The landscape for the next Western Australian election has been finalised this morning with the Electoral Boundaries Commission releasing the new boundaries that will apply at the next election.

With the state’s population growth having slowed since the height of the mining boom, the scale of the changes wrought by the redistribution are much smaller than those produced by the last re-draw in 2015.

Despite population growth being concentrated in Perth and the south-west, the Commission has not repeated its 2015 decision to abolish a rural seat and create a new district in Perth. This means that 38 of the 43 seats in Perth have an above average enrolment.

On paper the boundaries increase the McGowan government’s hold on office, increasing the uniform swing needed for a change of government.

This post was updated, 28 November, with more information and adjusted margins for Hillarys and Joondalup.
My publication on the redistribution for the WA Parliamentary Library is now available at this link.
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