North West Central By-election

I’ve published a profile on the ABC elections site for Saturday’s North West Central by-election in Western Australia. Results for the by-election are also at the site.

North West Central is the state’s largest electorate taking in 32.3% of the state. It covers 820,591 square kilometres, an area larger than New South Wales. While the state’s largest electorate in area, by enrolled voters North West Central is the state’s smallest. Just 11,189 electors are enrolled to vote at the by-election, just over a third of the state’s current electoral quota of around 30,000.

The by-election has been caused by the resignation of Vince Catania, the Labor turned National MP for the seat since 2008. In what was once a marginal seat, Catania’s two-party preferred vote in 2013, 2017 and 2021 was well in excess of the Liberal/National state-wide vote. Catania appears to have attracted a personal vote amongst Labor voters, shown in the chart below by the big gap in North West Central support for Labor and National between the upper and lower houses at the 2021 election.

Despite the 2021 level of Labor support, the party has not nominated a candidate for the by-election. There are several possible reasons. Labor already holds 53 of the 59 seats in the Assembly. If it won, Labor would struggle to win the seat again at the next state election, especially given the abolition of upper house regions means local seats may be radically re-drawn in next year's redistribution. Far better to stand aside and let the Liberals and Nationals campaign against each other. Victory for the Nationals would leave Mia Davies as Opposition Leader. And if the Liberals win, both parties would hold three seats, raising the question of which party leader should be Opposition Leader?

Labor not nominating a candidate probably helps the Nationals given Vince Catania's personal vote, some of which that might have swung back to Labor. Leaving the Nationals leading the Opposition rather than the Liberals will help Labor as the next election approaches. Not that anyone thinks Labor will lose the next election given its overwhelming majority.

I apologise in advance for not being able to provide running commentary on the results until later on Saturday evening. I have tickets to the Swans versus Collingwood AFL match earlier in the evening so won't be able to publish any results until I get home from the match.

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