WESTERN AUSTRALIAN ELECTION 2017

Legislative Council


PARTY VOTES AT 2013 ELECTION
HISTORICAL PARTY VOTES
HISTORICAL SEAT RESULTS
2013 ELECTION RESULT
Liberal
Nationals
Labor
Greens
Shooters
Agricultural
2
2
1
1
East Metropolitan
3
3
Mining and Pastoral
2
2
1
1
North Metropolitan
4
2
South Metropolitan
3
2
1
South West
3
1
2
Total
17
5
11
2
1


The election for the Legislative Council will be the eighth held since the current system of proportional representation from six regions, three covering the metropolitan area (North Metropolitan, South Metropolitan and East Metropolitan) and another three the remainder of the state (South West, Agricultural and Mining and Pastoral). The regions contained either five or seven members until the current “six by six” formula was introduced in 2008, which closely parallels half-Senate elections in producing six elections for six seats with quotas of 14.3%. But whereas the Senate system was changed last year to put an end to “group voting tickets” and the monolithic preference transfers that were increasingly allowing parties with tiny shares of the vote to win seats, the Western Australian system remains unreformed.

Although introduced as part of a package of reforms giving effect to one-vote one-value for the lower house in 2008, the new system retained the existing malapportionment in the upper house, featuring metropolitan regions consisting of 14 lower districts compared with eight districts for South West, five for Mining and Pastoral and four for Agricultural. It has been an ongoing source of consternation for Labor that it was unwilling or unable to strike a harder bargain when one-vote one-value was introduced during a brief window of opportunity after Geoff Gallop's government was re-elected in 2005, since the system has delivered Liberal-Nationals majorities at both the elections at which it has so far applied, and seems likely to present a difficult-at-best configuration for any incoming Labor government. Labor's weakness in the chamber has a long history, having been set in place by a property qualification on voting until as late as 1963, and maintained by rural weighting henceforth.

Between 1963 and the introduction of proportional representation in 1989, the state was divided into provinces which each had two members serving staggered six-year terms, so that each election was for a single member using the same electoral system as the lower house. Then as now, terms were fixed to end on May 21 of the relevant year. The new system abolished staggered terms and set the term for both houses at four years, although there remained the anomaly that the term was fixed only for the upper house. In the same fashion as the federal sphere, the requirement that upper house elections be held in the final year of the term placed a practical limitation on the timing of lower house elections. This was formalised with the introduction of fixed terms in 2011, which set the election date for both houses at the second Saturday in March.

The Liberals and Nationals maintained their long-standing dominance at the first two elections held under proportional representation, winning 18 out of 34 votes in both 1989, when Peter Dowding's Labor government was narrowly returned, and 1993, when Richard Court's Liberal government came to power. However, this reduced to 17 between June 1991 and the 1993 election after Reg Davies quit the Liberal Party to sit as an independent. No minor party or independent members were elected in 1989, but the 1993 election saw Davies retained his North Metropolitan region seat as an independent, and Jim Scott win the Greens' first seat in South Metropolitan region. The breakthrough for minor parties came at the 1996 election, at which the Greens won three seats and the Democrats two, with the re-elected Court government left a seat shy of an absolute majority on 17 seats.

The mould was then broken entirely when Geoff Gallop led Labor to power at the 2001 election, with the Liberals and Nationals each losing two seats (with the latter reduced to one) and One Nation winning seats in each of the three non-metropolitan regions, while also helping boost the Greens from three to five through their decision to put the major parties last on preferences. With Labor on thirteen seats, the new government was able to win votes for most purposes with Greens support. However, a very important exception was Labor's long-cherished desire to introduce one-vote one-value to the lower house, which effectively required a special majority of nineteen votes to pass. A legislative sleight of hand to evade the special majority requirement was struck down by the High Court, and the Greens refused to allow Labor to cut the knot by changing the voting rights of the chamber's President, who would otherwise have given Labor the decisive extra vote.

The One Nation episode definitively ended with Labor's re-election in 2005, at which each of the three members lost their seats after parting ways with the party over the course of the term. However, the result maintained the left-right balance within the chamber, with Labor and the Liberals each gaining three seats, and the Greens dropping from five to two. Labor was nonetheless able to pass one-vote one-value reforms, and the accompanying changes to the upper house, in the period between the election and the new Legislative Council taking effect the following May 21, due to the support of Alan Cadby, a former Liberal member who had quit the party after losing his preselection.

In the event, one-vote one-value did not secure victory for Labor at the subsequent victory in 2008, and the Nationals emerged with a clear balance-of-power position in the upper house. Among the consequences was a weakened position for Labor as it sought to persuade the Nationals to maintain it in government after the election, as only the Liberals could guarantee that any deals reached could be delivered on in parliament. The government's control of the upper house was further strengthend at the 2013 election, at which the Liberals gained a further seat and the Greens dropped from four to two. Shooters and Fishers became only the third minor party to win a seat in the chamber since the introduction of proportional representation when it won from 3.3% of the vote in Agricultural region.