Half-time report: upper house

As well as being the first conducted under one-vote one-value electoral boundaries for the lower house, the September 6 Western Australian election will also be the first to have a half-Senate style “six-by-six” arrangement. The six-region system was instituted in 1989, but until now there have been two regions with seven members and four with five. Neither the old nor the new arrangement amounts to “one-vote one-value” – both evenly divide membership between metropolitan and non-metropolitan zones, though the respective enrolment is 935,539 and 258,335. This was the agreement that was reached when the electoral reforms were passed shortly before the May 2005 changeover that gave effect to the February 2005 election result, the lag owing its existence to a quirk of WA’s constitutional arrangements (the results of the September 6 election will similarly not take effect in the upper house until May next year).

Labor’s retiring president of the Legislative Council, Nick Griffiths, complained in May that Attorney-General Jim McGinty had “shut out progressive reform in the Council to get an increased chance of winning in the Legislative Assembly” by instituting a system which, “short of a Labor landslide”, guaranteed a conservative upper house majority. He blamed this on McGinty’s insistence on cutting a deal with the Greens rather than the Liberals, with the former counter-intuitively prompting for the retention of rural vote weighting (I’m told this was on the insistence of senior figure and former Senator Dee Margetts, who declared herself intent on protecting the interests of the Agricultural region she represented). To get the numbers the backing also needed the backing of an outgoing Liberal-turned-independent member, Alan Cadby. However, Griffiths’ argument seems to overlook the point that the then Liberal leader, Matt Birney, had dealt his party out of the game by refusing to negotiate, so that he could boast the purity of the impotent with respect to one-vote one-value to regional constituents, including those in his own seat of Kalgoorlie.

It’s clear that a different seat of Greens MPs would prefer a one-vote one-value deal for the upper house, and such a reform would probably be instituted if the election result gives Labor and the Greens a collective majority. However, the analysis below indicates that the best Labor and the Greens combined can hope for is half the numbers in the new upper house. A creative maneuver by Labor to implement one-vote one-value during the government’s first term without the “absolute majority” required for constitutional amendments was ruled invalid by both the Supreme Court and the High Court in 2002 and 2003, so such a result would plainly be inadequate. In any case, it’s more likely that the upper house result will deliver Labor and the Greens 16 or 17 seats out of 36 against 19 or 20 to various parties of the right. The latter includes the Christian Democratic Party and Family First, who between them are unlikely to emerge empty-handed and might win as many as three seats.

Below is an assessment of the situation for the Legislative Council election, based on some fiddling with Antony Green’s indispensible election calculators. Also outlined below are the upper house preference tickets which reduce the situation to its essentials.


The Christian Democratic Party are a chance of a seat here if the swing against Labor is just the right size. They will get preferences from Family First, One Nation and serial independent John D. Tucak, who between them were worth over 0.5 of a quota in 2005. If that’s repeated this time and the Liberal vote is up from 32.2 per cent to around 35.5 per cent, CDP candidate Dwight Randall will remain ahead of third Liberal Alyssa Hayden and pick up her vote as preferences, which will add up to a quota and deliver Randall the seat. If the Liberal swing is too high, the result will be three Labor and three Liberal; if it’s too low, it will be three Labor, two Liberal and one Greens. Candidates assured of election are Jock Ferguson, Ljiljanna Ravlich and Linda Savage of Labor (only the second of whom is an incumbent), and incumbents Helen Morton and Donna Faragher (East Metropolitan being the exception to the rule of poor female representation in Liberal ranks).

Family First: CDP; Nationals; Liberal; Greens; Labor.
Labor: Greens; Family First; CDP; Liberal; Nationals.
Citizens Electoral Council: Liberal; Nationals; Greens; Labor; Family First; CDP.
Liberal: CDP; Nationals; Family First; Greens; Labor.
Greens: Labor; Family First; Nationals; Libreal; CDP.
Tom Hoyer: Nationals; Greens; CDP; Labor; Liberal; Family First.
One Nation: CDP; Family First; Nationals; Liberal; Greens; Labor.
Richard Nash: Greens; Labor; Nationals; Liberal; Family First; CDP.
John D Tucak: CDP; Family First; Nationals; Labor; Liberal; Greens.
Daylight Saving Party: Greens; Liberal; Family First; CDP: Labor; Nationals.


North Metropolitan contains the strong Liberal western suburbs, so there’s little prospect of the CDP overtaking their third candidate. Incumbent Peter Collier and newcomers Michael Mischin and Liz Behjat are thus assured of election. The question is who wins the third seat out of Labor number three Tim Daly and Greens incumbent Giz Watson. If there’s anything in the poll figures which have consistently had the Greens in double figures, Watson should be the favourite. Labor’s top two candidates are long-standing members Ken Travers and Ed Dermer.

Brian Peachey: CDP; Family First; Labor; Liberal; Nationals; Greens.
Citizens Electoral Council: Liberal; Nationals; CDP; Family First; Greens; Labor.
Christian Democratic Party: Family First; Labor; Liberal; Nationals; Greens.
Family First: CDP; Nationals; Liberal; Greens; Labor.
John Eyden: Family First; Liberal; Nationals; CDP; Greens; Labor.
Liberal: Nationals; CDP; Family First; Greens; Labor.
Labor: Greens; Family First; CDP; Liberals; Nationals.
Greens: Labor; Family First; Nationals; Liberal. CDP.
Douglas Greypower: Family First; CDP; Greens; Nationals; Liberal; Labor.
Eugene Hands: Greens; Liberal; Nationals; CDP; Family First; Labor.
Wally Morris: Nationals; Family First; CDP; Liberal; Greens; Labor.
Daylight Saving Party: Greens; Liberal; Family First; Labor; CDP; Nationals.
Christopher King: Family First; Greens; CDP; Nationals; Liberal; Labor.
One Nation: CDP; Family First; Nationals; Liberal; Greens; Labor.
Julie Gray: Greens; Labor; Liberal; Nationals; CDP; Family First.


It will be a pretty grim evening for Labor if they can’t manage three quotas here (their candidates are incumbents Sue Ellery and Kate Doust and newcomer Fiona Henderson), while the Liberals (whose top two shoo-ins are incumbent Simon O’Brien and newcomer Nick Goiran) aren’t so weak the CDP are likely to get a look-in. The question is who wins the final seat out of Liberal number three Phil Edman and Greens candidate Lynn MacLaren, who was briefly a member after filling a casual vacancy in late 2004. Edman will win the seat if the combined vote for the Liberals, CDP, Family First, One Nation and CEC adds up 42.9 per cent or three quotas. The first three collectively polled 41.0 per cent in 2005 (the CEC didn’t run), so the Greens might find the going tough.

Citizens Electoral Council: Liberal; CDP; Family First; Nationals; Labor; Greens.
Labor: Greens; Family First; CDP; Liberal; Nationals.
Christopher Oughton: Liberal; Greens; CDP; Family First; Nationals; Labor.
Christian Democratic Party: Family First; Liberal; Labor; Nationals; Labor; Greens.
Family First: CDP; Nationals; Liberal; Greens; Labor.
Eric Miller: CDP; Family First; Liberal; Nationals; Labor; Greens.
Liberal: Family First; CDP; Nationals; Greens; Labor.
Greens: Labor; Family First; Nationals; Liberal; CDP.
Nationals: Family First; CDP; Liberal; Labor; Greens.
Daylight Saving Party: Greens; Liberals; Family First; CDP; Labor; Nationals.
Steve Walker: Liberal; Labor; Nationals; Greens; Family First; CDP.
One Nation: CDP; Family First; Nationals; Liberal; Greens; Labor.


The Liberals are guaranteed two seats (Brian Ellis, who filled a casual vacancy in July 2007, and newcomer James Chown), Labor one (who won a seat in South West from number three on the ticket in 2005), and Nationals’ Avon MP Max Trenorden will have little trouble succeeding in his bid to move upstairs. Labor are likely to win a second seat for newcomer Darren West, but could lose it to third Liberal Chris Wilkins if there’s a big enough swing. The last seat is likely to go either to Christian Democratic Party candidate Mac Forsyth or Liberal-turned-Family First member Anthony Fels. Both are ahead of the Liberals on most tickets, including the Greens in Family First’s case. It’s likely to come down to whether Forsyth can either overtake One Nation or outpoll the combined vote for Fels, New Country and independent Shelley Posey. It’s surprisingly hard to construct a scenario where a third Liberal seat comes at the expense of either of these two rather than Labor.

Labor: Greens; Family First; CDP; Nationals; Liberal; One Nation.
Shelly Posey: Family First; CDP; One Nation; Nationals; Liberal; Labor; Greens.
Citizens Electoral Council: Liberal; Nationals; Family First; CDP; One Nation; Labor; Greens.
Liberal: Nationals; CDP; Family First; Greens; Labor; One Nation.
Greens: Labor; Family First; Nationals; Liberal; CDP.
Family First: CDP; Nationals; One Nation; Liberal; Greens; Labor.
Christian Democratic Party: Family First; Nationals; One Nation; Liberal; Labor; Greens.
Nationals: CDP; Family First; One Nation; Liberal; Labor; Greens.
New Country: Family First; CDP; One Nation; Nationals; Labor; Greens; Liberal.
One Nation: CDP; Family First; Nationals; Liberal; Greens; Labor.


Much depends here on the destination of the 5.9 per cent recorded in 2005 by the independent John Fischer-Graham Campbell ticket. This region is not traditionally strong territory for the Nationals, but they have a dream run on preferences and Wendy Duncan has at least some chance of overtaking third Liberal Mark Lewis and winning a third conservative seat. There is likely to be a parallel contest for a third “left” seat between third Labor candidate Jim Murie and Robin Chapple of the Greens, who was a member here from 2001 to 2005. Certain winners are Labor’s Jon Ford and Helen Bullock, respectively an incumbent and a newcomer, and Liberal incumbents Norman Moore and Ken Baston.

Greens: Labor; Nationals; Family First; One Nation; Liberal; CDP.
Nationals: CDP; Family First; One Nation; Liberal; Labor; Greens.
Labor: Greens; Family First; CDP; Nationals; Liberal; One Nation.
Christian Democratic Party: Nationals; Family First; One Nation; Liberal; Labor; Greens.
Liberal: Nationals; Family First; CDP; Greens; Labor; One Nation.
Citizens Electoral Council: Liberal; Family First; One Nation; CDP; Nationals; Greens; Labor.
Family First: Nationals; CDPl One Nation; Liberal; Greens; Labor.
One Nation: Nationals; CDP; Family First; Liberal; Greens; Labor.
Daylight Saving Party: Greens; CDP; Liberal; Labor; Nationals; One Nation.
New Country: Family First; CDP; One Nation; Nationals; Liberal; Labor; Greens.


Unless there’s a fairly solid swing against Labor, this should split three-all between left and right. If there’s a third left seat, it will go to either John Mondy of Labor or incumbent Paul Llewellyn of the Greens (Labor incumbents Sally Talbot and Adele Farina are assured of election). If the right win four, three will go to Liberal (incumbents Robyn McSweeney, Nigel Hallett and Barry House, who all won preselection ahead of former leader Paul Omodei, who refused to stand and fight for the lower house seat of Blackwood-Stirling) and one to Liberal-turned-Family First member Dan Sullivan, unless the Nationals perform very strongly in which case their candidate Colin Holt might edge ahead of Sullivan. If they win three, the third seat will be down to Sullivan and third Liberal Barry House.

Nationals: Family First; CDP; One Nation; Liberal; Labor; Greens.
Family First: CDP; Nationals; One Nation; Liberal; Greens; Labor.
Labor: Greens; CDP; Nationals; Family First; Liberal; One Nation.
Christian Democratic Party: Family First; Nationals; One Nation; Liberal; Labor; Greens.
Elaine Green: Family First; CDP; One Nation; Nationals; Liberal; Labor; Greens.
Greens: Labor Family First; Nationals; One Nation; Liberal; CDP.
Citizens Electoral Council: Liberal; Nationals; Family First; CDP; One Nation; Labor; Greens.
Liberal: Family First; CDP; Nationals; Greens; Labor; One Nation.
One Nation: CDP; Family First; Nationals; Liberal; Greens; Labor.
Filip Gugilemana: Family First; CDP; Liberal; Nationals; One Nation; Labor; Greens.
Daylight Saving Party: Greens; Liberal; Family First; Labor; Nationals; One Nation.
New Country: Family First; CDP; One Nation; Nationals; Nationals; Labor; Greens; Liberal.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

72 comments on “Half-time report: upper house”

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  1. HoV & Ron

    As Luke has said, its not that Margetts had no support, but that it was recognised that her vote was important. There is also an issue of personality. Margetts is by training an economist, and is good with the minutae of bills. She also responds to the attentions of her constituents. In 2001-02 those constituents (or at leadt the most vocal of them) were all but pleading with her to not pass the legislation. Now, she might have been swayed by this more (ie; not supported any part of the reforms) excepting that the party spent a long time discussing the issue, attempting to tease out the various issues. Sharp, who previously might have supported 1v1v in both houses then settled on the dual model (1 house with 1v1v, the other not) as an effective compromise and began championing that position. Essentially Margetts then had a position to support. Margetts can be an excellent person to have in parliament, but she can also be a tricky person to deal with.

    The problem with this is that, although the party did have a number of options to consider (try bio-regional, which doesn’t work effectively with 1v1v, a separate indigenous list, ala New Zealand, or including ‘representatives’ for non-human interests – advocates for animal interests and the ‘environment’ more generally) alongside straight electoral models, outside of the normal meeting process, and including a couple of general meetings, this position was not put to the party. If it had been I suspect it would have not been supported by the general membership. And trying to force Margetts into another position simply entrenches her position in her own mind. That did happen in one of the general meetings.

    As for Dee’s support within the party, well, she did win a preselection ballot to become a Senator, and retained that preselection. There had also been some interest in the Agricultural Region from people outside the party, although I would always have considered it a very long shot (Mining & Pastoral is the same, although Chapple almost doubled his vote between 2001 & 2005)). But yes, Margetts had not been expected to win.

    And Ron, hindsight they say is ’20-20′ vision…

  2. OK bludgers, I have gone away and researched this, and naturally I was right. In 2005 the Greens refused to pass the Labor government’s election reform bill unless the government accepted their terms on the Council. These were (a) the retention of the gross disparity of enrolment between the urban and rural districts, and (b) the creation of six districts each electing six members. The result is an even number of districts electing an even number of members. This means Labor or the Libs/Nats must win 57% of the vote in one district and 43% in the other five to gain a majority, regardless of their statewide vote. In districts this large, that is highly unlikely. As a result, the Greens are virtually guaranteed the balance of power in the Council forever, regardless of how the people vote. They also have two districts with very low enrolments, where they can win a seat with less than 10,000 votes. In other words, they sabotaged the principle of one-vote-one-value in the Council, which they claimed to support, in order to achieve arrangements that will maximise their own power. I call that opportunism. All parties do opportunistic things, but only the Greens combine cynical opportunist actions with pious self-righteous rhetoric denouncing everyone else.

  3. Adam, what you might be overlooking is the high possibility of 4-2 right-left results in Agricultural and South West (indeed, a near certainty in the former case) balanced only by a lower possibility of a 4-2 left-right result in East Metropolitan, thanks to rural vote weighting. This creates a high possibility of 19 or even 20 seats for the right out of 36, and thus no Greens balance of power.

  4. William,
    You are right, it is a possibility. However, it is also a possibility that the situation outlined by Adam may occur. I would say that it is more of a possibility under the current system than under the former, meaning that Adam’s analysis is substantially correct.
    The surprising thing in Adam’s comment is that he seems surprised that a political party would be guilty of “…opportunist actions with pious self-righteous rhetoric denouncing everyone else.” I would have thought this par for the course.

  5. Adam

    You might also have researched what people such as Campbell Sharman and other political scientists had to say about the 6×6 model – that in fact it had a far greater opportunity of resulting in 3-3 splits than for a minor party to get elected – unless they were successful with vote harvesting. Your characterisation of this process simply belies your dislike of the result. The “large district number” seats which you comment on were taken from the Queensland legislation, which I note the Queensland ALP seems perfectly happy with, and was intended to ensure to partly (and I admit very partly) address the issue of elector contact with MP’s. If you think that MP’s should have contact with their electors then they require an effective mechanism for doing so. The report from the Leg Council Legislation Committee which looked at the legislation, chaired by Jon Ford (ALP), does discuss what might be needed, and also included comments on Indigenous seats, but makes no further recommendations. The report is on the WA Parliament website:

    On opportunism, far better if the Greens had gone with 5 electorates of 7 (retaining but reducing the rural-urban weighting as 3 would have been city based, and 2 rural) or moved to statewide electorate with a threshold (which was discussed in the negotiations) – these scenario’s would have significantly improved the Greens chances both of balance of power and retention of seats, while also potentially limiting micro-parties ability to preference harvest (like Libs4Forests almost managed). That would have more closely fitted your characterisation of opportunism AND fufliled 1v1v for both houses.

    As I said before, hindsight has ’20-20′ vision.

  6. On the question of improving the Greens chances of winning seats (with a 6 seat model) due to a lowering of the quota, there was some debate about this in the lead up to the bills being introduced, with people such as Harry Phillips, Cambell Sharman and David Black suggesting that an odd number of seats was more likely to deliver a seat to a minor party than even numbers. This would particularly be the case (for 6 seat electorates) in close elections where the ALP & Lib/Nat vote would both be close to 3 quota’s – as evidenced by what occurred in the last Federal election. Greens can poll 10% (as in Vic) and still not win a seat. Odd numbers of seats in electorates (say 7 as was the case in South West & North Metro) was far more likely to deliver seats both from the lower quota and that there would be over-quota votes available for a third party.

    I would suggest that this election will not improve the Greens position, and the election is likely to deliver balance of power to parties such as Family First and the CDP. Indeed, the cross benches could be quite interesting with up to 4 minor parties (Greens, Nats, FF & CDP) potentially represented. And I would suggest that the potential for further changes to the electoral system should not be ruled out as it would also be in those parties interests to have, say, a single statewide electorate (maybe with split terms such as in SA & NSW).

  7. Adam and others,

    What do you think a good model for the WA upperhouse is???

    I am not trying to defend the 6×6 which I think is potentially very bad for the Greens, I am genuinely interested in your views.

  8. Quota preferential voting should always operate with an odd number of seats. With an odd number of seats, if a party receives a majority of the vote, it has the chance to win a majority of seats. That is very very difficult with even numbers, with the exception of rotten boroughs like Agricultural Region. In 7 Federal elections where 6 member Senate elections have been held, there is 1 case in 42 (QLD 2004) of a party achieving a majority of seats. The result at many elections would have been very different with odd numbered elections.

    An example of how it works is my local council in Sydney. At the 1999 Marrickville Council elections, the Labor Party was afraid of losing control to the Greens and No Aircraft Noise. So they created three Wards of 4 members, meaning Labor only needed to win 40% of the vote to get half the seats. They won 6 of the 12 vacancies.

    In 2004, with Labor thinking its vote had risen, they created 4 wards of 3 members, thinking they could win a majority. Instead, their vote was exactly the same and they only one 1 councillor in each ward, 4 of the 12 councillors. They were defeated by their own gerrymander.

    Tasmania used 6 member electorates until the 1950s, when after a run of deadlocked elections, they hit on the idea of electing an odd number of members. Many years ago I read the report of the inquiry that recomended this change, and it stressed the point that if you believe in proportional representation, you also have to believe in a party with the majority of the vote being able to win a majority of seats.

    Ireland uses a variant of quota preferential voting to elect the Dail. It uses a mix of 3, 4 and 5 member divisions. There have been various papers over the years illustrating how parties shuffle the seats around, putting odd numbered constituencies in areas where their own vote was likely to reach 50%, and even numbered seats where their opponents might reach 50%.

    9 elections since 6 , and my commentthat applies to the Senate as well. If a party receives a majority of the vote, it should be entitled to win a majority of the seats.

  9. And by the way, I think William is entirely right. If Labor has a particularly good election, it and the Greens might have a chance of getting enough seats for a majority together. But the Libs and Nats will almost always get four up in Agricultural, sometimes in South-West, and you wouldn’t discount them winning five in Agricultural. They’ve won four out of five in the past in Agricultural.

    But if you’re not aware of how the Greens got the balance of power at the 2001 election Adam, it is very amusing. One Nation stuffed up their preferences. Thinking the Greens wouldn’t win a seat in either region, One Nation decided to show the Libs and Nats a lesson in how independent they were by passing their preferences through the Greens before reaching the Liberals. But One Nation ended up with more than a quota in both regions, their surplus flowed to the Greens and stayed there until the Greens were elected. The two extra Greens took seats the Liberals would otherwise have won, in which case One Nation would have had the balance of power in the Legislative Council, and Labor Plus the Greens would have had only 16 of the 34 seats. That would have given the Gallop government a very tough LC to deal with, and made it impossible to get the electoral reform bill through, unless the Liberals had decided to cut a deal with Labor.

  10. Speaking of strange boroughs, I’m disappointed that the Greens didn’t nominate for Sydney’s Botany Bay Council. In an election for Mayor and for three wards of two councillors, there were two labor nominations in each ward, Ron Hoenig was the only nominee for Mayor, the whole Council uncontested. I think it will be the only council in Sydney where Labor won’t get a pasting on 13 September.

  11. I could imagine Antony…

    Well, actually I probably couldn’t – every time I thought I’d seen it all with that mob, they transcend new depths of confusion.

    Like the last Federal election where One Nation WA was running in QLD for the Senate.

    I’d be interested to hear your One Nation tales sometime – psephology sitcom on a stick.

  12. Answer to Bird of paradox.
    I am very disturbed by your comments on the Christian schools. Which school did you attend? I have been a teacher at one of the CPCS schools for 21 years and I am delighted with the education children receive there. Education is in a mess. Politicians are seeking solutions in the wrong places. We want common sense education and character building for our students.

  13. Antony@63
    Well, we might have nominated someone if we had someone willing to be nominated… We managed it in 2004, so maybe next time around.

  14. As Antony says – you need 50%, and if you get that your votes go back in to elect the second person. This of course means that a ticket of 2 ALP candidates will almost always get elected (assuming people follow the ticket) Wollongong had the same, but the competition was quite different due to the presence of many non-ALP voters in the northern parts of the Illawarra. Botany doesn’t have that.

  15. Based on the Victorian experience it seems like the possibility of winning makes it harder to find Green candidates. One of the good things about Green members is that most of them (naturally with some exceptions) aren’t willing to run for something they might win unless they’re confident they’d actually do a good job.

    Of course there are some who would be bloody terrible and are just delusional, but there are even more who have a better understanding of their own weaknesses than those of their opponents. Results, we’ve had some people who’d be at least reasonable councilors pull out because they have heard what it takes to be a great councilor and don’t realise they’d still be doing something good for the local residents if they ran and took the seat off some useless hack. Result, spots we could win going begging.

  16. Wow, Antony, I just checked the Botany Bay website. With one exception every councillor has been there since 1995, and most for much longer. Not exactly a mix of new blood and experience. That voting system is atrocious, and one can see it in the results.

  17. [ Answer to Bird of paradox.
    I am very disturbed by your comments on the Christian schools. Which school did you attend? ]

    I was home schooled. That experience, and my Christian father, filled me with such a love of all things Christian that I’m not one any more. Imagine Ephesians 6:1 with maximum violence. 😉

    By the way, I’m assuming you’re Nick’s mother / CDP candidate in Gosnells… if so, could you explain to me why he’s running for the Liberals in South Metro? He seems a much more natural fit with the CDP… it seems odd.

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