The closure of nominations reveals a glut of candidates, as parties frantically negotiate ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for upper house preference tickets.
The Poll Bludger election guide has now been updated will full lists of candidates for every seat, after Friday’s closure of nominations and ballot paper draw. This revealed an over-supply of candidates for both houses, calculated by Antony Green at 7.8 per lower house district (463 across 59 seats) compared with 7.1 in 2017 and 4.9 in 2013, and 54.2 per upper house region (325 across six regions), compared with 50.3 in 2017 and 27.5 in 2013.
The boom in candidate numbers over the past two elections partly reflects the lure of preference harvesting as organised by Glenn Druery, whose machinations will become clearer after Legislative Council group voting tickets are lodged at noon tomorrow. One Nation and Shooters Fishers and Farmers are contesting a similar number of seats this time as in 2017 (up from 35 to 40 in the former case and down from 19 to 15 in the latter). The decline of Christian minor parties is interesting to observe: Australian Christians are down from 45 lower house candidates to 29 and Family First is not contesting for the first time since 2001. No doubt this reflects the diversion of religious conservative energies into the Liberal Party, a notable example being party powerbroker Nick Goiran, whose mother Madeleine Goiran is again running for Australian Christians.
A number of parties who were in the Glenn Druery network in 2017 have rebranded themselves for 2021, including the former Flux the System! party, which once promised a revolution in digital direct democracy but now purports to represent “Liberals for Climate”. It will thus join the Liberal Democrats as a second l-word minor party that will gain a small dividend from confused Liberal supporters, particularly where they are in an opportune position on the ballot paper. Only in Agricultural and North Metropolitan regions is the Liberal Party the first party so named in the ballot paper order. However, Aaron Stonehouse, whose opportune ballot paper placement helped him win a South Metropolitan seat for the Liberal Democrats in 2017, has been a good deal less fortunate on this occasion.
The party that ran in 2017 as Julie Matheson for Western Australia is now the Western Australia Party, which I’m guessing has heard its fill of WAP jokes by now. The party has secured a seat in parliament by recruiting former One Nation MLC Charles Smith, but it pitches itself as a centrist concern that hopes to take a leaf from Nick Xenophon’s book. Matheson herself, who is on Subiaco City Council, is only running this time as second on the Mining and Pastoral ticket behind Dave Grills, who held a seat in the region for the Nationals from 2013 to 2017. Taking the cause of regional particularism a step further is the secessionist WAXit Party, which has recently merged with a party that contested the 2017 election as the Micro Business Party.
• Despite the disastrous response to its preference deal with One Nation in 2017, the Liberals show no inclination entertain Labor demands that they put the party last on how-to-vote cards and group voting tickets. Joe Spagnolo of The West Australian reports One Nation’s member for Mining and Pastoral region, Robin Scott, is likely to behind only the Nationals in the Liberal preference order (which is at least a step down from the 2017 deal, which put One Nation ahead of the Nationals), and that it is “widely speculated” that One Nation will direct preferences to Liberal ahead of Labor.
• Labor is also putting a “No Mandatory Vaccination” party behind the Liberals and Nationals in second last place. The party is competing for the same corner of the electoral market as the Health Australia Party, which contested the 2017 election as Fluoride Free WA.
• Peter Law of The West Australian reports Labor is negotiating a deal that will give Shooters Fishers and Farmers preferences ahead of the Greens in the Agricultural and Mining and Pastoral upper house regions, in exchange for directing preferences to Labor ahead of the Liberals and Nationals in the lower house. The Greens were unlikely to win a seat in Agricultural region in any case, but Greens member Robin Chapple, who is now retiring, narrowly held out against Shooters at the 2017 election.
• Joe Spagnolo of the Sunday Times reports emergency plans are being drawn up in case a COVID-19 outbreak requires the election to be delayed, which could be done to as late as April 3 (although I note the Electoral Act says “no extension of the time for taking the poll shall be made … later than seven days before the time originally appointed”. Another COVID contingency is that every voter will get a free pencil, since these are not to be reused, unless they follow the WAEC’s advice and bring their own writing implement. This should not include a highlighter pen – apparently Sharpies are okay.
• The West Australian had a Painted Dog Research poll on Monday showing Mark McGowan on 88% approval and 7% disapproval. Zak Kirkup is on 17% satisfied, 24% dissatisfied, 42% neither and 17% don’t know (suggesting the 5% balance in McGowan’s results included both neither and a presumably very low “don’t know” reading. The poll had a sample of 804, with field work dates not provided.