Farm groups unite on rural voting

29 Aug, 2001 10:00 PM
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WAFF and PGA have joined forces to push back against the Labor Party's proposed changes to WA's electoral system.

In an announcement last week, WAFF and PGA presidents Colin Nicholl and Barry Court agreed to lobby key politicians to bring the issue to referendum.

Both groups said they were confident if the one vote one value system was put to referendum WA would reject the proposed changes and country electorates would remain safe.

They said mining, fishing, forestry, and other rural industries were expected to take a similar stand following a meeting in Perth this week.

Under the new system country voters would no longer have their votes more heavily weighted than city voters, which would be likely to reduce their representation in parliament.

PGA president Barry Court said he believed city voters did not want more power to the detriment of rural communities, and would be prepared to make this known in a referendum.

While WAFF saw a referendum as the fairest way to resolve the issue, President Colin Nicholl said they would continue to apply pressure the government to retain the current voting system.

"It's about fairness and equity and already country people don't get fair representation," he said.

"If anything there should be more parliamentary representatives for rural people."

Mr Nicholl said a one vote one value system would disenfranchise country people, who were already at a disadvantage.

Deterioration of country roads, the lower standard of services and lower level of education delivered to country children were evidence that the number of rural parliamentary representatives should be maintained according to Mr Nicholl.

PGA and WAFF said their organisations would join country shires and other rural interests in moves to confront sitting members and to support those prepared to stand up for rural people.

The push for a referendum was sparked by recent National Party calls to reject fundamental changes to WA's voting system without consultation with its people.

National Party MLA Max Trenorden said talk of democracy meant the Labor and Attorney-General Jim McGinty's should have no problem letting WA's people decide this fundamental issue.

"If the people in this state really want to disenfranchise country people, let them say so in a referendum...but we do not believe this important issue should be foisted on the public," said Mr Trenorden.

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