Comment: Electoral change is a trifecta of deceit

Comment: Electoral change is a trifecta of deceit

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Regional voices will not be heard as much under the State government's electoral reform, says Moore MLA Shane Love.

Regional voices will not be heard as much under the State government's electoral reform, says Moore MLA Shane Love.

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It contains not one but three distinct and cynical levels of deceit.

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MAKE no mistake, Labor's attack on regional representation is unprincipled and opportunistic.

It contains not one but three distinct and cynical levels of deceit.

Deceit 1

When Labor leader Mark McGowan repeatedly stated cutting regional representation was "not on the agenda" prior to you going to the polls, he was not being truthful.

It was only 'not on the agenda' until his party won an absolute majority in both houses of the State Parliament, the trigger point for his government being able to achieve Labor's long-cherished objective of 'one-vote, one-value' for the Legislative Council.

Confirmation of this is provided by two of Labor's own.

The first was Sally Talbot, Labor Member for South West Region, when she told Parliament, "the reason it was not on the agenda is because we didn't know what the outcome of the election was going to be".

The second was Labor's Attorney General John Quigley, who said "for decades and decades, the Australian Labor Party's policy was to abolish the Upper House. This goes back nearly 130 years".

The legislation introduced to Parliament on September 16 is the result of a carefully-crafted process enacted by Labor immediately following their win.

The speed and precise nature of their efforts puts to bed any doubt that Labor had an agenda of cutting regional voices prior to the election - they just didn't want to tell you, so you'd vote for them.

Deceit 2

Labor has used the preference rorting - which led to the election of a Member of the Legislative Council with 98 votes - as a cover for their initiation of changes to the Electoral Act.

In fact, the harvesting of preferences, as practiced by minor parties under the current Group Voting Ticket (GVT) system, have been well known since the 1999 New South Wales election, also known as the infamous tablecloth ballot paper election, after which NSW abolished the practice.

Preference manipulation further led to the abolition of GVTs in South Australia and in the senate following the 2013 election of the Motoring Enthusiasts Party from a primary vote of 0.51 percent.

It also led to Wayne Dropulich of the Australian Sports Party being voted in during the eventually aborted WA Senate election on 0.23 per cent of the vote.

That election also highlighted the infamous guidance of 'preference whisperer' Glenn Druery.

None of the circumstances surrounding the election of Wilson Tucker for the Daylight Savings Party were a surprise to Mark McGowan and his Labor Party prior to the 2021 election.

In fact, measures to address preference rorting were contained in a private member's bill proposed by Greens MLC Alison Xamon in 2019.

The bill expired due to lack of support from the Labor government.

In its own Electoral Amendment Bill 2020 introduced last year which never progressed, the Labor government failed to even acknowledge, let alone address the issue of preference rorting when it had a chance prior to the State Election.

Let's be clear, Labor has not initiated its latest electoral changes because of any desire to be rid of preference rorting - they have acted to achieve their long-held desire to cut regional voices.

Deceit 3

The changes that Labor have introduced are surrounded by commentary from the Premier, Attorney General and others, about changes to only the Legislative Council, therefore it may be a surprise to you that the changes will also affect regional representation in the Legislative Assembly, the house of government.

The bill as introduced will delete Section 16H(2) of the Electoral Act which provides for the metropolitan area of Perth.

This means not only will there no longer be regions, but the metropolitan boundary will also no longer be used to delineate metropolitan seats from regional seats.

Past redistributions of Lower House electorates have had to respect regional boundaries.

Seats have always been contained entirely in one of the Upper House regions, so any redistribution between seats in different regions require the regional boundaries to shift also.

This was the case when Kalbarri was moved from the seat of Moore in the Agricultural Region to the seat of North West Central in the Mining and Pastoral Region.

Not only were the boundaries of the two Lower House seats changed, the boundaries of the two Upper House regions were also altered.

No such changes have been possible until now between the city and other regions of the State.

The Metropolitan Region has been fixed as the region described in the Metropolitan Region Town Planning Scheme Act 1959 and Rottnest Island. In affect it has been a strict dividing line between the 16 regional and 43 city-based seats.

The removal of this provision along with increasing metropolitan population will mean that regional seats bounding onto the city will now be gradually absorbed by the city.

Presently, the eight Lower House seats that are in the Mining and Pastoral Region and the Agricultural Regions are a combined total of nearly 24,000 votes short of the average.

Faced with outer metro seats that currently sit well above the State average and by law, must be altered, it will be open at the next redistribution for the electoral commissioners to quietly hybridise seats such as Moore, Central Wheatbelt and Murray-Wellington into a mix of city and regional electorates.

The focus of the local members will potentially and naturally turn from a regional one, to one of an increasingly city-centric nature.

This loss of regional voices will occur with none of the discussion that took place around the abolition of the seat of Eyre in 2017 or the loss of regional seats at the 2008 election.

That's because the Premier lied to you when he said this was not on his agenda before the 2021 election.

Labor's final deceit will be as silencing as it will be long-lasting.

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