OPINION: Upper House reform means every vote will count

Jackie JarvisCountryman
WA Laborpper House MLC Jackie Jarvis
Camera IconWA Laborpper House MLC Jackie Jarvis Credit: Simon Santi

Fairness. It is something that we strive for in every aspect of life. In education, in sport, in business. Why should Parliament and the votes of WA electors be any different?

I am sure you have seen that there will be changes to the way your Upper House representatives are elected going forward.

As an Upper House member, I’m all too aware that many people do not understand the role of the Upper House let alone how the people there are elected.

And that’s fair enough. It is complex and can be confusing, and because of that there have been ways for it to be manipulated without the knowledge of voters.

The 2021 election exposed the worst of what the current system can do.

No disrespect is intended to my parliamentary colleague, Wilson Tucker, but I think many agree that someone who received just 98 primary votes should not get elected to Parliament.

Especially when other parties received tens of thousands of votes and won no seats.

People were stunned, there was an outcry, and rightly so.

In response, an independent expert advisory panel was established to review the current system and provide advice to government.

It is that advice the McGowan Government is acting on.

The recommendations include the abolition of the three metropolitan and three non-metropolitan regions in favour of a single electorate comprising the entire State.

The report also recommended the banning of “preference harvesting”.

This mirrors the electoral systems of NSW and South Australia.

At the next election, the proportion of votes received by a party will determine the proportion of seats they win. It does not get fairer than that.

If the party receives half the vote, they will receive approximately half the number of seats and preferences will now be transferred according to the voters’ preference, and not under a secret deal in the cloak of darkness.

As an Upper House member, I’m all too aware that many people do not understand the role of the Upper House let alone how the people there are elected.

Jackie Jarvis

The Opposition will try to make this about politics.

This isn’t about political parties — this is about a fairer system for WA electors. This isn’t about domination by a single party or stopping diversity.

Indeed, minor parties and independents will only need to secure 2.63 per cent of the entire State vote, rather than having to reach a “quota” of 14.28 per cent of the total vote under the existing region.

This system wouldn’t have changed the result for the major parties at the last election. But it would have meant candidates from minor parties, who got far more first preference votes than some current members of Parliament, would all have won a seat.

The Nationals are stomping their feet and making dire predictions about the future of regional representation.

The truth is country voters will count more than ever.

Yep, you read that right. Not what you’ve been hearing from the Opposition, funny that.

The WA Nationals claim to be the party of regional WA, but they have relied on an outdated system of disproportionate voting that games the system in their favour.

The reality is Premier Mark McGowan will need country voters more than ever at the 2025 State election.

If a political party makes the mistake of ignoring country voters, they will pay a steep price.

It makes sense for smart political parties to ensure they have candidates living and working across regional WA. I know WA Labor certainly will.

We currently have Upper House members from Broome to Esperance, Eaton to Kalgoorlie.

Historically, many Liberal, National and Greens MLCs have chosen to place their offices in West Perth, putting their own convenience ahead of the regional representation that they now claim to care so much about.

Under the new system, every Upper House member will now be forced to engage with, and give voice to, the concerns of regional communities.

The electoral fortunes of all parties will be determined by country voters — and every one of their votes will be of value.

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