Liberal MLC Tjorn Sibma: Changes to the Electoral Act will silence regional WA
As the most powerful Premier in the country, there is almost nothing that stands in the way of Mark McGowan — other than laws themselves.
The Premier is busy changing those laws, including the Electoral Act, to reduce the number of regional members in the Upper House. This move contradicts his repeated election pledge that such a change “was not on the Government’s agenda”.
The Premier has known about the problem for years and done nothing about it. Political tragics might recall how close the Fluoride Free Party came to winning a seat in the East Metropolitan Region at the 2017 election through the same means.
A simple fix to this mess would be to adopt the Senate voting system which has been in place since 2016. Problem solved.
Mr McGowan has opportunistically conflated the serious problem of preference harvesting, which saw Wilson Tucker elected to the Upper House with just 98 votes, with the absolute non-problem of the number of regional representatives in the Upper House.
Electoral Affairs Minister John Quigley has established a hand-picked panel to oversee a pre-determined reduction in the number of members of Parliament who represent regional electorates in the Upper House.
The Liberal Party believe it is wrong to further entrench a metropolitan bias in our Parliament which is indifferent to the social and economic realities of life outside of Perth — particularly when regional WA generates the overwhelming bulk of the State’s wealth.
Most people in Perth can appreciate that the services they take for granted in the metropolitan area are not nearly as accessible by their friends and families in the bush.
Neat ideological models of electoral perfection, however noble and well-intended, must yield to the realities of life in a sparsely populated State the size of western Europe.
Those who persist in prosecuting the beguiling “one-vote, one value” argument from the comfort of the metropolitan area are shielded from the challenges pastoral families face in educating their children via the School of the Air, or the anxieties of the farmer whose property is invaded by activist trespassers, or the worries of a mine supervisor whose job might be lost if his or her company is gouged for another gold tax, to say nothing of the daily hurdles confronting an under-resourced regional hospital registrar.
The Liberal Party’s view is that rural communities should have political representation weighted to ensure that their perspectives are at least considered and debated in the Parliament.
It is shameful that the Premier has chosen to abuse his new-found power to silence regional Western Australia. We will not allow regional Western Australia to be disenfranchised without a fight.
In the meantime, it will be interesting to ask every new country Labor MLC if they will vote to betray the regions they have just been elected to represent.
Tjorn Sibma MLC is a Member for the North Metropolitan Region and Deputy Leader of the Liberals in the Legislative Council
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