opinion

ONE VOTE, ONE VALUE: Labor’s deceit means regions are silenced

Shane Love MLAGeraldton Guardian
Shadow Transport Minister Shane Love.
Camera IconShadow Transport Minister Shane Love. Credit: Jackson Barrett

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 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 was provided by two of Labor’s own. The first, Labor Member for South West Region Sally Talbot 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: “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 before 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.

The harvesting of preferences, as practised by minor parties under the current Group Voting Ticket system, has been well known since the 1999 NSW election, also known as the infamous tablecloth ballot paper election, after which NSW abolished the practice.

None of the circumstances surrounding the election of Wilson Tucker for the Daylight Saving Party was a surprise to Mark McGowan and his Labor Party before 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 because of 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 before the State Election.

Labor has not initiated their 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 has 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 Bill as introduced will delete Section 16H(2) of the Electoral Act, which provides for the metropolitan area of Perth.

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.

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.

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.

Shane Love is the member for the Moore electorate.

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