Premier Geoff Gallop has recalled parliament for 29 March, just a month since winning government. He has announced that he proposes to re present electoral reform legislation creating “one vote one value”. Western Australian State country seats are heavily weighted with their votes twice the value of metropolitan votes.
Labor’s last attempt founded in the High Court. His honours concluded that the legislation was invalid because it had not been passed in the Legislative Council with an absolute majority.
The rush to again introduce the Legislation is caused by the fact that Legislative Council members have fixed terms and the newly elected members take their seats on 21st May. The government will not have an absolute majority after that date. Courtesy of the clique presently running the Liberal Party, it appears highly likely that Labor with the support of the Greens and an Independent will now for the purposes of electoral reform, have the necessary majority until that date.
How could all this happen you might ask? Losing the recent State election is but part of the price the Liberal Party will pay for its present administration.
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In an act of breathtaking stupidity and factional greed, the Liberal Party dumped one of its first term up and coming Legislative Council members to provide a seat for a very ordinary party official who was barely able to answer a question at his pre-selection.
The recipient of the seat, Mr Peter Collier is part of the new breed presently controlling the Party. Mr Peter Collier’s contribution was to stack out and deliver the Curtin federal Division. His claim to fame in the WA Liberal Party is that in stacking out Braches he was caught signing other people’s names on membership application forms without their knowledge or authority
Collier was sprung when one of the alleged applicants received a letter welcoming him to the Liberal Party. The person in question responded in writing that he had not applied for membership and did not wish to be a member.
This unsavoury incident did nothing to dent Collier’s promotion within the Liberal Party. With the support of his backers who had been beneficiaries of his branch staking, he was subsequently selected onto the Upper House ticket for the North Metropolitan Province at the expense of sitting MLC, Alan Caddy.
Cadby was in his first term and well regarded by his colleagues however someone had to pay the price of Collier’s overweening ambition to get into parliament whatever it takes. Cadby was unable to withstand the onslaught of the branch stacking and was dumped off the ticket. He shortly thereafter resigned from the Liberal Party and now sits as an Independent. His term will expire on 21st May.
Caddy, no longer bound by Liberal Party room decisions has announced that he is attracted to the principal of one vote one value and that he finds considerable difficulty with the present weighting of votes under the Western Australian electoral system. He has not yet publicly declared his position on Labor’s proposed legislation and will not do so until he has studied the legislation. There appears however almost no doubt that as matters stand, Caddy will support one vote one value legislation in some form.
The Electoral Distribution Act can only be amended by an absolute majority of both Houses, hence legislation providing for “one vote one value” must be carried by an absolute majority. The President of the Council does not have a deliberative vote and therefore the absolute majority must while including the President as a number, be found on the floor.
With the present numbers Labor can only obtain such a majority with the support of the Greens and ex-Liberal, Alan Cadby. The Greens have already declared their support for the change. That leaves Cadby’s vote critical to both sides.
The consequences of the removal of vote weighting will be profound for the Liberal Party. Depending on the final form of the legislation, eight seats will be abolished in the country and transferred to the city. There is little doubt the country seats will mostly be coalition seats and that the majority of new seats in the city will favour the Labor Party.
Put in simple terms, Collier’s arrival in the Upper House will cause the departure of up to six legislative assembly colleagues and any reasonable prospect of winning government in the foreseeable future.
As Collier sits amongst his colleagues in the party room or with them in the parliamentary dinning room, these colleagues including at least three new members will have a permanent reminder that their careers have been destroyed as a price for him obtaining his.
Opposition Leader, Matt Birney unveiled his new Shadow Ministry and Cabinet on the weekend. Three bright and talented new members have been promoted directly into Shadow Cabinet. Each will have his seat abolished or amalgamated with the “one vote one value” redistribution.
Collier who shows not the slightest glimmer of political ability will on the other hand have a long and presumably undistinguished career on the back bench.
Collier’s overweening ambition and the behaviour of his supporters need never have been rewarded had it not been for the compliance and complicity of the party’s administration. Senior Vice President, Mathias Cormann, who received Collier’s support in obtaining his own position actively supported Collier.
State President Danielle Blain was written to along with all other senior office bearers by the Shadow Minister for Electoral Reform who pointed out in stark terms that the implication of dumping Cadby could in the circumstances, cause precisely the dire outcome which the Liberal Party now confronts.
Blain and senior office bearers of the Party could have overturned Collier’s successful assault on the preselection. They chose to support him.