Western Australia’s move into the democratic era continues apace. Submissions closed last Friday on the one-vote-one-value redistribution of the state’s electoral boundaries, and they are now all publicly available on the electoral distribution commissioners’ website.
The commissioners have got quite a good response, with 37 submissions (four of which arrived after the deadline). Most are from political parties, MPs or local governments, but there are some interested citizens as well. I’m not even the only one from outside the state; a Michael Proud from Marrickville has also made a comprehensive set of suggestions (psephologists obviously have too much time on their hands).
The basic issues in the redistribution are pretty clear: there will be eight new suburban seats, and six country seats will disappear. In future, redistributions will be held after every election, so long-term trends are not much of an issue; the commissioners can afford to aim at greater numerical equality this time.
But the submissions show that some people still don’t get this idea of democracy. Mr Noel Klopper, for example, seems to think that representation should somehow be in proportion to wheat production. And there’s this masterpiece from the Shire of Gin Gin: “Any proposal that focuses on a ‘One Vote-One Value’ electoral distribution scenario is deemed by Council to be a retrograde step, insofar as it will fail to respond to the differing expectations of a diverse taxpayer base …”.
There’s no explanation for why “differing expectations” mean some should get more representation than others.
As always, the political parties treat this as an opportunity to seek political advantage. Labor’s submission, for example, unnecessarily carves up the Kimberleys to try to keep an extra remote seat for itself (the weighting for large remote areas is the major departure from one-vote-one-value in the new legislation). And the National Party wants to inflate the upper house representation for Agricultural region (its heartland) by forming it from just four lower house seats instead of six.
For the last two elections, WA has deviated a little from the pattern in the other states; Labor’s first election win was more comfortable than elsewhere, and at the second attempt it went backwards (albeit only slightly) instead of winning a landslide. It’s impossible to say how much of a role the state’s strange electoral system might have played in that, but it will be interesting to see if the advent of reform brings it back into the mainstream.