While Mark McGowan is undoubtedly the man of the hour, he and at least 50 out of Labor’s 59 lower house candidates were not the only winners worth noting from Saturday’s astonishing result in Western Australia.
Once again, tiny micro-parties stand to win seats in the Legislative Council due to the workings of the group voting ticket system, even as more established small parties lost seats right (One Nation reduced from three in 2017 to zero) and left (the Greens down from four to probably one).
The potential beneficiary is another kind of green party: Legalise Cannabis, which is leading in the race for a seat in the South West region and stands a roughly even chance of scoring a second in East Metropolitan — in both cases from around 2.5% of the vote.
But in what could prove the most striking example of the system’s perversity so far, there is also a chance the Daylight Saving Party could win a seat in the Mining and Pastoral region despite them boasting all of 40 votes on the progressive count, or 0.2% of the total.
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This party is very much a creature of Glenn Druery’s notorious preference networking, and nowhere is its presumed cause less popular than in the region it stands to represent, which voted against daylight saving by a ratio of two to one when the matter went to a referendum in 2009.
Legalise Cannabis, on the other hand, is a genuine activist concern — albeit one that stands to benefit from Druery’s basic insight that very small parties can snowball to victory if they all preference the bigger ones last.
In the longer term though, Saturday’s upper house result threatens to bring down the curtain on micro-party preference harvesting due to the still more extraordinary fact that Labor won its first ever majority, and did so in a canter.
Group voting tickets have progressively been abolished for the New South Wales upper house in 2003, the Senate in 2016 and the South Australian upper house in 2018, leaving the Victorian and Western Australian upper houses as the last remaining hold-outs.
The Victorian election in 2018 represented the apex of the system’s absurdity, producing an upper house crossbench of 11 members representing eight parties, including the electorally insignificant Sustainable Australia and Transport Matters.
That no action has been taken to correct the situation reflects the classic dilemma of electoral reform, which can be implemented only by the direct beneficiaries of the status quo.
In the case of Victoria, the government appears reluctant to move out of fear of offending the myriad parties who collectively hold the balance of power.
But with Labor in WA to hold no fewer than 21 and perhaps as many as 24 upper house seats out of 36, it now has the opportunity to remake the chamber in its preferred image.
That is likely to mean adopting a voting method that leaves preference allocation entirely in the hands of the voter, as is now the case in the Senate, and doing away with rural vote weighting, the existence of which makes Labor’s majority all the more remarkable.
There was also a winner of a different kind on Saturday, namely the pollsters — or rather the pollster, as the only real name in the game was YouGov, which now conducts Newspoll for The Australian and provided The West Australian with its only poll of the campaign.
YouGov achieved about the best thing any pollster can hope for, which was to publish seemingly unbelievable results that turned out to be right.
Effectively a newcomer on the Australian polling scene, YouGov’s hands are clean of the 2019 federal election debacle, and its scorecard so far consists of an acceptable result in Queensland and an excellent one in Western Australia.
For the Morrison government, the enhancement of the pollster’s credibility gives added edge to last night’s Newspoll showing federal Labor opening up a 52-48 lead — as if the near annihilation of their state counterparts in Western Australia hadn’t been enough.