The Western Australian Labor government led by Premier Mark McGowan has proposed a bill that would see the WA parliament adopt a one-vote, one-value electoral system in a move supported by the Legalise Cannabis WA party. 

The Electoral Equality Bill proposes a system that mirrors that of New South Wales and would see the elimination of the six metro and regional upper house districts for a statewide ticket — the biggest reform in the state’s upper house history.

Dr Brian Walker

The proposed bill abolishes group tickets and introduces optional preferential voting to put an end to preference deals. Citizens wanting to vote below the line will have to select a minimum of 20 candidates. 

The upper house would also increase from 36 to 37 members and 45,000 first-preference votes, or 2.7%, must be achieved by a candidate or party to gain a seat in the upper house. 

The aim of the bill is to combat issues with the current system which, in the last election, saw votes in some metro regions worth six times less than those in other regions. 

Speaking on the changes, Legalise Cannabis WA MP Dr Brian Walker said his party is not against the proposed bill: “We in the Legalise Cannabis party of WA agree that the last election produced an undemocratic result, the result of gaming the group voting ticket system.

“The changes proposed appear, at least on initial review, to be sensible and reasonable. We feel that there is ample room for minor parties to be represented. The system of one-vote one-value has merit. 

“We think that regional representation will not suffer, it might even be enhanced. On balance, we are supportive of the changes.”

Currently the Legalise Cannabis WA Party holds two seats in the state’s Legislative Council — Dr Walker holds the sixth seat in the East Metropolitan Region and Sophia Moermond is the member for the South West Region. 

Dr Walker added: “There is 100% certainty that the laws will pass as the government has an absolute majority in both houses.”

The proposed bill will mirror the recommendations of a report headed by former WA Governor Malcolm McCusker that looked into electoral reform.

Hannah Adler

Hannah is a communications professional and early-career researcher in the disciplines of health communication and health sociology. She is a PhD student at Griffith University currently writing a...