Western Australia still uses the group voting ticket system for its Legislative Council – the system used for the Senate until 2013. Under this system, parties submit preference orders which are pre-filled for any voters who vote for that party above the line. These preferences were announced yesterday afternoon. I won’t bother to list every preference here, although William Bowe at Poll Bludger has the order of key parties.
The big story is One Nation’s deal with the Liberal Party. The deal apparently involves One Nation preferences for the Liberal Party in the lower house (helping them in races against Labor that will decide who forms government) in exchange for Liberal preferences to One Nation ahead of all the other contenders. Antony Green has written about the insights we can glean from how preferences flowed when One Nation first emerged in 1998.
Recent polling has suggested that One Nation is a serious contender for seats, regardless of preferences. The WA upper house is malapportioned in a way which gives significantly more seats to the regional areas where One Nation gains the bulk of their votes, and current polling puts them easily on track to win seats in the three non-metropolitan upper house regions. Liberal preferences could be a boost in those regions, and a Liberal surplus could also push One Nation over the line in the Perth area, particularly in East Metropolitan.
The right-wing vote in regional areas will be split four ways between Liberal, Nationals, One Nation and the Shooters, who currently hold two seats. In these areas, preferences between the two government parties have completely broken down. The Nationals have chosen to preference the Greens over the Liberal Party and One Nation, a decision which could help the Greens maintain their hold in Mining and Pastoral and regain a seat in the South West.
The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers have also done well out of preferences. The Shooters have been the only successful right-wing minor party in WA since the first decline of One Nation in the mid 2000s, but their vote would be under serious threat from the revived One Nation. The Shooters are gaining preferences above any other serious contender from One Nation, the Nationals, the Liberal Democrats and the Australian Christians. The Liberal Party is also putting the Shooters second behind the lead One Nation candidate.
There is no similar fracturing on the left side of the contest – Labor and Greens preferences flow directly to each other ahead of any of their right-wing challenges.
It will be extremely difficult for the left to gain a majority in the WA upper house, due to the significant anti-urban bias. But the splitting of right-wing preferences could bring them slightly closer, and the presence of a large number of One Nation MLCs will make any right-wing upper house majority very unstable.