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WA 2021 – upper house preferences released

February 15, 2021 - 22:42 -- Admin

Western Australia’s upper house still uses the discredited group voting ticket system to distribute preferences, the same system last used for the Senate in 2013. This system has encouraged a proliferation of candidates and parties running in the upper house election, breaking the record set in 2017.

Each group running in each upper house region is required to lodge a preference order of how they would distribute their voters’ preferences amongst their fellow candidates. Any voters who vote above the line will have their preferences allocated according to this ticket. It’s a system which allows a party to allocate all of its preferences with a high level of reliability to parties that no-one has heard of, or who the voter couldn’t imagine receiving their preferences, and allows some parties to win off very low votes.

The tickets were released this afternoon. Antony Green has published them in a convenient and easy-to-read format (speaking relatively), along with an explanation of the system.

The nature of this system means no-one can predict how preferences will flow, and there are a lot of different preference tickets to examine. I think there’s over 130 different tickets across the six upper house regions, and each one includes around 50 preferences. I am confident I have missed some interesting decisions, and no-one can be sure which preference decisions will prove crucial or irrelevant until the votes are cast.

(By the way, if you want to know more about the six regions, I have published guides to all six as part of my election guide.)

I’m going to run through some of the interesting trends.

You can divide the parties into a number of groups. There are the five larger parties: Labor, Liberal, Nationals, Greens and One Nation. They sometimes receive favourable preferences but are generally out of favour with the small parties on the ballot, even those with a similar ideology.

Then you have the Glenn Druery group, and then there are other left-leaning, right-leaning and who-knows-how-they-lean minor parties.

Starting with Labor, they are clearly preferencing the Greens in four of the six upper house regions, which are also the four where the Greens have the best chance of winning. These are the three metropolitan regions and the South West. The Greens hold seats in three of these regions and have held a seat in South Metro in the past.

But in the other two regions, Labor has instead preferenced the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. This includes the Agricultural region, where the Shooters won a seat in 2013 and 2017, and Mining and Pastoral, where Greens MLC Robin Chapple (who is retiring in 2021) narrowly defeated the Shooters for the final seat. They also preference incumbent Shooters MLC Rick Mazza (who has represented Agricultural for eight years) right after the Greens in the South West.

This seems like a critical decision. The Greens and the Shooters don’t get along, but Labor has worked with both in multiple states, in different parts of the state, and they appear to have made an explicit decision to work with both in WA, boosting the Shooters in the rural parts of the state. I expect Labor will be hoping to have both parties as options in the upper house, as has been the case in various states in the past.

Labor has also preferenced the Nationals ahead of the Liberal Party, unlike the Greens who have placed the Liberals ahead.

The Greens have usually preferenced Labor reasonably high, but usually preference a few small parties first. These parties include Animal Justice and Legalise Cannabis in every region, plus Socialist Alliance in their sole region. It’s worth noting they preference Health Australia Party second in Agricultural region and the Daylight Saving Party second in Mining and Pastoral. Those two parties are part of the Druery alliance and appear to be the prioritised Druery party in those two regions. Those are also the places where Labor isn’t preferencing the Greens second.

The Nationals are only running in the three non-metropolitan regions, and they are consistently preferencing One Nation low on their ticket, just below Labor and above the Greens.

The Liberal Party can’t say the same thing. They have preferenced One Nation as the third party on their ticket (not counting themselves) in Agricultural and Mining and Pastoral regions, as well as fourth in the South West, sixth in East Metro and seventh in South Metro. Interestingly, they have ranked One Nation quite low in North Metro, and ranked sitting Greens MLC Alison Xamon (but not the other Greens candidates) quite high. She’s probably the Greens candidate in the least danger of losing, so this may not end up being relevant.

As far as I can tell, there are six parties in a tight preferencing deal (presumably arranged by Glenn Druery). One of these six parties is prioritised in each region, and receives second preferences from all the other parties in the deal in that region (with just one exception). Interestingly, they don’t necessarily preference all the other Druery parties in each region, and the party receiving those priority preferences doesn’t necessarily reciprocate. Each party gets one region to win in, and they’re otherwise thrown back in the mix elsewhere.

These parties (and their priority regions) are:

  • Agricultural – Health Australian Party
  • East Metro – Western Australian Party
  • North Metro – Liberals for Climate
  • South Metro – Liberal Democrats
  • Mining and Pastoral – Daylight Saving Party
  • South West – Sustainable Australia

There are a number of left-leaning parties (although many on the left would grizzle at that description) including Animal Justice, Legalise Cannabis and Sustainable Australia.

Animal Justice and Legalise Cannabis have chosen to put the Greens quite a long way down their preference sheet, putting parties like No Mandatory Vaccination, Health Australia, Sustainable Australia, Daylight Saving, Western Australian Party and Waxit above the Greens. A vote for these parties could easily end up with a party with a different agenda.

No Mandatory Vaccination can’t be classified as left or right – they tend to bounce around between left and right minor parties, and likewise receive preferences from both.

Finally, there are a number of right-wing minor parties outside of the Druery bloc. The Shooters, Australian Christians and Waxit all fall into this category. I didn’t know where the Waxit Part would land, but they’ve clearly preferenced parties of the right.

That’s about it for now. In coming days I’ll write up summaries of the preference allocations in each region and add them to the upper house region guides.

What preference decision is the most interesting to you?