Western Australia’s new Upper House will be far more left leaning than of the previous parliamentary term, with the crossbench to include members of the Greens, Daylight Saving and Legalise Cannabis parties, adding to a big Labor majority.
- Labor now has control of both houses of WA’s Parliament
- The Upper House now includes two people from Legalise Cannabis WA and one each from the Greens and the Daylight Saving parties
- A Daylight Saving Party MP was elected with just 98 votes
The new Legislative Council was officially sworn in by Governor Kim Beazley on Monday following the March election.
The house is now made up of 22 Labor members, seven Liberal members, three from the Nationals, two from Legalise Cannabis WA and one each from the Greens and the Daylight Saving parties.
In other words, Labor has more than 60 per cent of the Upper House seats.
It is a very different make-up to the previous house, elected in 2017, which included voices from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, the Western Australian Party and the Liberal Democrats.
On his way into Parliament on Monday morning, Liberal MP Nick Goiran said he was more concerned about the Labor government having “total control” than the crossbench being more left leaning.
He said the new Upper House had a “serious duty” to “ask the questions that need to be asked”.
“Irrespective of the make-up, the one thing that we do know is that the government have total control of both chambers,” he said.
“It’s going to be very, very challenging.”
Government leader meets with crossbench
Newly sworn-in Legalise Cannabis WA member Brian Walker said he also felt “hugely” outnumbered by the Labor majority, but was nonetheless excited to assume his new role.
When asked if he associated more with the Liberal or Labor side of politics, he said he aligned with social justice.
“If that’s the Labor side, then that,” he said.
Leader of the government in the Legislative Council Sue Ellery said she had been meeting with other Upper House MPs since they were elected, and their relationships so far had been good.
“Good working relationships so far, I don’t see any reason why that should change,” she said.
Daylight Saving Party MP Wilson Tucker, who was also sworn in on Monday, said he would try to strike a balance between the views of his party and the broader views of the mining and pastoral region that he represented, given the region previously had not supported daylight saving.
Mr Tucker won a seat in the region with just 98 votes.
“It will really be a case of talking to the people in the region and gauging the level of interest [in daylight saving] and hopefully we can come to a level compromise on the issue,” he said.
But he said he “firmly” believed WA was ready to change the clocks.
Greens MP calls for voting reform
Along with some of the conservative voices, the Greens also took a hit at the March election, with its Upper House representation shrinking from four to one.
The solo Greens MP, Brad Pettitt, said it was strange being the only one, but it was still good to have a presence in the Upper House.
He said the group voting ticket system, which enabled parties that received a slither of the vote to be elected, was “broken” and needed to be changed — something Labor has already pushed ahead with in the Lower House.
“It does feel like the Upper House has become a bit of a lottery based on a whole bunch of preference whispering,” he said.
“When people go and vote they should know their vote is going where they intended.”
He said he would work with Labor on its electoral reform.
But Mr Tucker, who the government said was a key reason behind the reform, said he was being used as a scapegoat.
“I think they are using [the] Daylight Saving Party as a bit of a scapegoat to try and push this through,” he said.
He said a diversity of views in the Upper House was beneficial.
“The Upper House is the house of review and if there is less diverse representation in the Upper House then it really just becomes a rubber stamp for the Lower House,” he said.
Legalise Cannabis MP Sophia Moermond, who also benefited from the current system, said while she felt lucky to be elected, many people agreed with legalising marijuana.
“The preferential voting has been in place for a long time,” she said.
“If previous governments thought it was an incredibly unfair system, they’ve had plenty of opportunity to change that.”
But she said Mr Tucker’s election could show a flaw in the preferential voting system.
New Legislative Council president appointed
Not only are the faces of the Upper House vastly different to the previous term, but Premier Mark McGowan has also appointed a new president of the House, Alanna Clohesy.
She has replaced Kate Doust who was removed from the role she assumed for four years after Mr McGowan was re-elected.
Liberal MP Peter Collier said the decision to remove her from the role was “disgraceful”.
“Kate Doust was sacked purely and absolutely because she upheld the conventions of the Parliament of Western Australia — no other reason,” he said.
“She was not incompetent, she was not corrupt, there was nothing wrong with Kate Doust at all.”
He said she was an exceptional parliamentarian and the decision to remove her was an “indictment on this power-hungry government”.