Notre Dame Academic Appointed to Electoral Reform Committee

03 May 2021

Director of Public Policy and Politics and International Relations Associate Professor Dr Martin Drum has been selected as part of a committee to advise the government on electoral reform.

Referring to the appointment as an “important role” and with congratulations to Dr Drum, National Head of Arts & Sciences Professor Cate Thill said, “this Committee consists of leading political scientists and constitutional lawyers in WA and has been established to review the electoral system for WA’s Upper House and make recommendations to government on what changes are required to achieve voter equality.”

Former Governor Malcolm McCusker AC CVO QC will lead the panel of eminent electoral and constitutional experts appointed to help the McGowan Government modernise the outdated Electoral Act 1907.

Also on the panel is John Curtin Institute of Public Policy Executive Director Professor John Phillimore, and Law Reform Commission of WA member and University of Western Australia Law School Professor Sarah Murray.

In a media statement release last Friday, the Minister’s Office explained that “The Government has kicked off the independent process after anomalous outcomes at the March 2021 State election demonstrated the current system was not operating in the best interests of democracy.

“Unlike in the Legislative Assembly, where electoral boundaries are adjusted each term to ensure there's a relatively even number of electors, the Legislative Council is divided into six geographical regions with significantly different populations.

“Despite their unequal populations, each region elects six Legislative Councillors.”

This reportedly led to a situation at the last election in which votes cast by people in the Mining and Pastoral Region were worth over six times more than those cast in the metropolitan area. Additionally, At the last State election, complex and opaque preference deals resulted in a Daylight-Saving Party candidate being elected to represent the Mining and Pastoral Region on just 98 first preference votes - equivalent to 0.2 per cent of the total vote in the region.

This is understood to be the lowest primary vote for any successful candidate for election to any Parliament in Australia.

Electoral Affairs Minister John Quigley invited all interested parties to make a written submission to the Committee.

It is a fundamental tenet of democracy that all citizens be treated equally under the law, and it is obvious that the Legislative Council voting system is failing in that basic duty to the electorate.

"I have asked this highly-qualified panel of eminent Western Australians to recommend how electoral equality might be achieved in the Legislative Council, and how its proportional representation system should distribute preferences.”

This appointment follows on directly from Dr Drum’s research on electoral reform, on which an article in the Australasian Parliamentary Review is due to appear next month.

Read the full media statement here.


Media Contact: Breyon Gibbs : +61 8 9433 0569 | breyon.gibbs@nd.edu.au