In my last post, I detailed the ongoing contests for the Legislative Council. In short, the Greens are competing for the last seat in four regions, the Shooters and Fishers are competing in two regions, and Family First in one region.
The election wasn’t a great result for the Greens, with a swing of 4% against the party in the Legislative Council. The result came after the best ever vote total for the Greens WA in 2008, when they won four Legislative Council seats.
The election was the latest in a trend of disappointing election results since the beginning of 2012. The chart below shows the Greens swing in the lower house at every federal, state and territory election since 2001.
Swings to the Greens were small at the state elections in New South Wales and Victoria in the year following the last federal election, but since then the party has suffered small swings in Queensland and the Northern Territory and bigger swings in the ACT and Western Australia (admittedly places where the Greens did very well in 2008).
Electoral politics is cyclical, and there’s very few people who still dispute that the Greens are going through a downswing. Some may argue that the Greens have peaked and have now started on a long-term decline, but I think that is unlikely. Like all parties, the Greens now have to deal with the fact that swings come and go in both directions.
Considering the evidence, it is likely that the decline in the Greens vote was at least in part caused by national issues, such as the Greens’ role supporting the Labor government.
Right-wing minor parties have been trying to break through in Western Australia’s Legislative Council for years. Unlike upper houses in New South Wales and South Australia (which have consistently elected Christian Democrats, Shooters and Family First), Western Australia seats require a higher quota, due to the breakup of seats between a number of regions.
If the Shooters and Family First break through on the final count, it will be partly due to savvy use of preferences. Family First’s vote fell from 2.5% to 1.3%. The Australian Christians (formerly known as the Christian Democratic Party) dropped from 2.3% to 2%. The Shooters did not run in 2008, but managed less than 2% in 2013.
Both parties have preference arrangements with the Greens in various regions – the Greens benefit from preferences from both parties in some metropolitan regions, although at the moment these preferences are not proving decisive. If the Greens win in North Metro, it will come through preferences from the Shooters and Family First.
It’s worth noting, however, that the Shooters and Family First are in with a chance only in non-metropolitan regions, which have much smaller numbers of voters than the three metropolitan regions.
Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about the malapportioned structure of the Legislative Council, why it is a problem, and how it came to be.