WA 2013 – The Greens and the right-wing minor parties


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).

Swings to or against the Greens at federal, state and territory elections, 2001-2013. Click through for the interactive chart.

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.

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  1. An unholy alliance between the Greens and the Shooters. Who would have have pictured this. Strong parallels to the election of Steven Fielding.

    The Greens really are a full fledged political party now

  2. Will be interesting to see what you come up with as rationale for the problems with the ‘mal-apportioned’ upper house.

    It would have to be significant to outweigh the protection it provides the regional areas from urban appeasement.

    The only issue I see is that the multi seat electorates are in the upper rather than lower house, and the parties are able to direct their own preferences.

  3. Love your graph of swings Ben, but the labels are hard to line up with the bars. Good luck looking for alternate display options such as vertical or inclined lines of text.

    I agree with you about the cyclical nature of the Green vote developing since the end of the growth period (around 2009) which could partly be attributed death of the Democrats and ongoing decline in the Labor brand meaning anything in particular – beginning under Hawke, prevalent in the Tampa election and particularly apparent in NSW since Bob Carr.

    It is in open question how much of this decline in the Green vote might be a result of the ongoing dilution of policy and attempts to garner more of the ‘middle’. Being seen to weaken or ditch your principles might be even more dangerous for a minor party than a major.

  4. James, if you click through to the link on the image, you can hover over each bar and see what election it was, and precisely what the swing was. Unfortunately WordPress won’t let me embed the javascript version directly.

    The problem with the upper house is simply that it produces a massive bias towards the right, as the underpopulated regions overwhelmingly favour the Liberals and Nationals. And Malapportionment is a commonly-used term – more accurate than calling this ‘gerrymandering.

  5. Doesn’t the malapportion continue to exist because the WA Greens refused to support getting rid of it when the Gallop Government tried to reform the electoral system?

  6. Yes that’s true. WA Greens figures have a more complicated story to tell about who in the party pushed the issue and forced others in the party’s hand, but basically you are right – the Greens did not support fair apportionment of Legislative Council regions. I’ll address that in tomorrow’s post.

  7. The thing about biases like that in politics is that inevitably over a couple of elections, the parties shuffle around until the bias is eliminated around a new median.

    Far better that than leaving the remote areas subject to the whim of the urban body politic.

  8. Well done Glenn Druery, You’ve done it again. Who else in Australia could have convinced everybody in the agricultural region to preference the Shooters and Fishers.
    His political insight is to be admired, but not sure about his political leanings.
    Whats your next move Glenn Druery??

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