Every few years in Canberra, the topic of electoral reform arises and momentarily grips the attention of certain parliamentarians and public servants.
These reforms can usually be distilled into three categories: amending the legal age to vote, ending compulsory voting, and increasing the size of one or both houses of Parliament.
It is the last of these — a proposed, whopping expansion of the House of Representatives — that is currently the talk of the capital.
First off, don’t be fooled by the promise of better governance, or indeed better outcomes, courtesy of a bigger Federal Parliament.
Among its negative effects, and there are many, is that the planned changes will diminish the strength of WA in the Commonwealth.
Late last month, a Labor-dominated committee recommended doubling the Senate representation of the ACT and Northern Territory from two to four.
More concerningly, the same report produced by the committee raised the prospect of increasing the number of Lower House seats to as many as 200 — the vast majority of which would be in Sydney, Melbourne and, to a lesser extent, Brisbane.
At a time when the Albanese Government’s policies are inflicting significant economic harm on WA, plans to further weaken the voice of Australia’s underappreciated economic powerhouse should be fiercely resisted.
The committee wants Parliament to explore the idea of a redesigned Lower House, which would see NSW and Victoria gain an extra 28 seats, and Queensland an extra 10.
WA would acquire just five extra seats, and be left with a total of 20, compared to a possible 63 for NSW.
Regional voices would also be muzzled by the committee’s designs.
To reduce what is known as malapportionment, or the uneven number of voters across electorates, seats would be demarcated using arithmetic, rather than the Australian Electoral Commission’s “harmonic” method.
This would invariably lead to more seats in dense capital cities and fewer in country Australia.
It would mean a Federal Parliament more heavily laden with consultants, lawyers and public relations experts than farmers, small business owners and people on the land.
Canberra would become even more insular, a place where the focus of Government is fixed unbendingly on the interests and views of East Coast capital cities.
It won’t end well — especially for WA.
Indeed, after 18 months of an under-delivering, image over substance Albanese Government, we can already see the consequences of a one-eyed Prime Minister with no interest in backing our State.
Record, unmodeled immigration, one of the driving forces of high inflation, has made it all but impossible to rent a home, or indeed build one, in WA.
The average rent for a Perth house hit a record $600 a week in November.
Labor’s recent $300 million infrastructure cuts on major WA roads will undoubtedly hurt regional communities, as well as risk lives.
This slashed infrastructure spend is also a GST cut by stealth — Anthony Albanese and Jim Chalmers’ way of making us pay for the fairer GST deal the Coalition secured for our State in 2017.
Bad Labor policy and increased Labor funding to professional litigators like the Environmental Protection Agency is making life increasingly difficult for the State’s critically important resources sector — royalties from which pay for roads, schools, hospitals, and social securities like the NDIS.
And it’s about to get even harder for this sector, with the Albanese Government’s recent industrial relations laws placing unsustainable demands on mining companies regarding labour hire.
Investors are already beginning to look elsewhere.
This is an unacceptable position, but the reality of life under Labor and its misguided priorities.
The takeaway from all this is hard to ignore.
Labor’s proposed electoral reforms are the latest in a long line of betrayals of WA.
Rather than stand up and be accountable to voters in the West, whose circumstances he is rapidly making worse, Anthony Albanese would rather drown our voices out in Parliament.
Then there are the economics of such a plan.
Labor has increased the size of Canberra’s public service by 10 per cent since coming to power last year, adding more than $1 billion to the annual public sector wage bill.
Economists are already saying this has had an impact on domestic inflation.
The financial consequences of adding as many as 50 extra parliamentarians, and the staffing allocation that goes along with it, would be comparable.
I’m fortunate to travel around the country frequently because of my work, with much of that travel in regional WA.
Constituents, as you would expect, are never shy of sharing whatever criticisms they might have of the politics of the day and I have received many pieces of advice.
But making Parliament bigger has never been one of them.
Certainly not at the expense of WA’s representation in Canberra.
And, if Anthony Albanese visited the Wheatbelt or East Kimberley — or even Perth’s northern suburbs — he’d know it.