17 June 2021
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Politics and Public Administration
This Quick Guide provides a brief overview of the 2021 Western
Australian (WA) Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council election results
and the new ministry appointed after the election. It also includes background
information on the electoral system in Western Australia, a summary of the 2021
election results, and details of by-elections and changes in party
representation during the 40th Parliament.
The Western Australian election, held on 13 March 2021, is
the second state election to be held during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the
fourth election held by a state or territory during this period and it is the
fourth time the incumbent government has been returned.
The Australian Labor Party (ALP) had a resounding victory at
the election winning 53 of the 59 Legislative Assembly (lower house) seats,
gaining 23 more seats than required to govern as a majority government. The ALP
gained 13 seats overall: eleven from the Liberal Party and two from the
Nationals. The Liberal Party was decimated, winning only two seats in the
Assembly, while the Nationals won four.
The McGowan government became the first Labor
government in the state’s history to win a majority in the upper house, winning
23 seats. The Legislative Council was notable also for the election of candidates
from two micro parties who received very small numbers of direct votes: one candidate
received only 98 first preference votes in total.
The Western Australian Parliament and
Western Australia has a bicameral parliament consisting of
the Legislative Assembly (lower house) and the Legislative Council (upper
house). Elections for the Western Australian Legislative Assembly and
Legislative Council are regulated by the Electoral
Act 1907 (WA) and administered by the Western Australian Electoral
Since 2011 the Parliament has had a fixed election date: under
section 71 of the Electoral Act 1907 State General Elections for both
houses of parliament are held on the second Saturday in March every four years.
The Legislative Assembly comprises representatives from 59
single member electoral districts, elected by full preferential voting. The
Legislative Council comprises 36 representatives: six elected from each of six
regions on a proportional representation basis.
Group voting tickets are still used to direct preferences
on the WA Legislative Council ballot paper. Only Victoria and Western Australia
have retained group voting tickets for upper house elections: the practice has
been abolished for New South Wales, South Australia and Commonwealth upper
Malapportionment has been an element of the proportional
representation system for the Legislative Council since it was introduced in
1989. When the zonal system was introduced in 1989, elector weighting was
2.80-to-1 in favour of non-metropolitan voters in Legislative Council elections.
That has drifted upwards to be 3.07-to-1 at the 2021 election.
This means that less than one quarter of all voters get to choose half the
members of the upper house.
The Electoral Act requires that Western Australia’s
State electoral boundaries be reviewed once in the life of each Parliament.
The final boundaries stemming from the 2019
distribution were gazetted on 27 November 2019. They applied at the
March 2021 State general election.
No district changed party status based on the new electoral
boundaries, though the seats of Hillarys and Joondalup became much more
marginal on their new boundaries. There was only one change of seat name with
Girrawheen re-named Landsdale.
Election analyst Antony Green calculated
Taking account of the new boundaries, and the Liberal victory
at the Darling Range by-election, a change of government requires the Liberal
and National Parties to take 11 seats from the Labor Party. On the new
electoral pendulum, this corresponds to a uniform swing of 7.9%.
Result of the 2017 election
The previous election was held on 11
March 2017. Parliament was prorogued, and the Legislative Assembly
dissolved, by the Governor on 30 January 2017. The writs were issued on 1
February for an election on Saturday 11 March. Sixteen parties contested the
election compared to the seven which ran in 2013.
The Labor Party won 41 seats, an increase of 20 seats from
the 2013 election, while the Liberals won 13 seats (down from 31 seats) and the
Nationals won five seats (a loss of two seats). The Liberals and Nationals in
Western Australia worked as an Alliance Government between 2008 and 2017 but
not as a formal coalition, allowing the parties to disagree on some policy
In the Legislative Council, Labor won an additional three
seats for a total of 14, the Liberals polled 26.7 per cent of the primary vote
and won just nine seats, a reduction of eight, while the Nationals lost one
seat for a total of four.
The estimated two-party preferred vote was ALP 55.5 per cent
to Liberal/Nationals 44.5 per cent, (compared to ALP 43.8 per cent,
Liberal/Nationals 57.2 per cent in 2013). This was a swing of 12.8 per cent to
There were 29 women (30.5 per cent) at the commencement of
the 40th Parliament: 18 in the Assembly and 11 in the Council.
From June 2018 there were 19 women in the Assembly with the election of Alyssa
Kathleen Hayden (LP, Darling Range).
Mr McGowan’s ministry of 17 was sworn
in on 17
March 2017. Five of the ministers were women.
On 21 March 2017 Mike Nahan (Riverton) was elected
leader of the Liberal Party after Colin Barnett (Cottesloe) stood down as
West Australia’s 40th Parliament was officially opened on 11
On 7 December 2020, the Governor prorogued the two Houses of
the Parliament of Western Australia.
The Governor dissolved the Legislative Assembly on and from
29 January 2021 with the result that the 40th Parliament came to an end.
COVID-19 and the election
The 2021 State General Election was conducted differently
from previous elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WA Electoral Commission issued a COVID
Safe plan working closely with the recommendations of the WA Department of
The conduct of the poll proceeded smoothly. The WAEC put
a range of
protection measures in place such as encouraging
early voting, postal voting, election day voting and telephone voting for
eligible voters, in addition to asking voters to download the SafeWA app to
register their attendance at an Early Voting Centre or Polling Place on
Electoral law reform
In June 2020 the McGowan Government introduced the Electoral
Amendment Bill 2020 to improve disclosure laws around political donations,
introduce expenditure caps for election campaigns and ban all foreign
donations. The bill lapsed at the end of the 40th Parliament due to lack of
support in the Legislative Council.
Leadership and other party changes
Liza Harvey (Scarborough) became Leader of the Opposition after
unopposed to replace Mike Nahan as state Liberal leader on 13 June 2019.
In late November 2020 Liza Harvey stood down as leader of
the Liberal Party and on 24 November was replaced
by Zac Kirkup,(Dawesville) the youngest WA Liberal leader at 33 years of
by-election was held on 17 March 2018 resulting from the retirement of former
Premier Colin Barnett (LP) who announced his retirement
in December 2017 and finished his term on 30 January 2018. He was replaced by
the Liberal candidate, David Honey.
Range by-election was held on 23 June 2018. Labor had won Darling Range for
the first time at the 2017 election with a 5.8 per cent swing. Labor turned
Independent Barry Urban resigned
from Parliament after it was revealed
he had lied about his employment and educational background.
The seat was regained by the Liberal party candidate, Alyssa Hayden.
Geraldton MP Ian
Blayney resigned from the Liberal Party on 24 July 2019. He briefly sat as
an Independent before joining the National Party from 17 August 2019.
The writ for the election of the 59 members of the
Legislative Assembly was issued with the following
- Wednesday 3 February 2021, the day of the issue of the writ
- Thursday, 11 February 2021, electoral rolls close
- Thursday, 11 February 2021, nomination of candidates for parties
- Friday, 12 February 2021, nominations for individual candidates
Monday, 22 February 2021, postal voting commences
- Wednesday, 24 February 2021, Early Voting centres open
Saturday, 13 March 2021, polling day, and
- Tuesday, 4 May 2021, the last possible date for return of the
Writ to the Governor.
At the close of
nominations there were nineteen parties registered to contest the March
election and a total of 788 candidates.
A record 463 candidates nominated for the 2021 Legislative
Assembly elections. The ALP, Liberals, Greens and No Mandatory Vaccinations parties
each fielded 59 candidates; the WAxit Party fielded 48 candidates, PHON 40
candidates; Australian Christians 29 candidates and Liberal Democrats 24
candidates. One of the bigger cohorts was made up of independent or
unaffiliated candidates (17) in addition to the Western Australia Party’s 17
candidates, the Nationals’ 16 candidates and the Shooters and Fishers’ 15
candidates. The remainder of the candidates were from a variety of minor
parties including Legalise Cannabis WA and Sustainable Australia.
Three hundred and twenty-five candidates nominated for the
Legislative Council, an increase of 23 from the 2017 election. By region, there
were 20 groups in East Metropolitan, 23 in North Metropolitan, 26 in South
Metropolitan, 25 in Agricultural, 21 in Mining and Pastoral and 23 in South
There were 1,716,732 electors as at 21 February 2021.
An August 2018 Galaxy
poll showed state Labor had a 54 to 46 lead, a 1.5 per cent swing to the
Liberals/Nationals since the March 2017 state election. Primary votes were 40
per cent Labor, 32 per cent Liberal, 6 per cent National, 11 per cent Greens
and 5 per cent One Nation.
Research poll of five Western Australian marginal seats showed an average
swing to Labor of 16 per cent. In Liberal leader Liza Harvey’s Scarborough
seat, the result was 66 to 34 per cent to Labor.
Mr McGowan has had massive support for his handling of the
Covid-19 pandemic, including closing the borders. According to an April
2020 Newspoll, the WA Premier was the most popular leader in the country—earning
approval from 89
per cent of the West Australian public. The same poll indicated that when
it came to direct handling of the COVID-19 pandemic 94 per cent believed Mr
McGowan had handled the crisis well.
An ABC survey delivered a similar result, with
91 per cent of people approving Mr McGowan's handling of coronavirus—again
the best result in the country.
conducted between 12 and 18 February 2021 estimated that Labor held a 68 to 32
per cent two-party preferred lead. On primary votes Labor was on 59 per cent
and Liberals on 23 per cent. The poll suggested a 12.5 per cent swing to Labor,
which would result in the Liberal Party being reduced to just two
Lower House seats if the swing was
replicated across all electorates.
Newspoll conducted on the eve of the election had Labor up 66 to 34 per
cent over the Liberals on a two-party preferred basis (which underestimated the
actual two party preferred result of just under 70 per cent). The satisfaction
rate for McGowan’s performance was at 88 per cent.
In an unusual move the Opposition leader conceded
the Liberal Party could not win the election on 25 February, two weeks before
Labor achieved a second term with an increased majority,
winning 53 seats in the Legislative Assembly (11 more than at the 2017
election) and securing a 59.9 per cent first preference vote, a 17.7 per cent positive
swing. Women won 27 of Labor’s 53 seats (51 per cent).
The Liberal Party was reduced to two seats in the lower
house. Opposition leader Zac Kirkup lost his seat of Dawesville at the
election, the first time an opposition leader in WA has lost their seat at an
election; former opposition leader Liza Harvey also lost her seat of
Scarborough. The Liberal Party room met on 23 March 2021 and elected
David Honey (Cottesloe) unopposed as leader, with Libby Mettam (Vasse)
becoming deputy leader.
The Nationals, led by Mia Davies (Central Wheatbelt), will
become the official Opposition with four seats, of which one is occupied by a woman.
Mia Davies was re-elected leader of the party following the election. The
Nationals (previously titled the Country Party) have not been the official
Opposition since 1942–1947.
State-wide primary vote shares were a massive 59.9 per cent
for Labor (up 16.9 per cent since 2017), 21.3 per cent for Liberal (down 9.9%),
4.5 per cent for Nationals (down 0.9 per cent), 7.1 per cent for Greens (down
1.8%) and just 1.3 per cent for One Nation (down 3.7 per cent). 
Green’s analysis shows that Labor recorded 69.7 per cent of the state-wide
two-party preferred vote, a positive swing of 14.1 per cent, on top of the 12.8
per cent swing that put Labor into office in 2017. He predicts that to achieve
a majority in the Legislative Assembly at the 2025 election, the Liberal and
National parties need to gain 24 seats on a uniform swing of 23.5 per cent.
Twenty-eight women (47.5 per cent) have been elected to the
Legislative Assembly and 15 women (41.7 per cent) to the Legislative Council.
Tables 1 and 2 below provide brief summaries of the results of
the 2021 state election.
Table 1: Summary of first preference
votes and seats won in the Legislative Assembly
||Votes (%) at 2017 election
||Change in seats from 2017 election
Source: Western Australian Electoral
State general election and 2017
state general election.
See Appendix B for party abbreviations
Table 2: Summary of first
preference votes and seats won in the Legislative Council
||Vote (%) at 2017 election
||Change in seats from 2017 election
Western Australian Electoral Commission, 2021
State general election and 2017
state general election.
See Appendix B for party abbreviations
Notable developments at the election included:
- Labor won 46 of its seats on first preferences and another seven
- The biggest swing was 27.0 per cent in Southern River, which
comes on top of an 18.8 per cent swing in 2017.
- The One Nation vote fell from 4.93 per cent to just 1.26 per cent
in the seats One Nation contested at both elections.
- The recently formed No Mandatory Vaccination Party contested all
59 electorates and polled just 1.64 per cent.
- The Daylight Saving Party’s Wilson Tucker, who was residing in
the US at the time of the election, was an unlikely winner of a seat in the Legislative
Council for the Mining and Pastoral region with just 98 primary votes.
- Another surprise winner was the Legalise Cannabis WA Party, which
only formed in late 2020, gaining two seats in the Legislative Council—Sophia Moermond won a seat in the South West region with
4,532 first preference votes and Dr Brian Walker won a seat in the East Metropolitan Region with 9,258 first preference
- The Greens’ vote in the Legislative Assembly was 6.9 per cent,
down almost two per cent from 2017. The party also lost all of its four sitting
members in the Legislative Council but won one seat in the South Metropolitan Region with 26,257 first preference
- The Liberal vote collapsed with the party retaining just two
seats: Cottesloe and Vasse.
Early voting, turnout and
Turnout for the election was slightly lower than the 2017
election at 85.3 per cent (down from 87.5 per cent). There were 1,411,990
formal votes and 55,169 informal votes (3.8 per cent). The WAEC reports that a
total of 1,467,159 votes were counted.
Early voting was offered over the period of 14 February to
12 March: 70 Early Voting Centres (EVCs) were set up across the state. A total
votes were cast at EVCs, with 86,548 cast on Friday 12 March, the day
before election day. The WAEC also had a total of 169,301 postal vote packages
returned, which meant a total of 755,075 votes—more than half of all votes—were
cast before election day. It was reported that the 755,075 votes represented 45
per cent of the state’s 1.7 million electors.
While the high number of pre-poll votes was at least partly
due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it also continues a broader trend
towards early voting at Australian elections, including federal
The 2021 election saw a decline in informal votes to 55,097 (3.76
per cent) compared to 62,860 votes (4.5 per cent) at the 2017 election.
The McGowan ministry was sworn in on 19 March 2021. Five new
faces were included in the ministry: five of the 18-member
Cabinet are women (27.8 per cent). The full ministry is listed at Appendix A.
Roberts, the police minister in the previous government, was elected as the
first female Speaker in WA's Legislative Assembly.
The Ceremonial Opening of the 41st Parliament
was held on 29 April 2021. The Parliament commenced full sittings from 4 May
On 19 April 2021 the Liberal Party and the Nationals WA
signed an Alliance
Agreement to form an alliance partnership in Opposition for the next four
year: the parties ruled out a coalition. The two parties have a joint
The Liberal Party has established a three-person
panel to review the poll result.
The election of Wilson Tucker from the
Daylight Saving Party due to preference flows negotiated by micro-party
broker and self-styled preference whisperer, Glenn Druery, has
led to calls for electoral reform. A WA government
spokesperson said the premier had asked the Attorney General, John Quigley, to ‘consider
wider reforms to make our electoral system more democratic, so it can properly
represent WA and reflect the intent of WA voters’ and stated ‘There is a
considerable amount of work to do in assessing what is the fairest approach for
Western Australians’. The spokesperson also stated ‘It is too early to say
whether it may require a separate legislative package or amendments to the
The Government has since commissioned a Ministerial Expert
Committee to review and report on the WA electoral system for the election
of the Western Australian Legislative Council.
Appendix A: post-election ministry
McGowan Government Cabinet
|Hon. Mark McGowan MLA
||Premier; Treasurer; Minister for
Public Sector Management; Federal-State Relations
|Hon. Roger Cook MLA
||Deputy Premier; Minister for
Health; Medical Research; State Development, Jobs and Trade; Science
|Hon. Sue Ellery MLC
||Minister for Education and
Training; Leader of the Legislative Council
|Hon. Stephen Dawson MLC
||Minister for Mental Health;
Aboriginal Affairs; Industrial Relations; Deputy Leader of the Legislative
|Hon. Alannah MacTiernan MLC
||Minister for Regional
Development; Agriculture and Food; Hydrogen Industry
|Hon. David Templeman MLA
||Minister for Tourism; Culture
and the Arts; Heritage; Leader of the House
|Hon. John Quigley MLA
||Attorney General; Minister for
|Hon. Paul Papalia MLA
||Minister for Police; Road
Safety; Defence Industry; Veterans Issues
|Hon. Bill Johnston MLA
||Minister for Mines and
Petroleum; Energy; Corrective Services
|Hon. Rita Saffioti MLA
||Minister for Transport;
|Hon. Dr Tony Buti MLA
||Minister for Finance; Lands;
Sport and Recreation; Citizenship and Multicultural Interests
|Hon. Simone McGurk MLA
||Minister for Child Protection;
Women's Interests; Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence; Community
|Hon. Dave Kelly MLA
||Minister for Water; Forestry;
|Hon. Amber-Jade Sanderson MLA
||Minister for Environment;
Climate Action; Commerce
|Hon. John Carey MLA
||Minister for Housing; Local
|Hon. Don Punch MLA
||Minister for Disability
Services; Fisheries; Innovation and ICT; Seniors and Ageing
|Hon. Reece Whitby MLA
||Minister for Emergency Services;
Racing and Gaming; Small Business; Volunteering
|Mr David Michael MLA
|Hon. Samantha Rowe MLC
||Hon Simone McGurk MLA
Minister for Child Protection; Women’s Interests; Prevention of Family and
Domestic Violence; Community Services
|Hon. Darren West MLC
||Hon Alannah MacTiernan MLC
Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food; Hydrogen Industry
|Mr Terry Healy MLA
||Hon Sue Ellery MLC
Minister for Education and Training
|Mr Simon Millman MLA
||Hon Roger Cook MLA
Deputy Premier; Minister for Health; Medical Research; State Development,
Jobs and Trade; Science
|Mr Yaz Mubarakai MLA
||Hon Dr Tony Buti MLA
Minister for Finance; Lands; Sport and Recreation; Citizenship and
|Ms Jessica Shaw MLA
||Hon David Templeman MLA
Minister for Tourism; Culture and the Arts; Heritage
|Ms Jessica Stojkovski MLA
||Hon Rita Saffioti MLA
Minister for Transport; Planning; Ports
|Ms Sabine Winton MLA
||Hon Mark McGowan MLA
Premier; Treasurer; Minister for Public Sector Management; Federal-State
|Hon. Kyle McGinn MLC
||Hon Don Punch MLA
Minister for Disability Services; Fisheries; Innovation and ICT; Seniors and
|Hon. Matthew Swinbourn MLC
||Hon John Quigley MLA
Attorney General; Minister for Electoral Affairs
Source: M McGowan
(Premier of Western Australia), Premier
announces re-elected Labor Government Ministry portfolios, media release,
18 March 2021
Appendix B: party abbreviations
||Australian Labor Party (West Australian Branch)
||Australian Christian Party
||The Greens (WA) Inc
||Legalise Cannabis Western Australia Party
||Liberal Party of Australia (West Australia Division) Inc
||National Party of Australia (WA) Inc
||Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
Party – Stop Overdevelopment/ Corruption
Fishers and Farmers Party (WA)
A Green, ‘WA's
zonal electoral system and the Legislative Council reform debate’, Antony
Green’s election blog, 4 May 2021.
A Green, 2019
Redistribution Western Australia, Election Papers Series, No. 1/2019,
Western Australian Parliamentary Library, Perth, December 2019, p. 5.
Liberal Party of Western Australia, ‘Opposition
Alliance Agreement Formalised’, media release, 19 April 2021.
R Lundie, Western
Australia state election 2017, Research paper series 2017–18,
Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 18 September 2017.
Parliamentary Library of Western Australia, Women
MPs in the 40th Parliament of Western Australia, Parliament of Western
Australia, August 2017, updated December 2018.
Western Australia Government Gazette, Special, no 59, 17 March 2017, pp.
Western Australia Legislative Assembly, Procedure and Privileges Committee, Misleading
the House: statements made by the Member for Darling Range, Report no
2, May 2018, Parliament of Western Australia, 2018.
A Beaumont, ‘Labor
obliterates Liberals in historic WA election; will win control of upper house
for first time’, The Conversation, 14 March 2021.
A Green, ‘Final
two-party preferred result for 2021 Western Australian Election’, Antony
Green’s election blog, 30 March 2021.
C Wahlquist, ‘WA
candidate elected to parliament with less than 100 votes prompts calls for
electoral reform’, Guardian, 7 April 2021.
J Zimmerman, ‘Opinion:
'Mr 98 votes' will be the last’, West Australian, 8 April 2021.
Western Australian Electoral Commission (WAEC), ‘Return of
writ’, WAEC website, 16 April 2021.
P de Kruijff, ‘State
election 2021: everything you need to know as WA votes’, WA Today,
13 March 2021.
C Wahlquist, op. cit.
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