In 2003, Geoff Gallop, then Premier of Western Australia, presented the inaugural John Forrest lecture to the WA state conference of the Australian Association of Constitutional Law. Although the lecture was ostensibly concerned with John Forrest, Western Australia’s first premier, and his vision of Western Australia, it also – perhaps unsurprisingly – revealed much about Gallop’s own visualization of the future. According to Gallop, Forrest;
placed Western Australia within the context of the Federation … he saw the need for political and constitutional change … and most importantly, he called on Western Australians to expand their horizons, learn from the world and seek improvement. He knew that parochialism and self interest were never enough.(2)
In that 2003 lecture, in providing some thoughts ‘as to where the application of such principles’ might lead Western Australia ‘when reflecting on Commonwealth-State relations and our State’s political system,’(3) Gallop was articulating certain themes that he had long identified as being important to the state and its citizens. Indeed, such themes were first identified in his maiden speech to parliament in 1986.
This article focuses on one of those themes - political and constitutional change, specifically Gallop’s quest for electoral reform, or the quest for one vote one value – and also examines Gallop’s federalism rhetoric and his placement of ‘Western Australia within the context of the [f]ederation.’(4) An analysis of Gallop’s statements, including speeches both inside and outside the parliament, reveals that he was an uncommonly articulate politician and that, unusually, his focus on and concern with electoral reform remained vital and consistent across decades. Nonetheless, the 2005 Western Australian electoral reform legislation reveals some accommodation and some compromise on Gallop’s part, as well as occasional conflict between Gallop’s positions taken since 1986 and the eventual legislation. Gallop’s parliamentary career and his premiership were informed by a wider view of the world. His curiosity about ideas is well-documented. And while Gallop is a fourth-generation Western Australian he, like Forrest, looked as premier beyond Western Australia, with a view that was far from parochial.
Gallop contested three Western Australianelections as leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), in 1996, 2001 and 2005. The first part of this article summarises the results of the 2001 election, at which he became the state’s premier, and the 2005 election. The second and third substantive parts examine Gallop’s long-time interest in and commitment to electoral reform in Western Australia - one vote one value, and his government’s achievement in that regard: the passage of the 2005 electoral reform legislation. The fourth section explores Gallop’s federalism rhetoric and his view of Western Australia in a federal system. The paper concludes with Gallop’s resignation in February 2006 as premier and as a member of the state parliament.
Election victories in 2001 and 2005
At the Western Australian election of 10 February 2001, the ALP won office, gaining more Legislative Assembly seats - fourteen - to win government than any other party in Western Australian history, claiming thirteen seats from the Liberal Party and one from the National Party. Labor lost only one seat (that of Kalgoorlie), and gained a seven seat majority with a total number of thirty two seats. The Liberal Party won sixteen seats and the National Party five. On one interpretation, as Phillips and Black note, this was a ‘stunning success’ for Gallop.(5) However, as Stone notes, the results of the election could easily be misinterpreted:
Labor improved on its 1996 vote by only 1.41 per cent; incredibly, its 37.23 per cent of the primary vote represented an advance of only 0.15 per cent on its performance when Carmen Lawrence was swept from office in 1993. Labor’s parliamentary majority was a windfall delivered by the poor performance of its principal opponent and the flow of preferences under the alternative vote electoral system.(6)
Continuing - and amplifying(7) - a trend established in recent Western Australian elections, minor parties and independents performed well, attracting 28.35% of the vote.
As a result of the election minor parties continued to hold the balance of power in the Legislative Council; the ALP and the Greens if voting together would comprise what ‘appeared to be an eighteen to sixteen progressive (and absolute) majority in favour of electoral reform.’(8) However, not all of the Greens were supporters of one vote one value.(9) Further, the ALP’s John Cowdell was elected as President of the Legislative Council and, as the president has a casting as opposed to a deliberative vote. The result was that the ALP, even in the unlikely event of unanimous Green support, did not have – was one vote short of - the absolute majority required in the Legislative Council to amend the Electoral Distribution Act.(10) These factors would significantly hinder the ALP’s ability to amend relevant legislation and achieve electoral reform.
At the Western Australian election of 26 February 2005the ALP retained power, winning the same number of seats in the Legislative Assembly – thirty two – as in the 2001 election. The Liberal Party won eighteen seats (an increase of two) and the National Party, five (the same number as in 2001). The ALP’s primary vote increased by 4.65%, a significant increase from 2001.(11) The vote for minor parties and independents was down from the 2001 result, attracting 18.79% of the vote.(12) In the Legislative Council, the ALP won sixteen seats (an increase of three on its 2001 result), the Liberal Party won fifteen (also an increase of three), the Nationals again won one seat and the Greens, two (down from five in 2001).(13) One Nation lost its three Legislative Council seats. Again, with eighteen of thirty four Legislative Council members constituting an absolute majority, this result had implications for the ALP’s attempts to achieve electoral reform; with the President of the Legislative Council not having a deliberative vote, the ALP voting together with the Greens would not constitute such a majority.
One vote one value: Passion
The simplicity and moral strength of the argument that all should vote and all should vote equally has provided a continuing source of attraction not only to the radicals and activists of the nineteenth century but also to intellectuals, radical politicians, and judges in the twentieth-century for whom electoral injustice became the subject of academic, political or judicial inquiry.
- Geoff Gallop, 1998(14)
In his maiden speech in the Legislative Assembly on 18 June 1986 it was clear that constitutional reform and electoral reform were priorities for Gallop as they were the first matters mentioned – and then in some detail - following some introductory personal remarks. At the state level, he said, in terms of such reform, ‘we still need to go a long way.’(15)
Gallop has been at pains to place one vote one value in historical context and, in part, to justify it with reference to that context. In many respects he is ‘a modern-day Chartist.’(16) For him ‘the force of argument and commonsense … which establishes voting rights for everyone – that we are all in the most important sense ‘equal’ – also establishes the right of all to have one vote of the same value:’
It does not make sense either logically or ethically to establish the right of a person to vote and then diminish the value of that vote in relation to the votes cast by others. Indeed, in an extreme case this would undermine the very basis for community life itself by creating socially destructive inequalities in the distribution of political power. That, of course, is precisely what malapportionment does.(17)
For Gallop, malapportionment skews politics by giving certain interests a disproportionate say and therefore an unequal share of power. It ‘holds back progress.’ The idea of one vote one value ‘is compelling and its logic is clear-cut.'(18)
In pursuit of his quest – and passion - for one vote one value, Gallop in the seventeen years between his maiden speech and his 2003 John Forrest lecture regularly argued for that principle and its enactment in Western Australia in a variety of media and forums, and in the High Court of Australia.(19) Submissions to commissions and inquiries have included those to the Constitutional Commission’s Advisory Committee on Individual and Democratic Rights in 1986 and the Western Australian Commission on Government in 1995. Papers presented at seminars and conferences, academic or otherwise, include those at Edith Cowan University in 1994, the Australasian Study of Parliament Group’s annual conference in 1995, the University of Western Australia in 2000 and the Australian Association of Constitutional Law’s 2003 State Conference. He has made many speeches in the Western Australian parliament on one vote one value, some of which appear in Labor’s Case for Parliamentary Democracy,(20) a collection of speeches made when he was Minister for Parliamentary and Electoral Reform during Carmen Lawrence’s premiership. Gallop’s 1998 State of Reform: Essays for a Better Future(21) collects a number of these submissions, papers and speeches. Seventeen years after his maiden speech, electoral reform was still a vital concern for Gallop (although with one failed, extended attempt at electoral reform as Premier now behind him). As he said in his John Forrest lecture, ‘[t]here have been important reforms over the years … [b]ut there is still imbalance in the voting rights of different parts of the State …’.(22)
One vote one value: Action
In 1996 Gallop, while in opposition, together with fellow Labor MPs Jim McGinty and John Halden, challenged the validity of certain pieces of Western Australian legislation in the High Court,(23) including the Acts Amendment (Electoral Reform) Act 1987, which established malapportioned electoral boundaries in Western Australia,(24) The basis of their challenge was that disparities in voting power under the legislation were inconsistent with the principle of representative democracy. It was argued that both the Commonwealth and the Western Australian Constitutions created a system of representative government and that each required equality of voting power in Western Australian State elections. The challenge was unsuccessful. In McGinty the four majority judges(25) found no implication of voter equality. Brennan CJ stated that
‘[i]mplications are not devised by the judiciary; they exist in the text and structure of the Constitution and are revealed or uncovered by judicial exegesis. No implication can be drawn from the Constitution which is not based on the actual terms of the Constitution, or on its structure. (26)
For all six judges, however, if there were to be an implication of equality of voting at the Commonwealth level, such implication could not extend to State electoral systems. Further, the four majority judges found no support in the relevant section of the Western Australian Constitution Act(27) for any requirement of equality of voting power.
Two years earlier, Gallop had argued that, in order to establish a link between electoral equality and representative democracy, the ALP would need to establish that implications in either the Commonwealth or State constitutions extended to electoral equality, and that in the case of the former, the implication also extended to the States. For Gallop, with reference to Australian Capital Television Pty Ltd v Commonwealth,(28) the High Court had
now established this extension in respect of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of communication. As Chief Justice Mason put it: ‘the concept of freedom to communicate with respect to public affairs and political discussion does not lend itself to subdivision.(29)
While for Gallop, the ‘analogy with electoral equality [was] easy to see,’ it was not so easy for the High Court to see in McGinty.
Five years after McGinty, and less than six months after having attained office, the Gallop government introduced the Electoral Distribution Repeal Bill 2001 and the Electoral Amendment Bill 2001 into the Legislative Assembly. With only thirteen seats in the new Legislative Council, it required either the support of the Liberal Party ( holding twelve seats) or the Greens (holding five seats) to ensure passage of any one vote one value legislation through the Legislative Council. According to Cowdell, the Greens’ final offer
was marginally better than the Liberal proposition. There was to be a substantial move towards one vote one value in the Legislative Assembly – although seats in the Mining and Pastoral region could have up to 40% less electors than other seats. There was to be no change in the Upper House mal-apportionment. The country would continue to have 50% of the seats. In fact the Legislative Council was to be increased by two seats, so that there would be three country regions each of six members to balance three metro regions each of six members. If anything the increase of the Mining and Pastoral Region from five to six members and the decrease of North Metropolitan from seven members to six members meant an increase in the level of mal-apportionment. The Greens announced that they were creating a state senate of equal regions regardless of population. (30)
As previously noted, however, even with Green support, the ALP did not have an absolute majority of eighteen - an ALP member of the Legislative Council was elected President of the Council with only a casting and not a deliberative vote – but a simple majority. An absolute majority was required, as a manner and form provision in the existing Electoral Redistribution Act – section 13 - required that the second and third readings of any bill to amend the Act must be passed by an absolute majority of the Council (and, of course, the Assembly). Thus, the ALP introduced a bill to repeal the Electoral Redistribution Act – the Electoral Distribution Repeal Bill - and then introduced the Electoral Amendment Bill. Again, Green support for the proposed one vote one value legislation meant that the reach of that legislation did not extend to the Legislative Council notwithstanding that malapportionment was clearly more pronounced there than in the lower house. Even with passage of the legislation the Gallop government would be ‘unable to get its full reform agenda through the state’s upper house.'(31)
In the event both the Repeal and Amendment Bills were passed by a majority, but not an absolute majority, of the members of the Legislative Council then present and voting. The Clerk of the Parliament commenced two proceedings in the Western Australian Supreme Court asking the Court in each, in effect, whether it was lawful for him to present the bills to the Governor for assent. A majority of the Full Court answered the questions in the negative.(32) In the High Court(33) a majority held that section 13 was a manner and form provision requiring an absolute majority in the Legislative Council (and the Legislative Assembly) for ‘any Bill to amend this Act;’ ‘amend’ should be read to include and apply to any ‘repeal.’(34) As a result, the electoral reforms were invalid.
Four years later, following the ALP’s election victory on 26 February 2005, the Gallop government again sought to effect electoral reform through one vote one value legislation, this time with application to both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council and, this time, with success. With members of the Legislative Council remaining in Parliament until 22 May when the newly elected members would take up their seats,(35) the ALP with Green support still lacked the requisite absolute majority required to pass its one vote one value legislation. It seemed that the one vote necessary for such a majority could come from a sitting member of the Legislative Council who had been disendorsed by, and then had resigned from, the Liberal Party, and who had commented on the merits of electoral reform.
Gallop – and McGinty – seized the opportunity. Parliament was recalled after the election and introduced in the Legislative Assembly the One Vote One Value Bill 2005 (the short title of which was changed to the Electoral Amendment and Repeal Bill 2005 (36)) at the end of the month following the election, and in the Legislative Council on 7 April 2005. The Government introduced the Constitution and Electoral Amendment Bill in both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council on 4 May 2005. The Electoral Amendment and Repeal Act 2005 came into operation upon Royal Assent on 20 May 2005; the Constitution and Electoral Amendment Act 2005 came into operation upon Royal Assent on 23 May 2005.
As a result of the one vote one value legislation, the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly increased from 57 to 59. Further, an ‘average district enrolment’ (the number of electors divided by the number of districts) was established, allowing for a 10% tolerance either way in each district. However, an exception still remains for districts with an area of 100,000 square kilometres or more; for such districts, the tolerance is 20% below the average electorate enrolment.
The number of members of the Legislative Council was also increased from thirty four to thirty six, with six electoral regions returning six members – irrespective of the number of electors. This model was not the Gallop Government’s original proposal and one not contained in the One Vote One Value Bill as introduced in Parliament. Rather, it was one proposed by the Greens and agreed to by the Government to ensure passage of the legislation. The one vote one value principle was entrenched with any future amendment requiring an absolute majority in both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council.
It was said in the introduction to this article that the 2005 one vote one value legislation reveals some accommodation and some compromise on Gallop’s part, as well as occasional conflict between Gallop’s positions taken since 1986 and that legislation. As originally introduced in Parliament, the One Vote One Value Bill provided for six electoral regions but also provided for seven members to represent each of the three regions comprising the area generally coextensive with the Perthmetropolitan area, and for five members to represent each of the South West, Agricultural and Mining and Pastoral Regions. As passed by the Parliament, however, six electoral regions return six members.
Also, as originally introduced in Parliament, the One Vote One Value Bill provided that
Electoral Commissioners must ensure that there are five complete and contiguous districts in the Mining and Pastoral Region. In doing this, the Commissioners are not required to use the principle of each district having not more than a 10% variation from the average district enrolment. Those districts and the electors in them are not taken into account in calculating the average district enrolment.(37)
In the lead-up to the February 2005 election, Gallop promised that if his government was elected it would keep all five seats in the Mining and Pastoral Region(38). This promise was subsequently reflected in the original form (but, again, not the final form) of the one vote one value legislation. For critics, Gallop hoped ‘to salvage some electoral advantage by keeping the weighting just for Mining and Pastoral, where Labor does comparatively well, while scrapping it in the stronger Liberal and National Party regions.’ (39) Such action, it was said, represented both ‘desperate politics’(40) and ‘support for vote weighting in general and in direct conflict with his (Gallop’s) policy of one vote, one value.’(41)
In response, on the date of the introduction of the One Vote One Value Bill, Gallop said that ‘this … is a compromise of the principle that is in the interests of the people of Western Australia. We … understand that to get legislation through the Parliament, compromises have to be made, and we will do that.(42) Gallop had earlier argued that one must ‘take into account the special requirements of representing remote and regional Western Australia, particularly of course in our mining and pastoral regions, so we made special allowance in [the] … legislation for the remote parts of the state.’(43) Put another way, by Electoral Affairs Minister Jim McGinty, ‘[t]hese large seats cover more than 87 per cent of the State’s land area, so it is important that people who live in these regions are properly represented.’(44)
Other inconsistencies exist. In his 1995 submission to the Western Australian Commission on Government, Gallop indicated that a 10% variation from the quota was generally accepted as a reasonable basis for electoral law, and he saw no need why such a variation should not be the basis for Western Australia.(45) Of course, in Western Australia, as a result of the one vote one value legislation, for districts with an area of 100,000 square kilometres or more, the tolerance is 20% below the average electorate enrolment. Further, in citing the 1990 recommendation of the Queensland Parliamentary Committee for Electoral and Administrative Review that
where a proposed electoral district is 100,000 square kilometres or more in area, Redistribution Commissions … may add a number that expresses the value of 2% in the area in square kilometres of such a proposed electoral district to the number of electors in that proposed electoral district, in order to achieve an enrolment within the 10% allowable tolerance of the quota.(46)
Gallop stated that ‘(i)t is highly unlikely that the inclusion of such a clause in our own (Western Australia’s) electoral laws would have any impact on the ability of particular MPs, that is those serving remote areas, to represent their electorates properly and effectively.’(47) Gallop also appeared to approve of the Queensland Parliamentary Committee’s ‘interesting’ conclusion that no logic existed for a 100,000 square kilometre threshold and that Committee’s concerns that ‘deviations from numerical equality like this leave the door open to future gerrymandering of the electoral system’(48)…
On the basis of his belief that Cabinet members should be drawn only from the Legislative Assembly, Gallop had advocated an increase in the number of members to be elected to the lower house from fifty seven to sixty one.(49) The one vote one value legislation increases the numbers to fifty nine.
For Gallop, the accommodation and compromises identified above in the one vote one value legislation result from pragmatic judgments, or ‘pragmatic fine-tuning’- for a range of reasons one has to make certain accommodations in order for legislation to pass. According to Gallop, however, such accommodations neither undermine the principle of one vote one value nor, in substance, take away from the effectiveness of the legislation.(50)
Notwithstanding Gallop’s long-time focus on, and concern with , the imbalance in voting rights in Western Australia, such imbalance to some extent still exists in Western Australia despite the one vote one value legislation introduced by the Gallop Government coming into operation in May 2005. Further, it should be noted that the legislation failed to significantly implement the recommendations of the WA Commission on Government Commission on electoral reform.(51)
The rhetoric of federalism: ‘The solutions to these questions must be driven from the States with the interests of the federation at heart’(52)
Australia wins when all the states are functioning well.
- Geoff Gallop, 2005 (53)
In his maiden speech to the Legislative Assembly Gallop identified federalism as one of his priorities as a parliamentarian. He said that ‘(f)ederalism provides the most appropriate form of Government for this nation … (It) promotes a better framework of government than does a unitary system. However, federalism needs to be capable of change and development …’(54) Like his attitude to another priority - electoral reform – Gallop’s attitude to and view of federalism was pragmatic (it needed to be capable of development and flexibility ‘if it is to be productive of the social good’(55) ), but it was also informed by scholarship and a view of the development of Australia as a nation.
Unlike other premiers, however, his was a nuanced view. Gallop never ran a one-note ‘State’s rights’ line. He articulated the virtues of federalism – for example, political diversity often lost in a unitary system, and governance with checks and balances - and articulated both its problems and possible solutions.(56) Federalism did ‘have its imperfections, particularly in respect of financial arrangements that promote duplication and overlap of expenditure, reduce accountability and encourage the growth of inefficient and distorting state taxes and charges.' (57)
Solutions for Gallop were, again, pragmatic, and were those that did not ‘freeze our thinking in the straitjacket of the past or any utopia of the future'(58). He argued for a 'problem focus', asking 'where are there problems in the functioning of Australian federalism and what do we need to do to remedy them?'(59) As an example of such pragmatism, in the area of Indigenous affairs, the Western Australian government with Gallop as premier reached an agreement with the Commonwealth to link all Commonwealth and Western Australian departments with a role in indigenous affairs, and reached agreement on the negotiation of a Commonwealth-State bilateral agreement on indigenous child protection such that the relevant departments worked together and avoided duplication.(60) Gallop stated that it was
this new style of co-operative federalism which will be needed if we are to properly address and solve the many problems associated with indigenous affairs in Australiatoday. Just as (John) Forrest wished to move beyond colonial boundaries with federation and inter-connected infrastructure so we today need to move beyond governmental boundaries through co-operation and joined-up government.(61)
Coordinate federalism, with the Commonwealth and the States coordinate and independent within their own spheres of responsibility, as opposed to cooperative federalism, clearly made no sense to Gallop. The ‘search for national … solutions to contemporary economic, social and environmental problems will, of necessity, bring all levels of government together, not just to discuss and formulate plans but to act cooperatively.’(62)
One area in which a proposed national(63) solution to a 'problem' was not supported by Gallop, and the States in general, was the Commonwealth’s assumption or takeover of industrial relations powers - or ‘the most serious assault on the role of the states since the Whitlam era.’(64) Gallop was ‘strongly opposed’ to such assumption and to the display of Howard’s ‘centralist tendencies’ which such assumption revealed.(65) Gallop argued, ‘we need a competitive federalist system, and the state Industrial Relations Commissions and the conditions associated with them have protected workers, and we’re going to fight very vigorously against that.’(66) People want to see decentralisation and devolution, Gallop argued; they want ‘their own communities properly backed up by their parliaments or their governments.’ The ALP should ‘fight for the states and the role they play, and fight for federalism.’(67)
Needless to say Gallop believed that the States have an important role to play, a belief tempered by an awareness of the problems attending the playing of that role:
The States have an important and constructive role to play in our system. We still have in State Parliaments an enormous range of legislative powers, the famous residue that is left after the definition of Commonwealth powers enumerated in the national Constitution. The States also have an enormous degree of political importance in our society … [but it] is true that our ability to marshal that legislative and political power is circumscribed by financial considerations.(68)
At the same time, however, ‘we must conceive of our commitment to State rights in the overall context of a commitment to national development. I cannot understand how people can be believers in the development of Western Australia without at the same time being believers in the future of this country.’(69)
‘Successor to inherit an economic powerhouse’(70)
Geoff Gallop resigned as premier of Western Australia and from the Western Australian parliament in January, 2006 to more effectively deal with the depression from which he was suffering . In David Black’s view, Gallop saw himself 'as a modern-day John Forrest, presiding over a resources boom, building infrastructure and with an eye to long-term prosperity'(71) In the newspaper reports and overviews of his premiership, government and reasons for his resignation,(72) much was made of the state’s economic growth during Gallop’s government – although, of course, Western Australia had benefited, and continues to benefit, from the global commodities boom. For the Australian newspaper, Gallop
bequeaths to his successor a state that has cemented its reputation as the engine room of the nation. On almost every measure – from record low unemployment to record budget surpluses – Dr Gallop leaves the state with a significantly better balance sheet than the one he inherited in 2001.(73)
Indeed, the state’s economy had grown by more than 5% in 2005.(74) Unemployment was at a historic low – below 4% - and job growth for 2006 was forecast at 3.75%(75) and Gallop had presided over the lowest unemployment rate on record.
In winning office in 2001, Geoff Gallop ‘had to overcome the last great gerrymander of Australian politics.’(76) In overcoming that gerrymander he then set about dismantling it, and made substantial progress (although, it has been argued, not without compromises and some accommodation). In this and in other regards, Gallop’s horizons – and his view of those for Western Australia – were broad. He knew in making the argument in Western Australia that ‘all should vote and all should vote equally'(77) he was making an argument that had been made around the world for centuries, and he knew how and why. In ‘fighting’ for Western Australia and the role it and the States play,(78) Gallop always sought to place that fight and that role in a context that emphasised the virtues of a federal system and national solutions: ‘Australia wins when all the states are functioning well.'(79) Gallop’s conclusion about John Forrest could equally apply to himself:
He took an expansive view of politics and of the role Western Australia could play in an Australian nation … He recognised the need to take the lead and follow through with the commitment.
David Hodgkinson: Principal, The Hodgkinson Group (www.hodgkinsongroup.com) and PhD candidate, Political Science and International Relations (School of Social and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences), The University of Western Australia. The author would like to thank Geoff Gallop for meeting with him to discuss the matters and issues canvassed in this article, and Associate Professor Tony Barker for arranging the meeting; Natalie Mast for comments on an earlier draft; Nick Barry for helpful suggestions with regard to research for this article; and Professor Campbell Sharman for comments concerning electoral reform and the recommendations of the WA Commission on Government in that regard.