WA Liberals eye plebiscite preselection to boost election chances

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Peter LawThe West Australian
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Liberal Party leader David Honey with Deputy Liberal Leader Libby Mettam and Dr Steven (Steve) Thomas MLA.
Camera IconLiberal Party leader David Honey with Deputy Liberal Leader Libby Mettam and Dr Steven (Steve) Thomas MLA. Credit: Simon Santi/The West Australian

WA Liberal leader David Honey says his party faces an “enormous challenge to return as a major political force” but the adoption of plebiscite voting for lower house preselections offers the chance for a “reset” ahead of the 2025 State election.

Mr Honey said the reform demonstrated to the public that the party was getting its internal affairs in order and was “serious about change” after consecutive election shellackings within 14 months.

Thoughts have already moved to the next stage of reform, which will likely be headlined by a debate about how to improvement female representation and a new way of picking upper house candidates.

Federal Liberals Sussan Ley and Linda Reynolds recently ignited a debate about quotas for women in Parliament, which Mr Honey said the party had previously always shied away from.

Liberal Party leader David Honey with Deputy Liberal Leader Libby Mettam and Dr Steven (Steve) Thomas MLA.
Camera IconLiberal Party leader David Honey with Deputy Liberal Leader Libby Mettam and Dr Steven (Steve) Thomas MLA. Credit: Simon Santi/The West Australian

“I’m not adverse to a quota in relation to that, but that’s a thing that has to be supported (by the party) as a whole,” he said.

“Because we’re an individualist party, or at least we support individual rights over the collective rights which Labor seems to be fond of, it means the party may not get there.”

His deputy, Libby Mettam, supported gender targets but said she was yet to be convinced that the party needed quotas.

“I think there is going to be a lot of discussion around how we can better support and ensure that we have a better representation of women and women candidates in the lead-up to the next election,” she said.

“What is most important is that we have a diverse range of candidates and excellent candidates who are not only representative of the values of the Liberal Party, but also represent our diverse State electorate as well.”

The introduction of plebiscite voting for lower house candidate preselections, a key recommendation of a review in the wake of the party’s State election wipeout, was backed by 92 per cent of delegates to the weekend’s state conference.

Mr Honey said he suspected a form of plebiscite voting, which allows all party members a say in picking their election candidates, would also be introduced for the party’s Legislative Council ticket.

“It depends whether we’re going to have one pre-selection for the whole State or whether we’re going to have regional pre-selections to maintain regional representation,” he said.

“I’m not ruling that out, I’m just saying there’s going to be a lot of discussion by the State President and others to try and come to a final model.

“Whatever model we come to, it will be a model that broadens the base and obviously if you broaden the base of preselectors that reduces the ability of individuals and groups to influence outcomes.”

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