Perth by-election: poor voter turnout sparks finger pointing

Labor's Patrick Gorman.
Labor's Patrick Gorman.

PERTH MHR-elect Patrick Gorman has pointed to the role of the Australian Electoral Commission when asked about the surprisingly low voter turnout after his Labor Party won a by-election for the seat on Saturday.

“Ultimately the legislation that delivers compulsory voting is the Australian Electoral Commission’s responsibility,” Mr Gorman said.

Asked for solutions to low turnout and voter antipathy, Mr Gorman said “everyone” had a role to play.

He said Labor’s campaign included handing out maps, cards and information to get voters out.

“I think we went above and beyond what you’d expect from a political party in a by-election,” he said.

Mr Gorman got 63.7 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, and Greens candidate Caroline Perks had the remainder, in the ballot caused by the resignation of former Perth MHR Tim Hammond in May for family reasons.

However, only 62.4 per cent of the seat’s 100,737 voters tuned out on Saturday.

Mr Gorman said voters he met were engaged with issues including solving WA’s GST imbalance and more State-Federal co-operation on major infrastructure projects such as Metronet,

He also said voters had expressed concerns about the Federal Government changing child welfare and the National Disability Insurance Scheme during the six-week by-election campaign.

The 15-strong field of candidates showed the by-election was still “hotly contested”, after the Liberal Party decided not to run an official candidate.

It was conducted with four others across Australia triggered by MPs’ resignations because they were dual citizens in contravention of Section 44 of the Australian Constitution.

Mr Gorman said he would prefer a referendum on constitutional changes recognising Aboriginal people or creating a republic before changing Section 44.

After Liberals got 42.31 per cent at the 2016 Federal Election, right-leaning independents included Paul Collins with 9.59 per cent and former Morley MLA Ian Britza (2.9 per cent).

GST-share advocate and WA Party member Julie Matheson had 5.37 per cent.

All voters will go the polls again in a Federal Election, now expected about May.