Agricultural region leaders have railed against the McGowan Government’s one vote, one value Upper House overhaul, warning it will significantly reduce regional voices in Parliament. WA Labor introduced the Electoral Equality Bill last week, proposing to abolish the six existing Legislative Council electoral regions in favour of one “whole of State” electorate, while increasing the total number of Upper House MPs from 36 to 37. Under the changes, no MPs would be elected specifically to represent regional areas — a major departure from the 18 who currently represent the Agricultural, South West and Mining and Pastoral regions. A party or person would secure a seat for every 2.6 per cent of the overall WA vote or an estimated 45,000 ballots. Votes cast in country electorates would no longer be worth more than those in the city, despite Premier Mark McGowan before the election promising “enhanced regional representation will continue” under his Government. Agricultural Region MLC Steven Martin said the reforms would mean there was no guarantee that any Upper House MPs would hail from regional WA after the next election. “Regional politicians are already a minority in Parliament now and they will be an even greater minority after this decision,” Mr Martin said. “In areas such as road safety, health outcomes, educational outcomes and mobile phone coverage, regional Western Australians know it has been harder than it should be to get a fix on those issues. “If this goes through, and it will go through, it will be even harder. There will be fewer voices fighting for regional concerns.” Group voting tickets would also be abolished under the proposed changes, killing off the complex preference harvesting deals that led to Daylight Saving Party candidate Wilson Tucker elected to Parliament with just 98 votes in March. Mr Martin said Mr McGowan was using the group voting tickets changes as an excuse to push through one vote, one value. Roe MP Peter Rundle said all of the major parties agreed on changes to group voting tickets, but Mr McGowan had used it as a “smokescreen” to cover his wider electoral reform. “We’ve got health problems, housing issues, skilled workers issues but sure enough the first thing the Premier and Attorney-General put on the agenda ... was electoral reform. “The Labor Party are using this to consolidate their city base and consolidate their majority in both houses.” Shire of Narrogin president Leigh Ballard penned an open letter to Mr McGowan last month, voicing his opposition to one vote, one value and calling for Labor MPs to be allowed a conscience vote on any reforms. Speaking this week after the reforms were announced, Mr Ballard said it was a disappointing outcome for regional WA. “Right up to the election, he stated that it wasn’t on their agenda at all,” he said. “Yet it was the first thing that went into the new Parliament, so how can you trust anything he says?” WA Local Government Association deputy president and Shire of Morawa President Karen Chappel said the one vote, one value shift would favour the imbalance of voters in the metropolitan area. “The concept of one vote, one value has a logic as a theoretical exercise but in practice runs the real risk of disenfranchising regional communities,” Cr Chappel said. “It ignores the unique attributes of WA as an electoral region, in particular our vast distances and extremes of population density that is unlike anywhere else. “The result of this change will inevitably be even fewer MPs based in the regions.” However Labor Agricultural MLC Darren West stood up for the proposed changes, saying the current system was broken and needed to be fixed. “While much of the focus was on the proportional vote weighting between regional and metropolitan areas, significant inequities within WA’s regions were also exposed,” he said. “For example, a vote in Kalgoorlie was worth 1.48 times more than a vote in Esperance and 3.48 times more than a vote in Albany. “Most electors would take it for granted that a vote cast anywhere across our State on polling day is worth the same as any other.” Mr West said the reform would create a “level playing field for all candidates”. He said additional resourcing would continue for country MPs encouraging them to remain in the regions. “This is not a reduction in political representation, in fact, it’s the opposite,” he said. “It will be an adjustment to think of our Legislative Councillors representing the whole State rather than particular geographical regions. “What this will mean is that every Western Australian will be represented by all 37 members.” Both WA Nationals leader Mia Davies and Liberal leader David Honey said Labor MPs who supported the one vote, one value reforms would have betrayed their communities. But Premier Mark McGowan likened the current vote weighting in the Legislative Council to a “dictatorship” and said the reforms would “remove the corruption of the Upper House”. “It’s not actually democratic, to be frank with you, where some people’s votes are worth six times of others — it’s the stuff you would see in a dictatorship,” he said.