The April 5 WA Senate election re-run is a rare opportunity for voters to provide feedback to a newly elected federal government.
Election-weary West Australians marching back to the polls for the fourth time in a little more than a year have been told to make their vote count.
The re-run poll for WA’s six Senate seats will be held on April 5, and will be a rare opportunity to provide voter feedback to a newly elected federal government.
The September 2013 result was declared void by the High Court after 1370 ballots were lost during a recount requested by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, who narrowly lost the first time around.
The missing votes meant Justice Kenneth Hayne could not determine who was duly elected.
The ballot bungle, which was investigated by former federal police commissioner Mick Keelty, forced the resignation last week of the Australian Electoral Commission’s WA chief Ed Killesteyn and state manager Peter Kramer.
And it’s expected to cost taxpayers as much as $20 million.
Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten urged voters to back his party, saying it would stand up to the prime minister’s “harsh and short-sighted cuts to health and education”.
He also haunted Tony Abbott with his own words, citing the Liberal leader’s March 2013 comment that he wanted to run a government like WA Premier Colin Barnett, who has suffered fierce criticism since being re-elected.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warned against voting for “fringe-dweller” parties, saying they could “create chaos”.
“They cannot deliver the positive changes that Western Australia needs,” she said.
“What we need to do is ensure there is a strong representation from WA inside the government – Labor senators can’t deliver that, minor parties can’t deliver that, fringe-dwelling parties can’t deliver that.”
Federal MP Clive Palmer said the public would make up its own mind.
“There is a resentment in WA that the state does not get a fair go,” the Palmer United Party (PUP) leader said.
Ms Bishop also took aim at the Greens, saying they were “the only people calling for this election”, despite the fact PUP and the AEC also called on the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, to order a fresh poll.
The AEC again apologised for the botched count, saying it had implemented key recommendations of the Keelty investigation, particularly relating to parcelling, labelling and transporting ballot papers.
But improving the AEC’s training and culture would take time, acting electoral commissioner Tom Rogers said.
Senator Ludlam said the poll was a “unique and extraordinary opportunity” for the electorate to send a message to Mr Abbott not to take WA for granted.
“It is a chance for West Australians to say they’ve had enough of the Abbott government and we want our country back,” he said.
“Bring it on.”