Western Australia politics takes place in context of a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliamentary system, and like other Australian states, Western Australia is part of the federation known as the Commonwealth of Australia.
The main parties are the Liberal Party of Australia/ National Party of Western Australia Coalition and the governing Australian Labor Party. Other minor political parties include the The Greens, Shooters and Fishers Party, Christian Democratic Party and Family First Party.
The nominal head of the Government of Western Australia is the Queen of Australia, represented in the state by the Governor of Western Australia. Legislative power rests with the Crown and the two houses of the Parliament of Western Australia. The powers and responsibilities of the parliament are defined in the Constitution Act 1889.
The Parliament of Western Australia is bicameral, consisting of a lower and an upper house.
The Western Australian Legislative Assembly (lower house) is composed of 59 members of parliament, each of whom represent a single electoral district and are elected using a preferential voting system. The Legislative Assembly currently sits for fixed four-year terms. The leader of the party with a majority in the Legislative Assembly (or with the confidence of the Assembly) is appointed by the Governor as the Premier of Western Australia.
The Western Australian Legislative Council (upper house) has 36 members (or MLCs), representing six electoral regions. Five members are elected for each province using a proportional voting system.
General elections are held every four years, electing the entire Legislative Assembly and half of the Legislative Council. The next state election is scheduled for 11 March 2017.
Western Australia is divided into 15 federal electoral divisions, each represented by a seat in the Australian House of Representatives. Like other Australian states, Western Australia is represented by twelve Senators in the Australian Senate, with six of those Senators elected for two three-year Senate terms at each half-Senate election.
Historically, most federal elections have already been decided by the time the polls close in Western Australia. The only times in recent memory where the state has decided an election were 1998, when the first returns from the state assured a second term for John Howard, and 2010, when the victory of a state Nationals candidate who didn't identify with the federal party allowed Julia Gillard to stay in office with a minority government.
As the state is either two or three hours behind the eastern states, it is usually not affected by political trends elsewhere in the country. For instance, in 2007, even as Kevin Rudd won a decisive victory nationally, Labor actually suffered a swing in Western Australia, and lost two seats to the Coalition. The election took place at a bad time for the state Labor government, which was ultimately defeated at the state election held a year later.
Western Australia is generally considered to be one of the most conservative state in Australia; it was the only state to vote in favour of John Howard over Kevin Rudd in 2007, and the Coalition won 12 of the state's fifteen seats in the 2010 election.
This is primarily due to economic reasons; the state and national economy is heavily dependent on the resources that are exported from the state such as iron ore, LNG and gold. Policies implemented by the federal Labor government such as the carbon and mining taxes are widely viewed as being detrimental to the state economy with incumbent premier Colin Barnett being one of Gillard's fiercest critics.
In contrast, social policies aren't seen as divisive - WA is one of three states which permit same-sex adoption and polls conducted in the state show a majority in favour of same-sex marriage. In contrast to their federal counterparts, Barnett and Nationals leader Brendon Grylls have both stated support for civil unions (though Barnett is opposed to full marriage rights) while opposition leader Mark McGowan has stated his support for gay marriage.
The Liberal Party are generally strongest in Perth's wealthier western and northern suburbs (such as Nedlands, Cottesloe and Hillarys), riverside suburbs and the regional cities. Labor is generally strongest in the southwestern and southeastern parts of Perth (including Fremantle, Armadale-Gosnells and Rockingham), this also spills into the northern parts of Mandurah. The Kimberley region in the far north of the state also provides the ALP a strong support base. The National Party were originally predominant in the farming areas of the Wheatbelt, Great Southern and South West but on the backs of the Royalties for Regions policy they've become stronger in traditional ALP territory such as the Goldfields-Esperance region and the Pilbara.
The following lists each parties representation stronghold electorates:John Forrest - First premier of Western Australia
Carmen Lawrence - first woman to become Premier of a State of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Colin Barnett - current premier of Western Australia
Julie Bishop - First woman to be Foreign Minister and deputy leader of the federal Liberal Party