Members of Parliament are elected to represent the interests of their constituents. This is the principle of representative government, which along with responsible government, are the foundation stones of the Westminster system. However, for many years representative government in Western Australia was marred by electoral malapportionment, brought about by the unequal distribution of voters in electoral districts and regions throughout the State. In 2005 the Western Australian Parliament sought to remedy this situation by altering the State’s electoral laws to allow for greater electoral equality.
For the Legislative Assembly the State is now divided into 59 electoral districts each of which returns one Member of Parliament. Those people resident in each electoral district who are entitled to vote elect the Member for their district at an election conducted by secret ballot. The Members hold their seats for a maximum of four years between elections. Members are elected by a system of preferential voting. Under this system, voters are required to rank candidates in order of preference.
For the Legislative Council the State is now divided into six regions, each of which return six Members. Members are elected by the electors in each region at an election conducted by secret ballot. Members are elected by a system of proportional representation. The Members hold their seats for a fixed four year term.
Voting is compulsory at elections for both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council.
Members of Parliament have three main roles. First, the Members are legislators. When Parliament is sitting they speak in debates, serve on committees, and vote on legislation.
Secondly, the Members are advocates. They listen to the problems, questions, opinions, and ideas of the people who elected them. This may involve asking questions in Parliament, contacting Ministers or public servants, or directing constituents to the people most qualified to deal with a particular issue.
Finally, the Members are usually members of a political party and they represent the party's interests in Parliament by attending meetings of the party or by promoting the party's policies and ideas. In some cases, however, people become Members of Parliament without the support of a political party or they may resign from a political party after being elected. These Members are known as 'Independents'.