Western front communiqué #1

Welcome to the first in a semi-regular series summarising developments in the lead-up to the Western Australian election:

• Monica Videnieks of The West Australian reported yesterday that "speculation is mounting" that the election will be held on February 5. Most had anticipated it would be called for February 19 as this would have been the set date under the government’s proposed fixed-term plan, but this would apparently make life difficult for participants in that day’s Rottnest Swim. For reasons unstated, the report quotes unidentified Labor sources saying February 5 is "preferred" over February 12.

• Recreational fishing is looming as the hot issue in North West Coastal, a new seat with a notional Labor margin of 5.4 per cent but eminently winnable for the Liberals. Labor’s efforts to court the Greens by expanding Ningaloo marine park sanctuary zones have roused the ire of locals, including Labor member Fred Riebeling; Robert Taylor of The West Australian reckons it "wouldn’t be too far fetched to suggest that Mr Riebeling’s uncharacteristic public break from his Government was sanctioned from on high. Mr Riebeling gets to play the local hero with the fishing lobby while the Government takes the tough decision for the greater good, not to mentions Greens preferences". The sensitivity of the issue has been further demonstrated by a government announcement that a push to have the whole area placed on the World Heritage register would be put on hold.

• With the retirement of Liberal incumbent Bill McNee, the electorate of Moore north of Perth looms as one of a number of potentially interesting contests between the Liberals and Nationals. Last week the Nationals nominated Moora Shire chief executive Peter Stubbs, who helped make himself known by turning up to Labor functions to present politicians with bricks taken from the deteriorating Moora Hospital. The West Australian reports that this was "credited with forcing a Labor commitment to a new regional hospital". Wheatbelt Business Enterprise Centre manager John Lysaught had earlier been named as Nationals candidate, but has dropped out for reasons unknown. The Liberal candidate is Dandaragan shire president Gary Snook.

• The Liberal candidate for the safe Labor seat of Balcatta is Melinda Poor, who came to national attention early in the federal election campaign when she rang a talkback program to ask Jann McFarlane, soon-to-be-defeated Labor member for Stirling, a curly question about the impact of Labor’s tax policy on stay-at-home mums like herself. McFarlane’s response – that Labor was "looking for where the disadvantage is and what we can do to adjust the policy" – was seized on to very great effect by the Prime Minister.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.