Western front communiqué #5

With seasonal festivities out of the way, the Poll Bludger will now endeavour to lift his work rate as the Western Australian election looms ever nearer.

• The silly season has taken on an altogether different complexion in the wake of the tsunami catastrophe, but the effect has been to make the new year period an even greater dead zone than usual for substantial domestic political coverage. The Gallop government has thus been afforded no opportunity to shape the agenda as it prepares for the coming election in the face of deteriorating opinion polling. Accordingly, great import is being read into news that Premier Geoff Gallop will make a major policy announcement at the WA Media Club on Friday, described by AAP as a "hastily arranged keynote speech". Monica Videnieks of The West Australian reports that this is being seen as an attempt to regain the initiative ahead of an announcement of an election for either February 12 or February 19. Elections on these dates would respectively need to be called no later than January 14 (this coming Friday) or January 21.

• The contest for the well-heeled riverside electorate of Alfred Cove, won from unpopular Liberal heavy Doug Shave by Janet Woollard of Liberals for Forests in 2001, looms as the election’s most interesting sideshow. To the Poll Bludger’s mind, there has never seemed any reason why Woollard should not be able to match the electoral longevity of the similarly placed member for Churchlands, Elizabeth Constable, who has been untroubled by Liberal challengers since entering parliament at a 1991 by-election. However a number of those in the know appear to think differently. Liberal preselection for the seat was hotly contested and eventually won by Court government Workplace Relations Minister Graham Kierath, who lost his seat of Riverton in 2001. Michael Southwell, noted local journalist and Greens preselection candidate, wrote in November that Woollard "cannot and will not retain her seat" because she has failed to make an impact over the logging debate or the ongoing issues surrounding the finance brokers scandal which were primarily responsible for her winning the seat in the first place. If Woollard really is in trouble, she has been thrown a lifeline by The West Australian, whose page two gossip column Inside Cover has devoted much of its space over the past week to a "civil disobedience" campaign by Applecross traders rebelling against a Melville City Council demand that a poster promoting Woollard be removed from a local shop window. The complaint was initiated by Kierath, while the high-profile mayor of the council in question, Katherine Jackson, is also running as an independent after failing to win Liberal preselection. The demand has led to a rash of Woollard posters appearing locally as shop owners express solidarity in opposition to the demand, which has led to talk of a High Court challenge on constitutional grounds if the council proceeds with a prosecution.

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.