Westpoll: 54-46 to Labor in WA

The first poll of Western Australian state voting intention since the Troy Buswell chair-sniffing revelation and resulting spill motion has not produced the Liberal meltdown that might have been expected. In fact, the Westpoll survey shows the Liberals narrowing the gap since March: Labor is down 5 per cent on the primary vote to 39 per cent and the Coalition steady on 38 per cent, while the two-party gap has reduced from 56-44 to 54-46 (the paper says 56 to 46: the primary vote suggests it’s the first part of this that’s wrong). However, it should be noted that Westpoll surveys have small samples (412 respondents in this case) and high volatility, and that the size of Labor’s lead last time was a little hard to credit. The poll also tells us that only 36 per cent support an early election against 57 per cent opposed.

This puts the public at odds with Nationals leader Brendon Grylls, who last week called for the dissolution of a parliament rendered “completely dysfunctional” by the major parties’ internal squabbles. It was intriguing to hear such sentiments from the leader of a party most thought would be crippled with the imminent introduction of one-vote one-value. Clearly the party is very confident of gaining dividends from the Liberals’ difficulties, most probably in the seats of Moore and Blackwood-Stirling. The latter is the successor seat to Warren-Blackwood, currently held by previous Liberal leader Paul Omodei. Omodei is sufficiently concerned about the Nationals threat that he has abandoned the seat to pursue a berth in the upper house South West region. However, he was initially denied a winnable spot on the ticket, then given one following an appeal, then denied it again by the party’s state conference. His initial reaction to the latter decision was to declare he was quitting the party, but he has instead chosen to pursue a further appeal, with talk of legal action if it isn’t upheld. Omodei has denied reports that he has been threatening to run against Troy Buswell as an independent in his seat of Vasse if he is not accommodated.

As always, it hasn’t entirely been one-way traffic: today The West Australian reports that former Health Minister Bob Kucera has quit the ALP and will contest the election as an independent, complaining the government has become “arrogant and complacent”. It so happens that the 63-year-old back-bencher has also been overlooked for preselection. His own seat of Yokine having been abolished, he has not yet decided which of its successor seats he plans to contest: Mt Lawley, where the party has nominated former West Australian deputy editor Karen Brown, and Nollamara, where they have nominated Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union official Janine Freeman.

Malcolm MacKerras’s post-redistribution electoral pendulum was published in The Australian on Saturday: this is not available online, but you can read the accompanying article.

UPDATE: That Mackerras pendulum courtesy of Mumble.

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.

68 thoughts on “Westpoll: 54-46 to Labor in WA”

  1. Earlier indications suggested that Kucera would be contesting Mount Lawley.

    LABOR MP Bob Kucera has revealed he is strongly considering quitting the party before the next election and contesting the seat of Mt Lawley as an Independent.

    Mr Kucera, a resident of Mt Lawley, said the suburb was his heartland and he would ask his supporters in the electorate whether he should stand.

  2. If he’s got half a brain cell he would have a crack at Mt Lawley…the margin in Nollamara makes winning that seat impossible!

    Plus the Labor candidate for Mt Lawley looks as exciting as a “wet weekend”.

  3. Actually Mr Orange, it’s usually easier for independents to win safe seats than marginals – it’s easier for them to overtake the other major party and surf home on their preferences. I suspect someone’s pointed this out to Kucera, which is why he’s now considering Nollamara.

  4. Mr Orange, your reference to margin is about 2-party contests. Once an Independent enters a race, you throw the two-party margin away and look at the primary votes.

    Independents win safe seats from major parties by splitting the holding party’s primary vote and getting ahead of the lower polling major party. That is always easier in a safe seat. In the case of Kucera, he needs to run in a seat where in taking votes off Labor, he pushes Labor to preferences while at the same time getting enough of a primary vote to poll ahead of the Liberal. That will be easier in a safe seat like Nollamara than a marginal like Mt Lawley.

    The primary votes in Nollamara are Labor 55.6% and Liberal 23.7%. Kucera would have a better chance of outpolling the Liberal on those figures than in Mt Lawley, where the numbers are Labor 45.3% and Liberal 38.3%.

    Of the dozens of Independents elected around the country in the last three decades, the only ones that won a marginal seat were Peter Andren at the 1996 Federal election, and Clover Moore in Bligh at the 1988 NSW election, and Kris Hanna at the 2006 SA election. The rest won seats with margin above 10%, many much safer.

    Against that, Mt Lawley looks more like the marginal Yokine Kucera took off Kim Hames in 2001. The 2003 redistribution made Yokine much safer by pushing it north of Morley Drive, and those new areas are now in Nollamara. Kucera will have to decide which electorate he is better known in, but barring a difference in personal support, the maths of how Independents win seats would indicate Nollamara is easier for a generic independent to win off Labor.

  5. So is the new one vote system the first past the post idea, so no preferences. Does this apply to the upper house? Sorry, my WA politics is a bit lacking.


  6. No. It is still compulsory preferential, but the old system where rural electorate had only half the enrolment of Perth seats has been abolished. The five vast outback seats have a formula that allows them to be under quota, but the other 54 seats now have roughly the same enrolment. With the increase in 2 seats in the Assembly, this has seen 6 rural and south-west seats abolished and 8 Perth seats created. Labor is the net beneficiary of these changes, as the number of seats in the Coalition’s best areas has been cut.

    The rural bias remains in the Leg Council, with a 3:1 weighting. The 75% of WA voters in Perth have the same number of MLCs as the 25% who live outside of Perth. But there are now 6 MLCs per regions, not 5 or 7, and there are a vast arrange of complications that flow from that.

  7. An explanation of the old electoral system can be found here

    Details of the changes and new margins can be found here

    I’ve done a publication for the WA Parliament that picked apart the LC changes, but they don’t put them on-line so I can’t give a link.

    However, there is a pretty good explanation here

  8. Speaking of Westpoll, one of my cousins was polled for it, FWIW she llives in the Como-Mt Pleasant area , true blue Liberal Country.

  9. This election will be an interesting contest to see if Buswell can finally win it by a nose. Many seats will be up for grabs, and there is the strong smell of defeat in the air for the Liberals. Will the Libs finally be able to grab this election by the balls, or will strapping young Liberal women lose out their seats??

    Currently there seems to be a quokka margins between the pair, with Carpenter looking a bit flashed on how close the contest may actually be. Will Buswell win it by a nose, are Liberal MP’s seats safe, will Carpenter finally be stripped of his leadership, and can Buswell finally get his firm grip on power before being kicked around too much more like a political soccer ball???

    We will have to wait and smell…. i mean see

  10. Point taken on Independents winning seats Antony, but I think Kucera’s profile is much higher in the new seat of Mt Lawley than it is in Nollamara and feel that it will be a closer contest than some may think.

    In the current political climate he may have just enough support from disaffected ALP voters and swinging/liberal voters to get him up over the total Liberal vote…..Who knows for sure but I think it would be tight. The ALP candidate for Mt Lawley has NO profile in the electorate and no credible Libs have raised their heads as yet, so Kuceras profile remains strong.

    On the otherhand the situation appears to have degenerated into a personal rather than business exchange between the Premier and Kucera, and given that Kucera knows it will be a “hard-task” to win either seat, I think he will be more than likely looking at it as a chance to rain on the Premiers parade, and try to be as much of distraction or “spolier” as he can….irrespective of whether runs for re-election or not……thats politics I guess.

  11. But I wonder what McGinty’s take is on this considering Jim’s Dzaughter is in a realtionship with Kucera’s son and has produced an offspring. (or is it the other way around – anyway they are in laws).

  12. Fascinating as always. Slightly off topic, but is the WA LC now the last legislative chamber in the English speaking world to retain a specifically rural bias? I can’t think of any others (it’s unconstitutional in the US) but I don’t know about Canada or Ireland. (As I understand it, Westminster has unequal sizes but not necessarily in any one pattern – it doesn’t have a specifically rural bias.)

  13. Molesworth, the Irish Senate is appointed, the House of Lords is essentially appointed, from memory the Canadian provinces have all abolished their Legislative Councils, the New Zealand Legislative Council was abolished and the Canadian Senate is appointed. So barring some arrangement I don’t know of in some far flung remnant of the British Empire, I’d say that the WA LC is the last to retain a rural bias.

    The history of LC reform in Australia is very different from other countries and it has a long history that has its origins way back when self-government was granted in the 1850s. The subsequent history is different in each state. Suffice is to say, the WA LC is unique in using proportional representation at the same time as having a rural bias in the electoral system.

    The Senate has some similarity, in using PR in unequal electorates, but this system has not constantly disadvantaged one side of politics over the other.

  14. No such luck, Lauredhel – that would indeed be fascinating to see. Interestingly, despite the Coalition’s improvement on voting intention, Carpenter’s lead as preferred premier has gone from 55-18 to 62-15.

  15. It was a real pity that one vote one value didn’t fully happen in WA (for the LA as well I suppose, in the seats Antony mentions). On a tangent, one interesting theory I read not long ago (can’t remember where though) was that part of the continuing strength of the US Democrats at a state level in the late 1960s and 1970s, when the national tide was turning against them, came from the redistricting that was done after the Warren Court struck down rural weighting. Apparently those court decisions meant that state legislatures had to redistrict just when LBJ’s 1964 coat tails had given Democrats an unprecedented number of state chambers. Don’t know if this has any truth to it, but that it’s even plausible shows how influential the mechanics can be over time. The Tassie LC was always my pet hate, but maybe WA’s should be now.

  16. Thanks Antony. I will be interested to see if the Greens MPs hold on with only 6 spots, or even pick up one or two seats.

  17. They would certainly hope so, Phil, as it was they who insisted on this six-by-six Senate-style system complete with rural malapportionment. Below is part of an article on the subject from The West Australian last week. There are those in the Greens who share Griffiths’ concerns.

    The retiring Legislative Council president, Labor’s Nick Griffiths, claimed yesterday that the State Government’s one vote, one value legislation had “destroyed democracy in WA’s Upper House” and guaranteed conservatives could block Labor legislation for years to come.

    In a scathing attack on senior Minister Jim McGinty, Mr Griffiths said that as Electoral Affairs Minister Mr McGinty had traded the chance of real reform in the Council for a perceived electoral advantage in the Legislative Assembly.

    In a deal with the Greens in 2005, Mr McGinty agreed to six regions each with six MPs irrespective of population for the Upper House in exchange for electorates all roughly of the same population size in the Lower House. Mr Griffiths said the deal not only meant that the Upper House would be undemocratic into the future but that the conservative side of politics would be almost guaranteed indefinite control.

    “Mr McGinty shut out progressive reform in the Council to get an increased chance of winning in the Legislative Assembly,” Mr Griffiths said. “The result of so-called one vote, one value is that it destroyed so-called democracy in the Legislative Council. Short of a (Labor) landslide, which at best would be a one-off event anyway, the Council will have a conservative president and the Liberals a working majority (indefinitely).”

    “He (Mr McGinty) should have sat down with the Liberal Party (over one vote, one value) and created an opportunity for genuine reform but he’s a left-winger and he preferred to do a deal with the Greens,” Mr Griffiths said.

  18. As a NSW resident, I can’t help but grin when I see something about Buswell. But maybe he can turn this to his advantage with the WA electorate – could he try to play the red blooded West Australian male unfairly derided by the effete easterners and their latte-sipping local stooges? Could this work?

  19. [It so happens that the 63-year-old back-bencher has also been overlooked for preselection.]

    I believe Bob didn’t nominate for either seat when Nominations were called, so it’s a bit rich for him to say he was overlooked.

  20. There were two issues taken into consideration (as I explained some time ago in this blog) when the current changes to the Electoral Act were discussed. One was that the size of electorates in WA was approaching quite absurd levels (consider the federal electorate of Kalgoorlie – an absurd size of electorate to effectively represent). The intent was to in fact provide for adequate representation, not an abstract theoretical notion of perfect “one vote – one value” that didn’t necessarily deliver the representation to the residents of those seats. As well, Queensland still retains a similar malapportionment for large electorates – in fact, thats what the WA amendments (in relation to the LA) were based upon. Consider also, other reasons you given in different jurisdictions – local councils, the Senate or ethnic & religious seats in other countries.

    The LC is a different question. I think that there might be a different position within the Greens if this legislation came up again, but at the time the amendments would not have passed without the agreement of ALL 5 of the Green MLC’s. As the Greens (WA) allows a conscience vote for its MP’s it is quite conceivable that at least 1 if not 2 of the MLC’s would have voted with the Coalition. Nick Griffith might be unhappy with McGinty for focussing on the LA, but that was his ‘riding instructions’ as it were. The LC could have been (and still could be in the future) structured in a whole series of ways – whole of state electorate with a threshold, seperate indigenous list for guaranteed representation, bio-regional representation (that was actually way to hard if you want to retain parity of representation, and so forth.

    Remember, what was arrived at was a compromise, not unlike the previous compromise the ALP reached with the National Party in the 70’s. However, each change has moved the WA Parliament towards more equitable representation, and we should consider the previous changes as part of that process. To be honest, I would prefer this whole issue taken out of the hands of politicans altogether, and placed in the hands of the electorate more generally. A proper state Constitutional Convention might actually address the various issues surrounding adequate representation for electors and residents, and then the electors themselves could be both educated and involved in the process.

    Well, that’s my two cents worth…

  21. On a related matter, I was wondering if Antony (or others) had done any modelling on the possible outcomes in the LC given the last election result and/or the last federal election result. Might be fun for PBers to dig through!

  22. [I believe Bob didn’t nominate for either seat when Nominations were called]

    The reasoning behind that is because candidates have to sign a document pledging that if they lose pre-selection, they will not run against the party as an independent, hence Today’s resignation.

  23. I have done those numbers. The odd thing is the Greens find it harder to win the two seats they currently hold due to the increase in quota from 12.5 to 14.3% in North Met and South West, but the cut from 16.7% to 14.3% gives them a seat in both East and South met.

    East Met goes from 3 ALP 2 LIb to 3 ALP 2 LIB 1 GRN
    North Met 3 ALP 3 LIB 1 GRN to 3 ALP 3 LIB
    South Met 3 ALP 2 LIB to 3 ALP 2 LIB 1 GRN
    Agricultural from 1 ALP 3 LIB 1 NAT to 2 ALP 3 LIB 1 NAT
    Mining and Pastoral from 3 ALP 2 LIB to 3 ALP 3 LIB, but there are a few ‘Others’ votes there that greatly compilicate analysis.
    South West from 3 ALP 3 LIB 1 Green to 3 LIB, 2 definiate ALP, and last spot between ALP and GRN

    If Greens won that last spot in South-West, would be
    ALP 16 (was 16), LIB 16 (15), NAT 1 (1) GRN 3 (2)
    The LC increases from 34 to 36 seats.

    Of course, all those numbers are the results of the last election, not a prediction of the next election, with all the caveats that go with such calculations.

  24. [Frank, the Liberal Party website lists Cowper as the endorsed candidate for Murray, so I’m not sure what you are referring to.]


    I’m referring to Bob Kucera and his Nominations for Mt Lawley and/or Nollamara.

  25. By the way, with the exception of Mining and Pastoral, those changes in LC composition come about entirely because of the change in quota, not because of the changes of boundaries.

  26. Hey Frank….i hear its an absolute “dogs breakfast” at the ALP State Executive tonight. Its goning to go down to the wire for a few so-called “firm deals” from what i hear….I’m glad the Premier had it all sorted months ago…NOT!

  27. Boy, I really should read what I write before I post it…but apart from way too many typo’s, the obvious glaring error was the reference to the ALP-National deal on electoral reform, which was in the 80’s not the 70’s (1987 in fact).

  28. [Hey Frank….i hear its an absolute “dogs breakfast” at the ALP State Executive tonight. Its goning to go down to the wire for a few so-called “firm deals” from what i hear….I’m glad the Premier had it all sorted months ago…NOT!]

    Any news on West Swan & Swan Hills ? 🙂 Let’s just say Rita’s Challenger is my second Cousin 🙂

  29. [Any news on West Swan & Swan Hills ? 🙂 Let’s just say Rita’s Challenger is my second Cousin :-)]

    I’ll keep you posted Frank…as you’ve probably heard there’s a lot of ballots to count so results might take a little while. As soon as I have something i’ll let you know.

  30. Graeme Maybury on 6PR is going to speak this hour to Reece Whitby on how State Executive went.

    Would be interesting to hear his take 🙂

  31. Hmm,

    Reece is saying that it went smmothly, He, Bill Johnson, Chris Tallentine and Martin Whitely were edlected unopposed – others “as predicted”, results of the other seats were being announced as the call started.

  32. Reece Whitby has confirmed on 6PR he has won the Morley preselection. Bill Johnston (Cannington), Martin Whitely (Bassendean) and Chris Tallentire (Gosnells) were endorsed unopposed.

  33. William,

    “Snap” 🙂

    I wanna know Swan Hills (my seat), and West Swan (Second Cousin running against Rita Saffiotti) results.

  34. The West was reporting in January/February that Whitely was going to be dumped, then went quiet on the subject. Bill Johnston and Chris Tallentire were reportedly to be opposed by candidates of the New Right (in Johnston’s case by Simon Ward, chief-of-staff to Margaret Quirk), but this was evidently smoothed over.

  35. Well, what a night it was! …..Witnessed last night at ALP State Executive was the most stunning case of nepotism and mediocrity I have ever seen.

    It obviously pays to be the partner of an elected official/child of a former MP/party hack or a retirement age Union Official, oh and not forgeting a “mate of the Premiers”. What a selection eh?!

    The speeches by most candidates were abysmal and devoid of any vision. The class of 2008 is certainly not destined for great things! Come on ALP, its time to find a soul.

  36. I’ll be interested to see how the Nationals go at this election, particularly in the Labor rural seats. I’d imagine there’s a pretty strong plague-on-both-your-houses mentality in WA at the moment, and the Nats seem to be the only party not imploding due to self-inflicted damage. Is there any formal agreement with the Liberals in WA? If not, they should be distancing themselves as far as humanly possible from Buswell’s bunch and running as a de facto third party.

  37. I understand that in addition to having no formal agreement with the Libs, the Nats are intending to run in seats throughout the South West, Agricultural and Mining and Pastoral and are aiming for the “Balance of Power” in the Lower House.

    Of course, the Greens are not imploding due to friendly fire either.

  38. Perth Now Article on Pre-selections.

    [WEST Australian Premier Alan Carpenter has cemented his ALP leadership with the preselection of several of his favoured candidates for state elections due next year.

    Mr Carpenter consolidated his power base with the selection of lower house candidates including former fellow journalists Reece Whitby and Karen Brown and his former chief of staff Rita Saffioti.

    He also supported new Legislative Council candidates Linda Savage and Fiona Henderson, who beat sitting members Batong Pham and Sheila Mills in the contest for upper house tickets.

    Mr Carpenter, who today admitted he had one eye on a possible early election, said he was moving away from Labor’s traditional factional preselection system but denied he was creating his own “Carpenter faction”.

    Presenting new lower house candidates at Perth’s Kings Park, Mr Carpenter said he had gone outside the ALP to recruit new candidates and “cast the net wide” because it was “the right thing to do”.

    “Having said that, probably most, I’m not sure, but a significant number of the new candidates are long-term party members who’ve done the hard work coming up through the party,” he told reporters in Kings Park.

    “So we’ve got a mixture, and that’s the right thing to do.

    “If I had not gone outside the party and hadn’t done the work that we’ve done I think I would have been rightly criticised for not doing enough to get in people outside of the party political process.

    “My role is to make sure we’ve got other people coming up through the party and into government who can present fresh faces and fresh ideas, new ideas, and whose career pathway is on the way up.” ]


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