Westpoll: Barnett Liberal landslide in WA

The West Australian, which has been gunning hard for the removal of Troy Buswell from the Liberal leadership for the past week, has published a “snap” Westpoll survey of 400 votes showing the Liberals would lead 57-43 on two-party preferred if Colin Barnett was leader. It also finds they would be in front even with Buswell at the helm, but only by 51-49. One normally likes to exercise caution in interpreting poll results, but I think it can be stated with confidence that the latter finding is definitely wrong. This means we can either dismiss the poll as rubbish and pay it no further mind, or take the view that the six-point difference says something enormously significant about the Liberal leadership even if it does come from a dud sample. Excitingly, the paper reports that the election “could be called as early as tomorrow”.

UPDATE: Click here for a timely trip down memory lane, back to a month before the 2005 election.

UPDATE 2: The following questions are not meant to indicate a conspiratorial mindset: they are merely questions that have sprung to my mind, as questions sometimes do.

• What do the dashes following “don’t know” indicate? That all but a statistically insignificant number of respondents did know, or that those who didn’t have been excluded from the calculation?

• Why would you lump “informal” together with “other”, rather than with “don’t know”?

• Given that this has been done, we can ascertain that the “others” vote is less than 4 per cent under Buswell, or less than 2 per cent under Barnett. This compares with 11.2 per cent at the 2005 election and between 8 per cent and 12 per cent in the past six Newspoll surveys. The Greens vote at least is in the ballpark of the 2005 election, down only from 7.6 per cent to 7 per cent (The West Australian rarely provides figures for the Greens, but on the four occasions it has done so in the previous year they have been between 8 per cent and 11 per cent). In the current political environment, would we really expect the combined major party vote to have shot from 81.2 per cent at the election to either 88 per cent (under Buswell) or 89 per cent (under Barnett)? The two Newspoll surveys this year have had it at 80 per cent and 76 per cent.

• Shouldn’t we expect the 7 per cent of respondents who would vote Coalition under Barnett but not Buswell to be largely parking their votes with minor parties or independents, rather than going straight for Labor?

UPDATE 3 (28/7/08): Robert Taylor in The West Australian:

Troy Buswell will not step side and Colin Barnett will not challenge for the Liberal leadership despite overwhelming evidence that the Cottesloe MP is the party’s best chance of defeating Alan Carpenter’s Labor Government at the coming election. Mr Barnett again made it clear yesteday that he was availbale to lead the Liberals despite having already announced his retirement at the next election. But Mr Buswell was adamant that no one had asked him to step down in favour of the former Opposition leader and he intended continuing in the role. And Mr Buswell received strong support from Liberal Party president Barry Court, who clutched a Bible as he said the chair-sniffing, bra-snapping Opposition Leader had shown strength to push through his problems and was beginning to have an impact on the Government in the polls.

UPDATE 4 (29/7/08): Peter Kennedy reports on ABC TV news that “Labor strategists have put a plan to the Premier” for an election on September 13 or September 20, thereby preventing the resumption of parliament in two weeks.

UPDATE 5 (4/8/08): Buswell quits.

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.

232 comments on “Westpoll: Barnett Liberal landslide in WA”

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  1. Hmm, According to Ch 10 News, Barnett will promote Buswell to the Front Bench, possibly Treasurer.

    BAD move, easy for Labor to campaign on a vote for Barnett is a vote for Buswell. You’d think Buswell to move to the backbench to bide his time and grow up a bit.

  2. Exactly, Labor can easily spin the whole Buswell resignation… state that there is a plan to handover from Barnett to Buswell soon after the election, given that Barnett was going to quite in any case. Buswell did not lose the support of the party, he just wants to be handed the premiership without having to be chosen by the people etc. etc.

  3. *facepalm*

    They are trying to lose this election, I swear. Trying quite hard.

    Anyone wanna bet Christian Porter’ll be the opposition leader this time next year? Or Brendan Grylls or Liz Constable, in the case that the Libs don’t get to be called the opposition?

  4. VPL @150

    Definitely the latter… 🙂

    And you’re absolutely right – both major parties have their share of the blame to wear.

    I think your last part sums it up quite nicely; it would definitely deteriorate to something like that – particularly in our high-minded parliamentary elections.

    Couldn’t agree more Frank – placing Buswell on the front bench is yet another “Kick Me” sign that they’d be taping to their own backs…

  5. I disagree – mostly because I can’t help myself. 😉
    Buswell should absolutely be on the front bench. He is a solid performer who stepped down voluntarily and continues to support and serve. I do, however, agree that opposition spokesperson for something less high profile than Treasury would be a better move – but it also needs to be something he can get his teeth into, perform on, and maybe start to get some traction… what are some key areas? Let me suggest a couple options – housing (affordability is a key area), infrastructure (lots of big projects), resources (again, a massive issue here in the West)… Something with a bit of oomph but not one of the top jobs.
    Barnett has got some ‘splainin’ to do about at least the following:
    1. Canal
    2. Retirement
    3. Why trust him with our votes this time around – is it any different to the last time
    4. Can he heal a deeply divided party
    5. What is going to happen with Deirdre Willmott
    and he needs to sort this stuff out quickly.

  6. Barnett comes across as decent, slightly prudish, petulant and over sensitive.

    He appears guileless and unable to hide his feelings.

    He on occasions displays a reckless streak, and an innate obstinacy in his outlook.

    He presents as having a propensity to avoid, or fail to accept responsibility for, or make decisions on, unpleasant issues within his control.

    He is human, fallible, but the best of a very seedy and laughably incompetent group of opposition members.

    And under his leadership, or that of any of his current opposition colleagues, in opposition his party appears destined to remain.

  7. Barnett elected leader.

    “The former leader Colin Barnett will lead the West Australian Liberal Party to the next state election.

    At a partyroom meeting lasting just under one and a half hours, MPs voted unanimously for Mr Barnett to replace Troy Buswell, who stood down on Monday.

    Mr Barnett will contest his seat of Cottesloe despite Diedre Willmott already being preselected for that seat after Mr Barnett announced he was going to retire.”


  8. [They should gone the whole hog and brought back Charles Court. I know he’s dead, but so is Barnett.]

    Yep, a CGI generated Charlie would be more credible than Barney Rubble.

    I’m amazed they’d even considered the idea of parachuting him in my emlectorate of Swan Hills, using the justification that his farm is in Toodyay, which I might add isn’t part of the electorate to start with.

  9. Frank
    I thought the West today said his Toodyay farm is in the electorate. Looking at the new boundaries the farm would have to be no closer to Toodyay than the Avon Valley National Park…
    Moose – I can’t see it being a landslide either way but time will tell.

  10. Moose,

    You’re Dreaming, The Libs don’t have the Nationals Coattails to hang onto, plus with One Vote One Value there will be 3 way contests in all rural seats splitting the Conservative vote.


    I can assure you that Toodyay was NEVER a part of Swan Hills, however it is a part of the federal seat of Pearce which does take in Swan Hills.

  11. Channel Seven’s offices are in Dianella, so I’d say Mr Whitby’s relationship to Morley is about the same as a farm in Toodyay is to Swan Hills. 😉

  12. [But this is irrelevant because he will stand for Cottesloe again, yes?]

    Small problem, the Endorsed Candidate for Cottesloe has no intention of giving up the preselection for the return of the Messiah and his canal, hence the specualation and handwringing over finding a seat for Colin to stand in.

  13. Frank, I believe the state council or executive has the power to force the issue. The problem now is accommodating Willmott, who was the only female Liberal or Nationals candidate in a safe seat. She’s turned down Nedlands.

  14. [Frank, I believe the state council or executive has the power to force the issue. The problem now is accommodating Willmott, who was the only female Liberal or Nationals candidate in a safe seat. She’s turned down Nedlands.]

    But all indications are she is staying put in Cottesloe and is not moving for anyone.

    As I said yesterday, it’s going to get ugly and the Party will be the losers.

  15. [Willmott has in fact resigned as Cottesloe candidate.]

    Hmm, well that makes post 180 obsolete then 🙂

    Don’t you hate it when you’re typing a post and new info is posted BEFORE you hit the submit button.

  16. Alas, no. Nobody has mentioned Matt Birney’s seat of Kalgoorlie, which is hardly a good match for her. Paul Omodei himself was left without a seat after insisting on an upper house berth when the redistribution turned Warren-Blackwood into Blackwood-Stirling and put it under threat from the Nationals. Buswell isn’t going. I believe the most plausible option is to put her at the top of the North Metropolitan upper house ticket, which would only displace a non-incumbent I’ve never heard of before. She could then take Cottesloe at a by-election when Barnett goes if the Liberals lose. Two drawbacks: Barnett would have to make explicit that that’s what he would do, and she’s apparently not keen on the idea anyway. Other options are Scarborough, a new notionally Liberal marginal seat, or its safe northern neighbour Carine. The latter would be very hard on candidate Tony Krsticevic, who has had to quit his job with the ATO.

  17. Like I said on the other thread, I think this is pretty small beer in the broader scheme of things. They’ve got Rob Johnson returning to the front bench, Paul Omodei trying to make amends (fat chance I’d guess), Graham Jacobs is happy again, Barnett’s foes have no choice but to bite it, and there’s even talk of an arrangement of some kind with Elizabeth Constable.

  18. WA Today Story on Willmont “Standing Down”.

    [Ms Willmott said she would support Mr Barnett and “accordingly, the Liberal Party doesn’t need a candidate for Cottesloe”.

    “I’ll be working with Colin as the new leader and with the party to look at (other) opportunities. I’ve made myself available to be part of the team,” she said.

    “What I’m interested in is making sure that the Liberal Party is united. My message to the Liberal Party is I want to be able to contribute. I’m available if the opportunity is there.”]


  19. [They’ve got Rob Johnson returning to the front bench]

    Oh dear, with him and Buswell on the Front Bench together is going to see some fun times ahead 🙂

  20. You didn’t mention Nedlands William – again, hard on the endorsed candidate but seems the more logical fit since its geographically close, similar demographic, no sitting Lib member. Would people think less of me if I throw in that it would also have the advantage of swapping a woman for a woman? I don’t mean it in any sort of perjorative or condescending way – I only mean that it has a nice balance if Nedlands keeps a female member and if Walker stands as an independent then the gender issue wouldn’t be one…
    As for the Toodyay farm issue – Frank I don’t believe that the ‘Toodyay farm’ is actually required to be IN Toodyay itself. In fact, I acknowldged the absence of Toodyay from the seat in my post when I said Swan Hills only goes as far as the Avon Valley National Park. It may be that the Toodyay farm is actually located in the locality of Bailup for example. This could be the case in the same way I say I’m holidaying in Busselton even if the holiday house is actually in Vasse or Abbey???

  21. Speaking of Alfred Cove, are the Libs doing much down there this election? I was living in Mt Pleasant last time around, and that was… interesting. Woollard as independent, Graham Kierath as ‘the real Liberal’, the mayor of Melville as an almost-but-not-quite Liberal, Labor doing not much, every shop in Applecross putting up Woollard posters to annoy Melville City Council, huge adverts in the Herald every week… that made the election more interesting than it otherwise would have been. Shame I’m now living in a safe Labor seat this time.

  22. Hmmm, This is going to be interesting.

    [Former Liberal leader Paul Omodei told reporters today he would reconsider his decision to resign from the Liberal party if he could be given a safe seat.

    But he rejected suggestions he might contest Blackwood Stirling.]


    And note that Perth Now haven’t coverted Deidre Willmont’s “Resignation” as the candidate for Cottesloe.

  23. Willmott would be mad to contest Nedlands, considering that Walker shows all the signs that I can see of being the next Liz Constable, and a big fat loss to an independent wouldn’t look good on her record (Ken Court anyone?). She’d be better off taking the Legislative Council option, or else making a deal to get her preselection back when Barnett inevitably stands down after losing the election (which may well be what she’s already done).

  24. Oh Dear, the Canal is coming back. And the Libs wondered why they lost the Election.

    [He said he has not ruled out bringing back the idea of the canal to move water from the Kimberly to Perth and said at the last election WA was not ready for such an idea.

    “There was a mistake in the way I handled that in the last election, any major water project in this State needs to be a long term, well thought out, well costed and considered project,” Mr Barnett said.

    “There’s been a lot of discussion about climate change in recent years and the most evident sign of climate change in WA is water and reduced rain fall, and we will have water as a prime issue in this election campaign.

    “In WA, we happen to have one of the world’s greatest water resources, and we should use that for the State.

    “If you look at WA in the past 50 years, the Pilbara has underpined our development in the mining and resources industry. In the next 50 years the Kimberly will be just as important.”]


  25. [There’s also talk on the ABC that Barnett is trying to persuade Birney to stay on.]

    Geez, talk about Back To The Future, THere will be heaps of dirt that the ALP will be able to use in the campaign, especially the Inside Cover piece abot Birney removing all traces of Colin Barnett from the Liberal Banners and How To Vote Cards.

  26. [Apparently he wants Birney to run in Alfred Cove. Birney says it’s “unlikely”.]

    This is amazing stuff, talk about a rabble.

  27. hmm I dunno

    I reckon Colin could pull this off.

    Now with peace offers to Liz Constable.

    The Court Family must be spitting blood.

  28. [hmm I dunno

    I reckon Colin could pull this off.

    Now with peace offers to Liz Constable.

    The Court Family must be spitting blood.]

    Read my response to Moose – New boundries due to One Vote, One Value – no Nationals to form a coalition. He hasn’t ruled out the Canal coming back.

  29. Listening to Frank saves us looking at the official alp website. Gawd, yesterday he even quoted channel 10 in one of his posts.. I sense a slight level of desperation in his deliberations. Got any tips on the forthcoming ccc report?
    If Barnett wants to do an indepth study of his canal so be it. Probably make more sense than closing Royal Perth Hospital to build the monster Fiona Stanley in the boondocks.

  30. As a distant observer in NSW, it seems that the Liberals are a tad confused about their future direction at the moment. Of course, I’m sure they could sort themselves out (perhaps) in a few months once they work out who is standing where and who is getting punted.

    Which seems (to me) to provide ample excuse for Carpenter to call the election now (or in the very near future) – Barnett will have little or no honeymoon by virtue of his previous stint in the job and Labor has the natural advantage from the shift to “one man, one vote”…

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