WA election minus 16 days

• Call it expectations management if you will, but Labor is sending out strong signals that it is in big trouble despite what the betting markets think (Centrebet continues to offer $1.18 for Labor and $4.25 for Liberal). Yesterday Alan Carpenter spoke of his party being in a “knife-edge political situation”. Geof Parry of Seven News has today been told internal polling shows Labor headed for defeat on the back of a 7 per cent swing, although two-thirds expect them to win. The ABC was told the party had given up on its most marginal seat of Kingsley (although local resident Bogart writes in comments that he has “received calls and stuff in letter box last night”), and is “concerned” about Riverton and Swan Hills (with respective post-redistribution margins of 2.1 per cent and 3.6 per cent, and a prematurely outgoing sitting member in the latter case), as well as the new seats of Ocean Reef (notional margin of 1.6 per cent) and Jandakot (3.6 per cent). The latter comes as a surprise, as Labor was earlier trumpeting polling showing it ahead 56-44, and should presumably have cause for optimism due to the Fiona Stanley Hospital and Perth to Mandurah rail line.

• Upper house voting tickets were lodged on Monday, and can most easily be perused at ABC Elections. A lot more on this shortly. The Nationals have predictably backed off from their threats to preference Labor ahead of the Liberals depending on the reception to its push for 25 per cent of mining and petroleum royalties to be invested in regional areas. However, they have put Family First and the Christian Democratic Party ahead of the Liberals, which could yet turn up some interesting results. Surprisingly, the party is fielding candidates in all three metropolitan upper house regions. Their lower house card can be read here, though it’s hard to make sense of if you can’t put names to parties.

• The Greens are directing preferences to Labor in most places where it matters, but are offering open tickets in Morley (where ex-Labor incumbent John D’Orazio is running as an independent), Mount Lawley, Pilbara and Kimberley (despite its female indigenous incumbent). They will preference the Nationals ahead of the Liberals in Wagin and Central Wheatbelt, but are yet to declare their hand in Blackwood-Stirling and Moore.

• Monday’s West Australian released further results from last week’s Westpoll survey, providing unprompted responses to the question of “key issue in voting decision”. It indicates the meme of Alan Carpenter’s “arrogance” has caught on, with 10 per cent listed as nominating “Govt/Carpenter arrogance”. Other responses were 19 per cent for health, 12 per cent for law and order, 11 per cent for environment, 10 per cent for education and 10 per cent for “cost of living/economics”.

• The leaders’ debate will be held on Monday, the day after the Olympics closing ceremony, and screened as part of an hour-long edition of Channel Nine’s A Current Affair. Nine will reportedly have to air it unedited after the event as it lacks the facilities to screen it live.

Antony Green concurs with Peter Brent’s assessment that Saturday’s Newspoll should have put Labor’s lead at 52-48 rather than 51-49, and provides much detail on minor party preference flows at the 2005 election.

• The surprise early election announcement has resulted in a dramatic drop in the number of candidates, from 375 lower house candidates in 2005 to 161.

• Click here for audio of my appearance on Jennifer Byrne’s program on News Radio on Tuesday. Readers in the fashionable end of town can enjoy more of my media tartery in the latest edition of Western Suburbs Weekly.

• Joe Poprzeczny’s State Scene columns for WA Business News generally deserve wider coverage, so here’s an extract from his assessment in last week’s issue. I personally am standing by my existing assumption that any minority government will be a Liberal one, unless John D’Orazio or John Bowler get up in Morley and Kalgoorlie:

To begin analysing the possibilities it’s important to keep the number 30 in mind, because that’s how many seats a side must win in the 59-member lower house to form government … However, even if one or two seats in the ‘quite solid’ category tumbled into the Barnett dilly-bag, there are others outside the 29-seat category that could go the other way, that is, fall out of the Barnett dilly-bag into the Carpenter-McGinty sack. Consider the Barnett-led camp’s following problems. The first that needs highlighting within those remaining 30 seats is that four – Wagin, Central Wheatbelt, Moore and Blackwood-Stirling – are set to be won by the Brendon Grylls-led Nationals, which leaves Mr Barnett only a possible 26 seats remaining. Moreover, Mr Grylls has made it clear that he and his three lower house colleagues aren’t interested in being ministers. In other words, forget dreaming about another conservative coalition …

Mr Barnett, even if he does well, by which State Scene means if he wins 26 seats, would at best only be able to form a minority government, one relying on the four Nationals who wouldn’t join him in coalition. And it’s here that an entirely new factor – one that’s so far been overlooked – walks onto WA’s political stage. Let’s say Mr Carpenter wins all his impregnable-to-quite-solid Labor seats, giving him 29 seats, one short of being able to form government. And let’s say Mr Barnett wins the remaining 26 minus the four National seats, which is far from certain. What would that mean? Firstly, it puts the Nationals in a potent position to start talking turkey, as they say in the bush, on which side to support and under what conditions. Secondly, when it comes to offering the power to form a government surely WA Governor Ken Michael would feel under some obligation to offer the majority party – in this case Labor – the first offer of the Treasury benches since they’d have 29 MPs, to 26 non-Laborites plus the four Nationals …

Among those 26 seats are several that Mr Barnett is likely to have great difficulty winning, if indeed he even stands Liberal candidates. State Scene puts no fewer than six into this group. They include the three held by Independent Liberals – Janet Woollard, Liz Constable and Sue Walker. True, efforts are being made to coax them across, and he may succeed in one or two cases. But only a brave person would predict all three women can be counted on to offer him full and unconditional backing. This qualification may not trim the 26-seat number down to 23 seats, but it certainly means the 26 figure is far from rock solid. Moreover, many Liberals have been viewing the two provincial seats of Geraldton and Albany as set to fall into their dilly-bag. That, however, remains a brave prediction with their current Labor incumbents – Shane Hill and Peter Watson, respectively – far from easy marks. And there’s another problem; the seat of Kalgoorlie, which Mr Birney isn’t contesting. Although many see Kalgoorlie as being Liberal on the basis of the past two elections, that’s a brave claim since those figures reflect Mr Birney’s two performances. With Mr Birney now out of the race, and with sacked Labor minister, John Bowler, contesting Kalgoorlie as Independent Labor, it’s quite likely to go to him or Labor candidate, Mathew Cuomo, rather than to a Liberal. If Mr Bowler wins Kalgoorlie he’d be able to negotiate himself into becoming lower house speaker if Labor found itself with only 29 seats. And the Liberals are far from assured of winning Collie-Preston that’s being contested by their frontbencher, Steve Thomas, who faces a tough fight.

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.

342 comments on “WA election minus 16 days”

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  1. ffs William

    I read all that (actually I didn’t but…)

    WHO should I bet on? There’s a cold fiver going down on this, one way or the other and you!…. my likable (almost) hairless little friend…

    may well be the key! 😉

  2. Ah the business end of all this speculation. One thing to add to your comments and that is that if there is a minority government, I believe that the governor could change the government by offering the premiership/governemnt to the other side if one side falls. A bit like what happened in 75?
    Not being overly up with WA politics, it is amazing that the Nats and the Libs would be sending these mixed messages to the electorate. Here is the first call, ALP returned, reduced margin, majority government with 32 seats.
    Preferences will of course determine the election.

  3. ABC News lead with the leaking as well, poll was taken in 5 Marginal seats. 57% say ALP will win, while only 25% say the Libs are ready to Govern.

  4. The leaking is typical Labor strategy. They are trying to change expectations amongst their supporters to prevent a 1995 QLD-style ‘send ’em a message’ outcome. Good media management by Hawker Britton. The fact is that the Libs only got a leader 2 weeks ago and are a complete rabble. This stuff about the Libs is getting quite out of control, fed by a complicit media.

  5. I just want to add three more things: the electoral mathematics are still very difficult for the Liberals, Labor STILL has the massive advantages of incumbency and the Liberals STILL have no money. I’d be putting my money on Labour. A 25% return on tips is not bad at all!

  6. s this the same five marginals highlighted in the last Westpoll?

    No, I believe the 5 marginals are Kingsley, Riverton, Swan Hills, Ocean Reef and Jandakot.

  7. Joe Spagnolo on the “leak”

    T is no co-incidence that Channel Seven was “leaked” internal Labor polling showing a 7 per cent swing to the Liberals and a Labor annihilation.

    Alan Carpenter’s message is clear: Register a protest vote on Saturday September 6 and you could go to bed that night with Colin Barnett as Premier.

    For a week now, Labor has decided to tell it like it is.

    No longer is the party walking and talking like John Wayne.

    Labor is walking and talking like Pee Wee Herman – trying desperately to get the message through to voters that a Barnett win is a very real possibility.

    Just in case voters weren’t getting the message, Labor – it would seem – decided to provide some facts and figures which supported their message.


  8. This will make the next Westpoll interesting, if it carries on the trend of big swings to the Liberals, it might kill the goose that they thought was going to lay a golden egg.

  9. But Frank is it the spin or is it the truth? What’s your local assessment on the “leaked internal polling”?

    Honestly I don’t know what to make of it, it could be a reaction to the sympathetic coverage given to the Libs by our Partisan Media, especially our only Daily Paper The West Australian, who are very pro-liberal and would blame Labor if someone farted in the same room 🙂

  10. ESJ, it brings to mind the Bill Hayden years where he led everywhere except the business end of the election. It would just be a confirmation of the Westpoll and Newspoll of last weekend but with a bigger time lag. Decent polling in the NT would probably have picked up what the happening there too.

    Knowing two or three weeks out from the poll is a great advantage compared with finding out on election night. The Government will turn the heat and pressure up a few notches as a result of this polling.

  11. I see Gary Bruce isn’t with us at the moment but I have been channelling his thoughts . . . .

    “nothing to worry about here . . . this is actually a good result for Labor . . . Labor’s pollsters have no credibility, they’ve got form . . . if the Liberals were going to win they’d be a lot further ahead now . . . this is a very clever tactic from Labor . . . this doesn’t tell us anything about how people will vote . . . 2 weeks is a long time in politics, everything could change . . . the next poll will tell us more . . . yeah.”

  12. Actually, like most of you, I have no idea what is really going on over there. Your guess is as good as mine. I suspect Labor will win but I wouldn’t be betting my house on it.

  13. “Critics slammed The Carpenter Government yesterday for failing to find a cure for AIDS. The besieged Premier yesterday denied allegations by Opposition Superstar Comeback Kid Colin Barnett that the Carpenter Government was failing Western Australian families”

    Ahem, on another note

    This 7% thing is silly, its clearly a strategy by Labor to make people think twice about a protest vote and to sympathise and empathise with Carpenter.

  14. This 7% thing is silly, its clearly a strategy by Labor to make people think twice about a protest vote and to sympathise and empathise with Carpenter.

    It may or may not work either but it will focus their campaign like nothing else will.

  15. 23 steve – I agree. You’d think if they were going to make it sound credible they’d choose say 4% or they wouldn’t release the figures at all. Let’s face it you only release such figures for effect.
    I think it is also to overcome this “arrogance” perception.

  16. 23 steve – I agree. You’d think if they were going to make it sound credible they’d choose say 4% or they wouldn’t release the figures at all. Let’s face it you only release such figures for effect.
    I think it is also to overcome this “arrogance” perception.

    Exactly, and compare it to what Barnett said, sounding all cocky and stand offish, like he did when he got his sums wrong in 2005.

    Mind you the people who post on Perth Now and The West online are people who haven’t got the confidence to ring talkback radio 🙂

  17. Gary, another day on the hustings where they won the big news story too.

    Which was poo-poohed by the Secretary of the ANF who is remembered for siding with the Libs last election and who I believe isn’t even popular with some of his own members.

  18. I remember Beattie saying after a poll showing he was about to win the last Qld election easily, “This could cost us 10 seats”. Classic.

  19. Correct me if I’m wrong, anyone, but isn’t the ‘expectations game’ generally only played during the waning days of a campaign.

    If Carpenter is wheeling these lines out now, over two weeks before polling day, there must be an element of truth (and desperation) to this, right?

  20. I think it is Steve. Hose it right down to an expectation of a loss. Frighten the heck out of the electorate. They could wake up on that Sunday morning with Barnett and his rabble in government and the sniffer as treasurer.

  21. Not necessarily A-C. It is a close election, no doubt in which case it pays to be the underdog. Barnett is going overboard the other way. Isn’t that also a sign of desperation?

  22. AC there’s an element of truth alright but will the Opposition be able to withstand the heat from now on? That is the unknown.

  23. Seems some are assuming Labor fabricated this leaked poll. A “cunning plan”perhaps. But if they were confident of winning, they wouldn’t need to.

  24. AC there’s an element of truth alright but will the Opposition be able to withstand the heat from now on? That is the unknown.

    Steve, exactly, the onus will be on the opposition not to stuff it up, especially on Sunday during the Liberal Launch, and on Monday during the debate – all it needs is another crazy Canal type annoucement/promise and it will end in tears for the libs.

  25. 35 But if they were confident of winning, they wouldn’t need to.

    Yeah, remember the NT election Winston – that theory worked a treat there.

  26. 35 Winston – Oh, so now you want to believe leaked Labor polling. I wonder if you’d be so enthusiastic if it showed Labor winning easily. You’d be all over it like flies over crap.

  27. Interesting that the Leak story has not made it to The West Online, but was on the ABC, and Perth Now.

    I’m waiting on how they will spin it for the Dead Tree version.

  28. Steve, you are confused.

    In WA they have polling- party and public. So they should know what the position is. So why would they spin this line if they are well ahead? It suggests panic.

  29. It suggests clever politics. Make yourself the underdog. Parties try and do that all the time, particularly front runners. A genuine underdog tries to play their chances up. Ring a bell?

  30. It suggests clever politics. Make yourself the underdog. Parties try and do that all the time, particularly front runners. A genuine underdog tries to play their chances up. Ring a bell?

    As Robert Taylor said in the West, as did Paul Murray, Howard did exactly the same thing.

  31. What is the Liberal response going to be? Pop a few more champagne corks?

    Expect the the really big spending promises, which will be easy to counter as being irresponsible mangers of the treasury.

  32. The ALP advisers are either really smart or have totally screwed an impossible to lose election.

    First they go early during the Olympics – which has given the libs an excuse to have an extra two weeks to get ready with advertising etc.

    Then addressing the arrogance issue, which was brought up in a westpoll so should have been ignored until the oxygen had gone – by denying it, Carpenter Arrogance is now the Liberal message. As a result of this the whole ALP campaign to date (Carpenter PVA instead of individual candidate, Carpenter TV ads, Carpenter etc) has played into the Libs message.

    And now this polling – two weeks out of the election – before the libs have a chance to stuff it up with the launch or debate, still during the olympics – If the purpose is to scare people away from protesting, surely it’s too early in the campaign. AND guess who will use the polling to go and collect some big cheques, if as suggested the libs are poor.

    I would be interested if anyone is actually polling the 6-7% seats (Wanneroo, Mindarie etc) to see if these swings are not just happening where the Libs are targeting…

  33. meh its all political jiggery pokery

    My guess is that the election will be messy, and not very clear.

    John D holding the balance…just putting it out there.

  34. Only the following on the Labor polling in The West, from Robert Taylor’s “Campaign Sketch” on page 7:

    Uncorroborated reports on ABC radio yesterday said Labor had recast the electoral pendulum to exclude its most marginal seat of Kingsley and three or four others with margins of around 1.5 per cent and under, making Tony McRae’s Riverton on 2.1 per cent the new front line. There’s no doubt Labor’s polling shows a swing to the Libreals, but Sketch understand it’s more of a return to the natural order of things than a tidal wave.

  35. Well I can confirm that this is not a tactic to scare voters. Its very real based on decent data. Frankly I have difficulty seeing how we can come back from this.

    The strategy group is crapping itself. And they only have themselves to blame. How they have let this arrogant line to become an issue is beyond me. Some of the greatest leaders in history could be described that way…just exactly how is it a negative? Despite the worsts reporting, this is not a bad government, its been probably the most economically responsible government in WA’s history, we have real infrastructure being created and on the whole people are doing pretty well. How these circumstances to add up to a scenario where Buswell becomes Treasurer is beyond belief.

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