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. it hard to tell but i think labor must be favoured to win
    with the regional seats (especially the seats which have a alp
    sitting member) I would expect to be retained by their current members.
    the 3 independent liberals are likely to retain their seats as well
    and I think Kalgoorlie is a toss up, once you take away Mr Birney’s person vote
    which I think could be worth up to 10%
    also the national party is much more independent than one would expect
    and HATED by the Liberals
    A status quo result with all this could leave only 20 official libs or less in parliament

  2. Jasmine,

    Your comment at 198 is simply wrong – any consideration of how Carpenter became Premier would have to start be considering who has the numbers in the ALP caucus. From what I read Burkes old right faction have very few MP’s hence they only ever managed to get one Minister Norm Marlborough before his fall and in reality it would have been the sworn enemies of Burke the new right and the left who I understand easily had the numbers – so in effect Burke had little chance of getting him or anyone else the premiership. In reality it is more likely Jim McGinty would have been the power broker who sorted it out and last time I looked he was supposed to hate Burke.

    Perhaps Burke did get the people he had influence on to vote for Carpenter but since he couldn’t stop it what difference does that make. Carpenter didn’t seek his help. The argument that getting help when you don’t seek it makes you guilty would make Barnett guilty of being in bed with Burke now.

    The reality is that Burke and Grill are seeking to stick the knife into the first politician who has actually done them and their influence peddling over. Burke is part myth and has to keep the myth going hence this rubbish about the leadership of the ALP. Why do we keep believing this old has been.

    For all Carpenters failings he seems squeaky clean unlike many in WA.

  3. The media is getting carried away with themselves

    They did it in 2005 as well, presenting a pathetic opposition as a credible alternative, and the voters werent too stupid to fall for it.

    Did anyone see Van Onselens piece of crap in todays sunday times? my god, a new low

  4. Libs launch election campaign


    The Western Australian Liberal Party has officially launched its election campaign.

    Hundreds of Liberal party supporters gathered at the University of Western Australia for the event.

    The guests included the Federal Leader Brendan Nelson and the former WA Premier Richard Court.

    Independent MP Liz Constable was also present, after joining forces with the Liberals for this election.

    Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash told the gathering that the WA Liberals would only be in Opposition for another two weeks.

  5. “Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash told the gathering that the WA Liberals would only be in Opposition for another two weeks.”

    Are they all going to join Barnett in retirement in two weeks time?

  6. I’ve heard the claim that the Libs are not currently fit for opposition let alone government but I thought they might have at least let their opponents run that line.

  7. Sorry its not online, it was an opinion piece

    Just kept on crapping on about the early election, why its so terrible, why Labor is so terrible

    Why Colin Barnett is so fantastic…

    He did however, say at the end, he still expects Labor to scrape in

  8. Sean, I can’t understand all this obsession about an early election. Didn’t Barnett say, “We’re ready, Bring it on” the day he got elected as Leader?

  9. It’s ridiculous

    Barnett spent a fair time whingeing about it at the Perth Press Club yesterday as well

    The Libs would have to be morons not to know an early election was coming, they make it out like people are offended about not having to vote in February.

    Most people dont even care, and those that do probably already vote Liberal

    I dont see how Barnett can expect to win when he’s constantly whingeing about the fact an election is actually being held.

  10. Here’s as much of the Peter van Onselen article as I’m comfortable republishing. I’m not sure that Barnett “has been given the duration of the Olympic Games as a honeymoon period” – it might seem that way to the politically engaged, but I suspect Carpenter was correct in calculating that Barnett’s been starved of oxygen in terms of reaching low-interest swinging voters.

    ALAN Carpenter is reaping what he sowed. By calling an early election he lost the moral high ground. He is now viewed as nothing more than an opportunistic politician and the Labor Party is looking grumpier by the day as the campaign wears on.

    The Government expected that voter anger with its decision to go early to the polls would dissipate quickly and it could go about dismantling a Liberal Party caught on the hop.

    What has actually happened is that Colin Barnett has been given the duration of the Olympic Games as a honeymoon period, which has allowed him to establish himself in the leadership and present as a legitimate alternative premier.

    Labor insiders are livid with what they see as media bias in favour of the Liberal Party. What did they expect? Carpenter didn’t give Barnett the traditional Aussie fair go, so the media have done it for him …

    The Liberals’ biggest problem remains convincing voters they are worthy of taking over the treasury benches, with limited female representation in their ranks, a treasurer who sniffs chairs and flicks open bra straps, a party president who didn’t want the present leader in the job and a parliamentary team that in recent years has spent more time on infighting than in battling the Labor Party.

    But oppositions usually don’t win elections; governments lose them. And the Labor Party has done enough to lose this one …

    Labor’s positive advertising campaign takes credit for the good economic times over the past seven years. But as Kevin Rudd said last year when campaigning against John Howard: Right now the economy is cruising along with a very strong tailwind, and it is called the mining boom. In other words, a cashed-up treasury should be doing all the good things the Carpenter Government is doing. The question voters are asking is: Why haven’t they done more? …

    Labor’s decision to leak its poor internal polling may help prevent a protest vote by electors wanting to give Labor a scare. But it will also help Liberals raise much-needed funds to blitz the airwaves.

    I still think the Labor Party, in the wake of one-vote, one-value legislation that has doubled its majority, will scrape home at this election. But if my life depended on getting that prediction right, I wouldn’t be feeling very comfortable right now.

  11. 214 It all sounds like most of the assessments that have come out so far. The only thing different his admission that the media have been giving Barnett “a fair go” so far.

    It is a debatable point whether this media “doing it for him” actually helps or hinders struggling leaders in a campaign. I suspect the media aren’t quite the help they consider themselves to be.

  12. 216 SeanofPerth – Why doesn’t Barnett just say he believes in motherhood? This ad tells us nothing really, except he doesn’t like the early election.

  13. A quote from the article William quotes above:

    “Carpenter didn’t give Barnett the traditional Aussie fair go, so the media have done it for him …”

    Oh please… I don’t even know where to start with this one.

  14. Re The Ad – What a bloody Whinger – no policies no vision.

    Re Burke, Grill’s only doing it to help Burke, nothing more and the public, according to the ALP polling haven’t seen Burke as a factor.

    Van Onsolon – former Howard Staffer – He’s the richard Wilkins of Political Analysis :-0)

  15. You’re into the “he hasn’t denied it therefore it must be so” camp. What a croc that is.

    Jasmine is using the same line as she did in the Karaoke incident – she’s like D’Oerazio wwho won’t let go – he honestly thinks he’s the Messiah, but he’s a *
    *Testa Di Cazzo 🙂

    (Richard Cranium in Italian)

  16. Hmm, Barnett entered UWA to Vanessa Amorosi’s “Absolutely Everybody” – the last time one of her songs was used, in Ansett’s case “Shine” THe Company went bust 🙂

  17. Frank probably up there with his 2005 effort when Barnett entered the room to “Suicide is Painless” – the theme from MASH …

  18. The conservatives are finally awake. Some negative comments have appeared on my Laborview Kimberley Community Cabinet videos on Youtube and Teachertube. Optimism is not well placed at this stage. Don’t think West Australians get Carpenter. He’s not a run of the mill politician. Almost as genuinely eccentric as Alannah McTiernan who deserves a national profile.

  19. 224 Kevin, I was actually reading a Teachers union thread about half an hour ago from the day the election was called and they weren’t happy at all.

  20. teachers are pathetic. the union is anyway. they feel entitled to pay equivalent to doctors for 1/3 of the work. i dont find a lot of sympathy for teachers in the general community that i meet and their greedy demands.

  21. 224 Kevin, I was actually reading a Teachers union thread about half an hour ago from the day the election was called and they weren’t happy at all.

    I think you’ll find that the Teachers Union has been split with a faction who are aligned with PLATO- the anti Outcomes Based Education lobby group. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re the ones stirring the pot for the Libs and re trying to stonewall the current teacher’s pay offer, which the main Union body have accepted “in principle”.

  22. The Libs put teacher’s pay increase at the centre of their campaign launch today.

    And note that is in addition to any pay rise currently being voted on.

  23. Is it a bad thing if the Liberals want to increase teachers pay? I dont understand whats wrong with that in a WA context?

  24. I think you’ll find that the Teachers Union has been split with a faction who are aligned with PLATO- the anti Outcomes Based Education lobby group.”

    So add elements of the teachers union to the nurses union and another union, was it the police union?, who are dissing labor and are pro liberal.

    Do you think maybe Carpenter should run a ” beware of the union (boo) bosses campaign” if the the libs are voted in?

  25. Is it a bad thing if the Liberals want to increase teachers pay? I dont understand whats wrong with that in a WA context?

    There has been a long and protracted and often bitter pay dispute between the State School Teachers Union and the Govt, with the union threatening to campaign in marginal seats. At present the union has agreed to an in principle agreement on Pay & Conditions.

    The Union Podcast is here.


    And the pay deal negotiated is here.


    Unfortunately, there is the splinter group I mentioned above who are driving the no vote, this splinter group had attempted to vote their members onto the executive, but failed.

    For Barnett to come as the “Fairy Godmother” at an Election is cynical in the extreme.

  26. ESJ,

    It’s a well known fact that teachers and police can rely on Liberal promises. Just look what happened in Victoria in the 90s under Kennett.

    Careful what you wish for, eh. You just might get it.

  27. It does seem a bit of a trend though GG, public sector unions complaining about State Labor Governments.

    It would seem logical to me that a public sector union (of all unions) would want to keep at least the appearance of distance or neutrality between the major parties.

    Besides hoeing into public sector workforce isnt necessarily popular as per Kennet, no GG?

  28. Agreed that it is a cynical move by Barnett to support wage increases for public school teachers.

    However, unions have been very successful over recent years in attracting public support for their issues. The recent teachers EBA negotiations in Victoria are just one example. The general public actually supported the teachers industrial action and the Government eventually gave the union much of what they wanted.

    Unconditional union support for Labor is no longer guaranteed – just like Labor support for workers interests is no longer guaranteed. So the unions have been fighting their campaigns on issues – which party delivers the best result for their members is less important.

  29. ESJ,

    PS unions not supporting Labor Givernments is pure folly. Show me any example where Unions are better off with a Liberal Government. Really, it is support Labor or the knackery.

    Sometimes the turkeys vote for Christmas.

  30. Of course if Labor put the teachers’ demands at the centre of their campaign they would be pandering to unions wouldn’t they?

  31. Do you unions actually still exist in WA? Didnt they die and nobody noticed?

    Kevin Reynolds and the CFMEU have been strangely silent since Shelley Archer decided to quit politics – this was the union behind Brian Burke.

    But to answer your question Unions WA (the peak body) are still around but haven’t been very vocal this time around.

  32. To quote from one of the comments on Perth Now regarding Stephen Smiths warning of a Liberal Win from “Andrew of Perth”, a very interesting tidbit about who introduced Outcome Based Education which the Libs are so opposed to – it seems it was introduced by Colin Barnett himself.

    Education – Barnett closed Kewdale and Scarborough and partly closed Churchlands and City Beach, introduced OBE into the schools (before you accuse Labor – it happened in 1998, and I have the signed letter from Barnett commending it!), and privatised the school cleaning services which turned out to be 4 times as expensive as it was under public ownership, which was restored under Gallop. Gallop also opened schools at Port Kennedy, Mindarie and of course Shenton College which is now one of our better state high schools. After realising OBE had failed, the current Education Minister is sorting that Liberal mess


  33. William,

    Anything of note from Robert Taylor – does he describe the Liberal Party Launch as the Second Coming ? 🙂

  34. Sean of Perth @ 226
    “teachers are pathetic. the union is anyway. they feel entitled to pay equivalent to doctors for 1/3 of the work. i dont find a lot of sympathy for teachers in the general community that i meet and their greedy demands.”

    I feel another ‘oh please’ attack coming on. If teaching was so easy and such lazy work for good money you wonder why there are teacher shortages!

    I’ll tell you what is easy and lazy, bashing teachers and supporting it by saying that the public is on your side.

  35. Well break out the champagne, bring out the dancing girls, no need for the last two weeks of the campaign because the Liberals have as good as won according to the Australian.

    [WESTERN Australia’s Liberals danced in the aisles yesterday, roaring approval and radiating confidence in a slick US-style election campaign launch featuring rock music, balloons and candidates in glittering blue bowler hats.

    Just weeks after being written off as a party headed for annihilation, the Liberals declared themselves ready to rule, buoyed by recent opinion polls showing them neck-and-neck with Labor.

    New leader Colin Barnett and his wife Lyn arrived at the Octagon Theatre, at the University of Western Australia in Perth, to wild applause as Vanessa Amorosi’s rock anthem, Absolutely Everybody, boomed out and the 600-strong crowd jumped to their feet.

    Speaking without notes, Mr Barnett promised to restore the state’s reputation after years of scandal, and to tackle the widening gap between rich and poor.]


  36. Did I miss something…. or has no one commented on the south west gas line?
    from Bunbury to Albany ? promised by the liberals
    It runs through 3 marginal seats !
    Is this similar to the canal from Broome?

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