WA election minus five days (Labor minus eight seats)

The Poll Bludger’s WA election guide has been reupholstered with predictions, campaign updates and a Legislative Council page. The upshot of the first of these is that I’m tipping Labor to emerge one by-election defeat from oblivion, with 30 seats out of 59. Predicted Liberal gains are Kingsley, Darling Range, Bunbury, Collie-Preston, Ocean Reef, Riverton, North West and Swan Hills, with no corresponding losses (such as Albany or Geraldton). Labor’s victory would thus depend on Jandakot, beneficiary of the Mandurah rail line and Fiona Stanley Hospital, and Joondalup, where a 4.4 per cent margin looks a bridge too far against a sitting member, despite talk of the northern suburbs as “tiger country”. However, it should be noted that further losses in Forrestfield, Southern River and Mount Lawley are not out of the question (the latter was a target of Labor’s campaign launch promise to build a rail line to Ellenbrook, reportedly pre-empting an announcement from the Liberals); that Morley turned up a surprise poll result on the weekend; and that Kimberley can be very unpredictable. I’m tipping the Liberals to lose Moore and Blackwood-Stirling to the Nationals, if indeed the latter can be said to be a Liberal rather than a Nationals seat; Janet Woollard to retain Alfred Cove, though not with great confidence; and Bill Marmion to recover Nedlands from Liberal-turned-independent member Sue Walker. That leaves the Liberals with 23 seats, the Nationals with four and two independents.

The upper house looms as a potential bonanza for the heretofore unrepresented religious parties: my guess is two seats for Family First, 15 for Labor, 14 for Liberal, two for the Nationals and three for the Greens. I expect Liberal-turned-Family First member Anthony Fels to win a seat in Agricultural along with two Liberal, two Labor and one Nationals, although Fels’ place could be taken by Mac Forsyth of the Christian Democratic Party if One Nation falls hard enough. I’m also tipping former Liberal deputy leader Dan Sullivan to win a seat in South West, joining two Labor, two Liberal and one Greens member, although the picture here is complicated – it could be right four, left two rather than three-all, and the Greens, Family First and Nationals are all in the picture. My tip in Mining and Pastoral is three Labor, two Liberal and one Nationals, though Labor’s third seat could go to the Greens and there could be a third Liberal instead of a National. In the metro area, I’m tipping three Labor, two Liberal and one Greens in East Metropolitan (it’s not impossible the latter seat could go to the CDP); three Liberal, two Labor and one Greens in North Metropolitan; and three-all in South Metropolitan.

Here are some of the electorate-level campaign updates from the election guide:

Collie-Preston (Labor 0.9%): Early in the campaign, Grahame Armstrong of the Sunday Times reported that Steve Thomas had “spoken in favour” of mineral sands miner Cable Sands while renting a house from them for $30 a week, which Thomas argued was all it was worth. Paul Murray of The West Australian claimed Labor had planted the story with Armstrong, a one-time press secretary to Geoff Gallop, whom he accused of running it even after it had been “factually destroyed by a letter from the company supplied to the newspaper before publication”.

Riverton (Labor 2.1%): The West Australian reported on Saturday that Labor was making a “last-ditch attempt” to hold the seat by promising the Leach Highway truck ban promised in 2005 would be fully operational by the end of the year. At present the government has implemented only the “stage” of the ban, targeting trucks longer than 19 metres. Riverton has been described during the campaign by party sources as “of concern” to Labor, and “in play”.

Bunbury (Labor 0.9%) and Albany (Liberal 2.3%): The Liberals have targeted two marginals in one hit with their promise to spend $225 million building a natural gas pipeline linking Bunbury and Albany.

And here’s me in Friday’s Crikey. An important point missing from the article below is that the Buswell website was developed by Labor while he was still leader – their error was in failing to recognise that the attack looked disproportionate after he’d quit.

With so much ammunition available to both sides, it comes as no surprise to find the WA election campaign dominated by negative advertising. Liberal mailouts have depicted Alan Carpenter projecting Brian Burke’s shadow onto a wall, while the six radio ads on the party’s website feature one Whingeing Wendy after another (in an interesting inversion of the situation in the party room, two-thirds of the voices are female).

For a party caught on the hop by an early election after a term consumed by leadership turmoil, such tactics might have been an operational necessity. The positive side of the Liberal campaign has won few admirers: policy announcements have been either re-heated or half-baked, with this week’s showpiece tax cut package criticised as both too modest and lacking in detail. The one television ad promoting Colin Barnett’s leadership qualities is either a conscious attempt to project an image of bland competence, or it indicates an even greater personality deficit than first feared. The party’s newer ad is more consistent with the tenor of the campaign, inviting viewers to spend a silent 30 seconds trying to think of “three good things Alan Carpenter’s Labor has done in eight years of boom”.

However, it’s been Labor’s tactics that have emerged as an election issue as the race enters the home stretch. On Wednesday the party launched an online dirt sheet called TruthAboutTroy.com, focusing on the colourful life and times of former leader and current Shadow Treasurer Troy Buswell. This was hardly the first time a made-to-order website had been used to attack political opponents, or even enemies within (most memorably in the case of the anti-Ted Baillieu website that was traced to Victorian Liberal Party headquarters). A Liberal-authorised federal election site called unionbosses.net continues to greet visitors with tales of “union thuggery”, “dirty tricks” and “Labor’s union links”, along with audio of former ALP member Dean Mighell employing intemperate language while addressing ETU members.

Part of the problem with Labor’s intensely personal attack on Buswell was that it arrived as concern over the campaign’s increasingly negative tone was ready to crystallise. It took only a short sharp talk radio backlash for Alan Carpenter to order that the site be pulled, with state secretary and safe seat candidate Bill Johnston sent out to face the music from a hostile Russell Woolf on ABC Radio. It was a different story earlier on in the campaign, when Labor took advantage of the Liberals’ unpreparedness to saturate Olympics schedules with ads promoting the government’s past achievements and future plans. With the website episode threatening to reinforce perceptions of arrogance and cynicism, it might be time for Labor to dust off its positive message in the final week of the campaign, shop-worn though it may be.

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.

449 comments on “WA election minus five days (Labor minus eight seats)”

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  1. I’m thinking Labor 32, Liberals 21, Nationals 4, Independents 2. Not that my opinion carries any weight, mind you. I’m not sure about Alfred Cove, living in the electorate myself. There are lots of Janet Woollard posters along canning highway and in Applecross but relatively few in Mt Pleasant and elsewhere. With Kierath not running for the Libs, their vote should increase.

    Interestingly, on one of her pamphlets Woollard claims she has spoken to Barnett and would join a coalition with the Liberals if required. Strange there is a Liberal candidate in Alfred Cove but not Churchlands?

  2. There is no state based IR policy anymore anywhere, its about as useful as state based defence policies.

    Some smarties in the ALP like to trot it out as a clever line – oh what are they going to do about IR, the answer is straightforward they (the Liberals) like the state ALPS will apply Forward with fairness. The one area where they have any choice is on what to do with their public service IR.

    It was all agreed months ago. Or am I wrong GB, did all the Labor states not agree to forward with fairness (and its call for one national system?)

    Off to the execution block you provocateur GB!

    If I am Mata Hari GG, does that make you Sydney Reilly?

  3. Personally, I’m not scared of state workchoices. That ‘big scary workchoices monster’ which reared its ugly head at the last federal election- what a lot of rot. Only little girls are scared of such a thing, surely!? Anyway, as ESJ accurately points out, state governments are quite limited in this area.

  4. William,

    There is a Flyer being distributed in Swan Hills by Graham Giffard featuring endorsements from various people, including Retiring sitting member Jaye Radisich 🙂 She also authorised a flyer detailing Labor’s approach to Trail Bikes, a local issue in the Hills area.

  5. I was pleased to see that WA Inc is still alive and well in the west on the 7.30 Report. If Mr Moodie wasn’t the victim of a politically motivated assassination over a trifling $6,000 travel allowance, I will walk from Adelaide to Perth. Who watches the watchers?

  6. GG,

    It seems from Williams post there may be some preventitive shredding going on in government offices in Perth as we speak?

    Is it Der Untergang? Does Julie Bishop regret not deciding to become Liberal Fuhrer for Greater Perth after the federal downfall?

  7. Diogenes,

    Do you smell the fear in the air?

    And bonus – Nader is +4 in the latest CNN poll. My automatic rife out of my cold dead hands – LOL

  8. William, I wouldn’t bet on the Nationals winning four seats, but given their independent stance and consistently good polling (~30%) in rural areas, they should be able to pull it off on the back of Labor preferences.

  9. My very amateur predictions are that there will be more non-ALP and Liberal seats than are being forecast. Based on living in the area, I forecast Bill Stewart to win in Carine and for Elizabeth Re to win in Scarborough, both Independents. I’m very disappointed that there has not been useful coverage of the new Scarborough seat, in particular. Antony Green – your ABC summary of the electorates says nothing about a burning issue that affects all of us who value the WA coastline: coastal development. The Liberals put up a pro-high rise candidate in Scarborough and a dubious candidate in Carine who does not live in the electorate and has no relationship to it. The ALP’s candidate in Scarborough is also pro-high rise.

    I rang Patterson today about the poll I took part in on Friday and was told that next Saturday’s West Australian will publish the results. It will make very interesting reading just before we vote.

  10. I don’t know what you’re on ESJ but I want some. As for your comments that are making some sense to me I respectively disagree. As far as that issue is concerned we’re done.

  11. William,

    I disagree with you on Swan Hills, after the Train Announcement on Sunday and with Frank Alban’s comments re Ellenbrook as a Councillor in regards to applying a levy for Ellenbrook residents to fund the suburbs parks and gardens, I very much doubt a Liberal win. Also, Swan Hills loses the liberal booth in Henley Brook to West Swan.

  12. ESJ

    I don’t smell fear, just the pervading stench of corruption. Fortunately in SA Mike Rann assures us that we don’t have any corruption so we don’t need a CCC. Judging by the CCC in WA, we’re not missing out on much. I must say that Brian Burke still looks good in his Panama.

  13. Indeed Diogenes, the State ALP’s collectively could you use some extensive colonic irrigation.

    At least the conservatives do corruption properly with the ALP its usually something banal like a job for someone who is unemployable on their merits.

  14. Uncle Ewe was a traindriver turned brewer who invented the world renowned lager called “Piston Pale”.

    He was only Pistoff when the beer ran out.

  15. ESJ

    Given that one of Carpenter’s first actions was to remove the ban on WA Labor pollies schmoozing with Brian Burke and Grill, with the local rag cheering him on, I’m surprised that there aren’t more questions about his honesty, or stupidity. How many ministers etc do you have to sack before someone works out that you are the problem?

  16. Sean,

    What’s your take on Swan Hills ? I reckon Morley will be retained by the ALP, D’Orazio flip flopping on resigning, rejoining and then re-resigning cos he didn’t get his way makes him look like he’s only in it for himself, and not the Electorate.

  17. BRIAN BURKE: Um, has the Minister met with Brian Burke since becoming the Minister for Small Business. If so, how many times? That was a simple question. Okay?


    BRIAN BURKE: If, er, he, if Mr Burke, or any other lobby or lobbyist including Bill Hassel, Richard Court or Barry McKinnon seek to meet with me about matters infecting my responsibility, I’ll make a decision on the basis of the approach. Mr Burke and his family are friends of mine. I meet them from time to time and intend to continue to do so. All right?


    BRIAN BURKE: It’s all signed off, but mate.


    BRIAN BURKE: This is now three, four weeks since I gave you these answers.

    NORM MARLBOROUGH: Yes. Yeah, but I didn’t write them down.

    BRIAN BURKE: What are you f**king trying to do to me?

    NORM MARLBOROUGH: I’m not trying to do anything. I just need to get them today.

  18. I always find with the footy that when my team wins by a large margin it doesn’t quite have the enjoyment and satisfaction as winning by a point. Conversely losing by a point is always far more disappointing than losing by a large margin. A one seat win would be fine.

  19. Gary

    Rann had a one seat majority for his first term. It was a disaster. You can’t govern with a gun held to your head, especially if it is held by the Speaker who was being accused of really having illegal guns.

  20. Sean, last time I tipped every seat correctly except Kingsley and Greenough, which I failed to pick as a Nationals gain from the Liberals. I’m not saying I’ll do so well again this time.

    Darn, Menzies put an end to his one-term majority by calling an extraordinary early election in 1963 that left the House and Senate cycles out of whack until 1974.

  21. Oh – in the absence of any other responses I finally thought of one connection that Bill Johnston has to my poor little electorate – he’s the one that authorised the bulk of the negative ALP election material including the Troy Buswell attack website. I’m sure that must count as a local connection in some way…??? Still waiting on anything more substantial.
    C’mon ALP’ers – the guy might even just live in the electorate, I just don’t know. Can anyone help? I must have missed the candidate’s declarations with their addresses this time around – they normally publish in the West don’t they? I never saw it.

  22. C’mon ALP’ers – the guy might even just live in the electorate, I just don’t know. Can anyone help? I must have missed the candidate’s declarations with their addresses this time around – they normally publish in the West don’t they? I never saw

    They were in the West the Wednesday after Nominations closed 🙂

    and are also here 🙂


  23. As I put some money on the result for a lib win (the odds were too good to refuse)… I guess I should predict a Liberal win.

    I don’t know much about Jandakot, but I would add Joondalup to the list of gains. Guessing Forrestfield and Southern River to the Libs. I’d then skip Mt Lawley as a retain (for Labor) and make Wanneroo as a gain (for the Libs)… Wanneroo voted over 55% Liberal at the last Federal election and those newer areas of Madeley, Carramar, Tapping look more like Woodvale than they do Marangaroo. If Quigley wasn’t running, I’d add Mindarie to the gains – but he will probably hold onto the seat given the Libs not running a campaign and he’s got a big profile.

    I think West Swan could get a big swing… but probably not enough.

    So with Jandakot, Joondalup, Forrestfield, Southern River and Wanneroo – that gives Liberal 28, Labor 25, Nats 4, Ind 2…

    That said, Labors anti-uranium campaign is penetrating well so I won’t bet my house on it – but at this stage I’m backing the Libs to form a minority govt.

  24. For the upper house I’m tipping:

    North Metro:
    3 Labor
    3 Liberal

    East Metro:
    3 Labor
    2 Liberal
    1 Green

    South Metro:
    3 Labor
    3 Liberal

    2 Labor
    2 Liberal
    1 Green
    1 Family First

    Mining and Pastoral:
    3 Labor
    2 Liberal
    1 National

    2 Labor
    2 Liberal
    1 National
    1 CDP

    16 Labor
    14 Liberal
    2 Green
    2 National
    1 Family First
    1 CDP

    Also, I think the ALP might have a few issues in the northern suburbs as was reported. A few Labor campaigners I’ve talked to seemed to be rather unenthusiastic about their prospects- unusual for university students to say the least.

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