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. Yep, Graham was good, but I’m biased 🙂 Didn’t hear Alban, Did Harvey mention his stance on a Parks and Amenities Tax in Ellenbrook ?

  2. Just saw Carpenter having lunch with one of his daughters in the Carillion arcade foodcourt. He looked pretty relaxed. Lots of people coming over to say hello.

  3. no he did not bring up the issue neither did graham i thought it may have been i line off attack against frank alban but he kept postive

  4. #348 Barnett’s adds did not do anything for me personally either because I knew it was fluff My comments were based on potential undecided voters reactions who by definition think as of now neither Party is distinctive for there wishs and how they may react

    Mentioned Bracks in Victoria in 99 in #291 because his win was a surprise and also he used a similar add technique Hope your view is shared by undecided’s

  5. harvey did make a good point though about jayes popularity and ellenbrook is the key area i think the liberals will gain ground in swan hills but it might not be enough for them to win

  6. Interesting WAToday/6PR are the only ones covering the costings – I’m assuming the others are going through it trying to find some holes 🙂

  7. What do people think about using family in the election? Obviously with Sarah Pallin’s current issues its topical but I was interested and a little surprised to see that Carps had been ‘having lunch’ with one of his daughters at the Carillon food court. No doubt someone will say it was an entirely private moment – I would argue it is probably one of the most public places in Perth and I don’t recall seeing him eating in there before – coincidence he’d pop up there with his kid this week?
    Now, I would hate to see the families dragged into this but I think it’d be cynical of Carps to rule it out given what he’s just done. Of course, I’m curious at the line – does having your family in the flyers count as politicising them? What about appearing in interviews? What about having them help with the campaign? Is there a line and where is it? Is family always off-limits no matter how you might use them to help your campaign? I’m kinda just musing aloud here – feel free to jump in any time…

  8. vpl, I can’t remember the last time I saw an election pamphlet without the mandatory family photo.

    And both sides do it as well. I note that Frank Alban has his photo on his Election Material.

  9. #335, his wife was probably logged in when he sent in his pap. Really grace can’t be any worse than murray, Australia’s most boring and most inept writer.

    the libs ads are pretty bad. barnett looks totally exhausted, almost ready for retirement.
    Carps daughter doesn’t look that pleased about being in his ad.

  10. certainly no accident Carps was there at this time – i can’t see him being caught dead there any other time 🙂

    i reckon once they appear in interviews they are fair game.

  11. Oh, I completely agree both sides do it routinely – I was just wondering when or at what point (if ever) does it open the families up to being targets?
    I guess part of my thinking is also based on the Carps/Barnett radio interview over education last time around when Carps bashed Barnett for sending his youngest kid to a private school and Barnett got quite upset about what he considered an improper targetting of his family for political purposes… So, when are they legit targets?

  12. They are legit targets when aren’t getting personal. Implying someone’s daughter is a slut vs they goto private school is a big huge chasm. I don’t think Barnett was in his rights to have a cry about that one.

  13. Heck, there is a swing to Labor on the unscientific Perth Now poll.

    I couldn’t care less
    Total votes
    Total of 1787 votes

  14. You can’t get away with that one VPL.

    As I recall that ABC morning show interview Barnett was trumpeting about how wonderful the State education system was under his stewardship. Carpenter merely asked him the obvious question, did Barnett’s child attend a Government school.

    Barnett’s response was to attack Carpenter with a sheath of papers.

  15. Hate to disappoint the cynics, but to me it looked to me like a father having lunch with his daughter. There were no minders or security around.

  16. Average Joe
    Would you still feel the same way if Barnett’s kid had a disability? Would you still feel the same way about Carps’ daughter if he was campaigning on a morality platform (not that I am suggesting for a minute anything about Carps’ daughter)? Is it never ok for an Education Minister to use private schools, a Health Minister to use private hospitals or a Housing Minister to not live in Homeswest accomodation (ok, the last one was a joke). You get the idea.

  17. Frank, stop multiple voting! You’ll screw up the scientific methodology!

    I can’t, it won’t allow multiple voting unless I reconnect and get a new IP address and/or flush my cookies, which I’m not.

    Oh and heaps of Family First ads on 6PR – one just now was promising an immediate $150 top to the fortnightly pension.

  18. My wife thinks I’m cute. You were the one jumping to conclusions, all I said was Carps ‘bashed’ Barnett about sending his kid to a private school and Barnett got upset about it. I WAS THE ONE WHO RAISED THE EVENT. The ALP haven’t used it in their ads, no-one else has even raised it prior to me. If you object to the word ‘bashed’ I would be happy to withdrawn it and replace it with ‘confronted’. Are you happy now? There’s no need to get all precious about your beloved Carps.
    So, are you saying that using Barnett’s young (I think he was an early teenager at the time) son (whom I understand – and I could be completely wrong about this – had a learning difficulty) and his family’s choice of education for political mileage was not gratuitous? Is there any possibility in your world view that someone could be a supporter of public education but choose to send a child to a private school because they felt it would be the best decision for that child… thousands of families make sacrifices to do it you know.

  19. “thousands of families make sacrifices to do it you know.”

    Thousands make sacrifices in other ways for their children while sending them to government schools too, so what’s the problem?

  20. Steve
    No argument – that’s why families’ choices for their children aren’t necessarily political grist. So, we go back to my original question – when is it ok to target families/kids?

  21. People can send their children to whatever school they wish and that is not the issue. Whether you raised the Barnett incident or however it was raised is not the issue.

    You chose to present the conduct of the parties in a way that was pejorative towards Carpenter.You failed to present the context in which the exchange took place, which context places Carpenter in the position of having asked an entirely appropriate question in the circumstances.

    There is not now, nor ever has been, any suggestion that Carpenter knew anything about Barnett’s children in the particular sense. Why do you raise it?

  22. You just have to love the timing of this – trying to prop up their Liberal mates.

    More than 100 cardiovascular staff, including the directors of cardiology at the Royal Perth and Fremantle Hospitals, have written to the Executive Director of the Fiona Stanley Hospital, Brad Sebbes expressing grave concerns about plans for the cardiovascular unit.

    The staff say they can not support the plans because not enough space or operating theatres are provided.

    However, Mr Sebbes has rejected the criticism.

    “All our planning numbers suggest that we’ve given them adequate space and adequate capacity to deal with the future requirements, ” he said.

    It is understood the Clinical Staff Association at Royal Perth Hospital will also publish a full page newspaper advertisement tomorrow criticising the plans for the Fiona Stanley Hospital.

    More than 100 cardiovascular staff have written to the Executive Director of the Fiona Stanley Hospital, Brad Sebbes expressing grave concerns about plans for the cardiovascular unit.


  23. Article detailing Both Parties Costing from WAToday.

    Both major parties have released the costings for their election promises today and they show that the impact on the state’s economy will be almost identical.

    Labor’s promises will cost about $2.142 billion over and above already budgeted government spending in the next four years, while Liberal pledges will cost about $2.048 billion.

    Releasing the Liberal party’s costings today, treasury spokesman Troy Buswell said they provided a sound financial platform for the state.

    The net amount of $1.8 billion, which the Liberal Party released, is made up of about $1.14 billion in recurring expenditure and $662 million in new capital spending.

    However, according to Treasury, about $238 million further will be required to service interest and depreciation.


  24. I’m predicting a marginal Liberal Party victory.

    Just saw Carpenter on TV and he looked stale and arrogant, whereas Colin Barnett actually looks like a decent opposition.

    I also think the no uranium mining BS will backfire… most people don’t really care about Uranium mining(though they don’t want nuke powerplants here) and in a state like WA this will probably backfire on Carpenter. If I lived in WA I would vote Colin Barnett based solely on this issue.

    Interesting times ahead.

  25. Barnett isn’t going to be able to use the ‘arrogant’ wedge on carpenter, because he’s Colin Barnett’s problem is that he’s Colin Barnett. Anyone who remembers the libs last term (so , not the under 25 set so much) will probably not be fond of the guy, even if they are fond of liberals.

    It could go either way, although I’m still, alas, leaning to a lib win. Dark times ahead.

  26. Meanwhile, at Edith Cowan University, the student Guild has assessed the five major parties, and has all but endorsed the Greens. Ranking the parties in four categories of Education, Health, Climate Change and Equity & Diversity, the parties were given letter grades. Labor has come second, with the two Christian parties bringing up the rear.
    The results are as follows…

    Greens (WA)…
    Education: A
    Health: B+
    Climate Change: A+
    Equity and Diversity: A+

    Australian Labor Party
    Education: B
    Health: B
    Climate Change: B+
    Equity and Diversity: B-

    Liberal Party…
    Education: B-
    Health: B
    Climate Change: F
    Equity and Diversity: D-

    Family First
    Education: B+
    Health: D
    Climate Change: D
    Equity and Diversity: F

    Christian Democratic Party…
    Education: D-
    Health: D-
    Climate Change: D-
    Equity and Diversity: D

    Their justifications can be found here, along with a ‘star’ system of grading the parties…

    For those playing at home, ECU is the states second largest university student-wise, and has three campuses in Mount Lawley, Joondalup and Bunbury, all battleground seats.
    The Guild invited all five parties to set up stalls today at Mount Lawley, but only the Greens showed. Mind you, I imagine the others were reluctant to support an event that dis-endorsed them! The general mood on campus is pretty disengaged. Many students here are unsure as to how to vote. Any news like this from other campuses?

  27. I’m kind of jealous of all these people getting mail from different candidates. Living in Perth all I got was a flyer from John Hyde that talked about Labor in general on the first page, and inside had lots of scans of newspaper articles with Hyde ‘doing stuff’, so there’s a sense of action, but no specifics.

    That, and a pamphlet from the Greens. I guess it’s my fault for living in a safe seat.

    I’m surprised Colin Barnett is talking about ‘Saving Royal Perth Hospital.’ From what I’ve heard the old fittings and numerous cracks mean it’s rife with disease, and should be torn down and moved to a shiny, healthy new building before too many people die.

  28. I’m surprised Colin Barnett is talking about ‘Saving Royal Perth Hospital.’ From what I’ve heard the old fittings and numerous cracks mean it’s rife with disease, and should be torn down and moved to a shiny, healthy new building before too many people die.

    And it was as a result of the privatisation of the Cleaning services of the Hospital during the Court Era.

  29. 387 Frank

    As a SA doc in the same situation as those in WA (Labor wants to build a new “Marjorie Jackson-Nelson Hospital” here which doctors don’t want) it’s pretty extraordinary that the WA docs would do something like that.

    Is there a clear difference between WA Lib and Labor policy on the Fiona Stanley Hospital?

    An overtly and grossly political advertisement paid for by hospital doctors is unfathomable just before an election. If Labor win, the doctors will get nothing as that kind of thing goes down VERY BADLY with Health Departments. All the Health Department has to say is “You made it into a political issue in the campaign and the voters endorsed our plan so fcuk off.”

    I can only assume that the docs think the Liberals are going to win.

  30. Oh geez – surprise, surprise – a student guild (and of ECU no less!) has backed the Greens then the ALP, who would have guessed?
    In tonight’s mailbag – nothing, again. I sympathise Thomas – being in Cannington I am certainly not being swamped and no-one is promising to remove anything from my major roads!
    Lots of people I talk to agree that RPH is past it – but they still don’t want to see it closed. Especially they don’t like the idea of losing the emergency ward nearest them.
    The only thing that remined me that there was an election on was the local paper – but that left lots of wierd questions:
    1. Ryan Chorley – a 25 year old Law/Econs grad – has a sub-heading ‘Experience’ in his ad? Huh? Have I missed something? What experience exactly does a 25 year old law/econs grad who lives in Kensington have of anything?
    2. Bill Johnston’s ad says ‘BJ and Carps are working for Cannington’ – and yet AFAICT they haven’t actually done (or promised) anything for Cannington.
    3. Greens ad doesn’t say much of anything
    4. Ad about 250 trucks removed from Leach Highway… hum – bit sceptical when you promise a ban, then don’t (or only partially) implement it, then at the next election promise to implement it by Christmas.
    5. A full-page ad (albeit on an even – or inside – page) for Mike Nahan. He’s taking this seriously and spending some cash
    6. But the one that really had me baffled was this – the letters to the editor the Community Paper (in a very strict interpretation of the Act) requires all letters on State Election issues to have a name and full street address for publication. A letter expressly endorsing one candidate DIDN’T have an address where an article only decrying the poor viewing figures of the leaders’ debate DID have a full address published. Can someone tell me how a candidate endorsement is not a State Election issue but the failure to watch a debate is?

  31. Yep, I was correct. I actually caught a VRE bug in the Spinal Unit in 2000 when I had a pressure area on my leg.

    A breakdown in hygiene protocols may well have contributed. Miscellaneous Workers Union spokesman David Kelly pointed to the privatisation of cleaning services at RPH. Kelly said private contractors were used to clean non-ward areas, while staff cleaning the wards were also engaged in catering and orderly services. Kelly said staff who are required to do several jobs at once might be playing a part in the spread of the VRE.

    “When non-ward cleaning was privatised the standards went down the toilet. From our point of view the jury is still out on the effectiveness of multi-skilled workers who are cleaning the wards because the reports to us are that they are run off their feet.”

    To date, RPH management has not commented publicly on the question of private cleaners, yet it has decided to restore in-house cleaning.


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