WA election minus two days

The big news of the last week has been Labor’s publicising of comprehensive internal polling from the marginal seats of Albany, Kingsley, Riverton, Ocean Reef and Swan Hills. The figures show Labor trailing 34 per cent to 48 per cent on the primary vote, or 45-55 on two-party preferred. The trend line in the polling showed that just one week ago Labor was leading 52-48 on the back of a post-debate rally, restoring their fortunes after the much-touted 6 per cent swing picked up the previous week. I assume we’re talking about unadjusted results for the five specific seats, in which case they compare with a 2005 result of 51-49. It must be remembered that there are peculiarities to this particular collection of seats: Kingsley had a slightly anomalous result last time, local issues involving Leach Highway may be biting in Riverton, and Labor doesn’t have sitting members in its notionally held seats of Ocean Reef and Swan Hills. Against this is the fact that Labor can expect a better-than-average result in Albany, as they will be campaigning seriously in the newly added areas for the first time. On balance, the sample of seats used might be expected to add up to a slightly above average swing. If another 2 per cent can be accounted for by the margin of error and late efforts to scare waverers, Labor will still get its nose in front. Otherwise …

Labor is certainly behaving like a party with the smell of death in its nostrils, judging by the pitch of its scare campaigns on uranium mining and GM crops. However, The West Australian remains loftily dismissive of the message Labor is trying to send on polling, and indeed most other things. It should hope for vindication on this score, as last Thursday its front page proclaimed: “Forget talk of a tight race – Labor’s home, say WA’s two best political commentators”. Both of those commentators remain unmoved by the latest Labor figures. Paul Murray writes: “The pretty graphs shown fleetingly on television last night are not the detailed polling figures that are needed to examine Labor’s claims properly, as the ABC journalists who presented them know full well.” Such reliance on polling strategy is compared unfavourably with “Labor titans like John Curtin, Doc Evatt, Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke”, who “bravely plotted their own political courses, according to their consciences, in their dealings with the electors.” You are invited to contemplate a Paul Murray transported in time to the early 1970s, turning out columns in praise of the brave and principled leadership of Gough the Titan.

Robert Taylor writes that Labor “only has to improve between 2 and 3 per cent by polling day and it wins”, which makes it sound so easy. Furthermore, “the poll produced by Labor yesterday wasn’t too much different from the way things were running in the last week of the 2005 election campaign when Geoff Gallop came from behind just a week out to record a comfortable victory” – though on that occasion Labor had the free kick of Colin Barnett’s costings debacle two days out from polling day. Great weight is given to the survey’s other findings: “24 per cent of those polled said they could remember something that appealed to them about a Barnett message while 38 per cent said they could remember and liked something the Premier had said”, while only 31 per cent thought the Liberals ready for government (which interestingly compares with low-20s figures being put around at the start of the campaign). Expectations of the result are much as they’ve always been: 61 per cent of voters believed Labor would win, compared with 18 per cent for the Liberals. The bookies too remain non-plussed, offering $1.25 on Labor and $3.50 on Liberal.

UPDATE: Super-size all that: today the bottom of the front page is headlined, “Speculation ALP back on track as new polling figures withheld”. This is based on Labor’s refusal to release its figures for a second day running. The West is also literally running free Liberal advertising.


• More on The West Australian: A mirthful Matt Birney told 6PR’s Simon Beaumont that the Liberals had “certainly been aided and abetted by the West Australian newspaper – and more power to them I say, good on you guys, keep it up”. The West responded to this embarrassing assessment by criticising the ABC. Inside Cover’s Neale Prior went so far as to provide a direct number for ABC news chief Kim Jordan, encouraging readers to call and annoy him (anyone got Prior’s number?). Prior noted that the paper had equally been slammed for Labor bias by no less an authority than Colleen Mortimer, a reader who had sent them an email.

• The front page of the Liberal site features the television ad which Labor’s pollsters blame for their apparent slump. I personally don’t find the ad so devastating that it explains a 7 per cent reversal, and find myself wondering if the furore over the TruthAboutTroy website might have crystallised doubts about Labor’s style.

• There’s also a seventh radio ad on the Liberal site, and it’s yet another Whingeing Wendy effort (this time with a male voiceover). Radio advertising has been a point of difference between the two campaigns, with Labor’s jocular style typified by a depiction of Barnett as a quiz show contestant struggling with questions about uranium mining. In an interesting parallel with the federal campaign, Labor’s ads seem tailored for FM whereas the Liberals sound like they made theirs with talkback in mind.

• Ian Taylor, who led the Opposition for a year between the departure of Carmen Lawrence in 1994 and the brief tenure of Jim McGinty, has been expelled from the ALP for endorsing independent Murchison-Eyre MP John Bowler in his campaign for Kalgoorlie. Bowler was one of the four ministers whose scalps were claimed by the Corruption and Crime Commission’s inquiries.

• The Western Australian Electoral Commission predictably dismissed a Liberal complaint against Labor ads attacking Barnett over “nuclear waste”, as its power lies only over material involving “the casting of the elector’s vote”. The complaint nonetheless succeeded in communicating the party’s grievance through news coverage.

• Labor’s big ticket campaign launch item of a rail line to Ellenbrook no doubt has a lot to recommend it on policy grounds, but it inevitably invites speculation as to the government’s electoral objectives. The line will serve the electorates of Midland, Morley, Bassendean, West Swan and Swan Hills. Notwithstanding the complicated state of play in Morley, the only one of the aforementioned which is on the electoral front line is the latter. The Liberals matched the promise in such short order that there was speculation Labor had locked in the policy to pre-empt them.

• Another interestingly targeted policy is Labor’s promise to change the public transport fare structure to make fares cheaper in the outer suburbs. This benefits a wide arc of marginal seats from Ocean Reef on the northern coast through Joondalup, Wanneroo and Swan Hills to Darling Range.

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.

485 comments on “WA election minus two days”

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  1. How can The West say they’re not biased against Labor? They’ve been tearing strips off them for months, maybe longer. The tirade is constant. Probably goes back to when Gallop gave a free kick to The Sunday Times with a Royal Show deal. Relegating the defence to Inside Cover is insulting.

  2. vitap 418 (previous thread) – yes, Christian Porter seems a decent enough guy. I had him last year as a tutor and he adopted quite a common-sense, reasoned approach to law and order issues. Quite insightful and interesting as well…one criticism I will make (take note Mr Porter) is that he has terrible handwriting, absolutely shocking. I wonder, do you still consistently drink sprite-zero Mr Porter?

    By the way, does the media blackout come into effect tonight? I always thought it was at midnight on friday before election day? Has something changed or I have just been an idiot all these years?

  3. Probably goes back to when Gallop gave a free kick to The Sunday Times with a Royal Show deal.

    Plus the fact that the Govt moved all Govt employment advertising from Print to the Web.

    I also note that the Sunday Times have also gone VERY anti Labor – no doubt as payback for being raided over the leaking of cabinet documents relating to a “War Chest”

  4. Bottom of the front page of The West: “Speculation ALP back on track as new polling figures withheld”.

    Just one day after releasing internal polling from Monday night in a bid to head off a looming protest vote, the Labor Party yesterday refused to release Tuesday’s numbers, fuelling speculation the Government was back on track to win Saturday’s poll … Labor spokesman David Britton claimed the release on Tuesday of the previous three weeks figures up to Monday night was a ‘one-off thing’, though he would not rule out releasing more figures before the polls close on Saturday.

    Nothing more to it than that.

  5. By the way, does the media blackout come into effect tonight? I always thought it was at midnight on friday before election day? Has something changed or I have just been an idiot all these years?

    Yes, the media blackout on Radio & TV ads only comes into effect at Midnight, and has been that way since the proclamation of the Broadcast Services Act 1992.

    Under the old act, the Blackout also included News and Comment as well as advertising, and prior to 1972, there was even a blackout of the Election Results into WA till 10pm local tim, as the Polls closed at 8pm, so as not to influence a late vote in a Federal Poll. These days with the Intertubes and mobile phones, it would be near next to impossible to maintain such a blackout.

  6. William,

    That’s a strange tactic to say the least and it just might work. You forgot to mention the ALP TV ad that has been runnig tonight – VERY effective, btw, the Male British voice on the ALP ad you mention, Greg Marston, is one of the Voiceover Artists used for State Govt Ads.

  7. Page three: Fran Logan “fighting for his political life” due to his disputed story that he “had to counsel” a former government adviser for spreading rumours he had exposed himself at a hotel. The parents of the woman, “whose identity The West Australian has agreed to protect”, have written a signed statement accusing Logan of lying. “The couple said they had resisted requests to speak out on the issue for montghs but flet compelled to break their silence after it emerged that teh Labor Party had set up an internet site called the Truth about Troy, authorised by ALP State secretary Bill Johnston.” They have also volunteered their services to Donald Barrett, Logan’s Liberal opponent in Cockburn.

  8. They have also volunteered their services to Donald Barrett, Logan’s Liberal opponent in Cockburn.

    I think the last sentence sums that story up perfectly.

    And they say The West isn’t biased 🙂

  9. Internet is not covered though is it? If the parties were clever they’d bombard wa websites etc. with political advertisments. Has anyone ever heard of e-mails being sent out on a mass level by the political parties?

  10. Internet is not covered though is it? If the parties were clever they’d bombard wa websites etc. with political advertisments.

    Here is your answer 🙂


    Has anyone ever heard of e-mails being sent out on a mass level by the political parties?

    Not a good idea as it may be in breach of the Spam Act, unless it’s to their own party members.

  11. On page eight, The West has a mock-up potential Liberal ad to demonstrate “how easy it would be for the Liberals to take what the Premier has said on television and distort its meaning in advertisements”. Beside a picture of Alan Carpenter:

    “You reckoned Brian Burke couldn’t influence your Ministers. What’s your latest false pledge to the people, Carps?”

    QUOTE: “Vision, stability, leadership”.

    “So, why would you dump Michelle Roberts from Cabinet if you win on Saturday, Premier?” (This from a paper which I don’t think said a single word about Colin Barnett’s earlier refusal to confirm Troy Buswell’s place in cabinet)

    QUOTE: “We need certainty and stability not disunity and chaos”.


    In full colour, complete with Liberal Party logo. I swear I’m not making this up.

  12. In full colour, complete with Liberal Party logo. I swear I’m not making this up.

    And in clear breach of the Electoral Act as well 🙂

  13. Duke of Peredur, No democracy, in Europe, America or anywhere else would send out mass political emails. It’d be considered spam and so filtered out anyway, and I don’t think such a move would win any friends! Plus how would you know everyone’s email address in WA, when emails are not geographically fixed or given out freely. It’d only have to be people who’d volunteered their emails.

  14. Simon – I was just reflecting on the fact that they did it with letters. This to me seems worse than e-mails, which don’t really waste as much money or time. Surely what you’re suggesting is a bit of a double standard. The difference between an inbox and a letter-box doesn’t seem significant to me. It’s basically the equivalent of spam in a physical form, don’t you think?

  15. At the risk of breaching the act myself

    No, you are covered under the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act for “Criticism & Review”

    The West on the other hand……. 🙂

  16. Duke of Peredur # 19 , it’s not a double standard. I was simply pointing out the impracticality of the whole thing. My “real” mailbox doesn’t instantly dump and burn my junk mail. I wish it could! My point is that it would be “automatically” classified as spam and ignored. You’d probably not even see it. With real mail you would actually have to LOOK at it before you trashed it. Emails to party members is as far as this could work I think.

  17. Simon 22 – yes of course, I understand. I only wish this Spam Act applied to my letterbox as well. Then again, I seem to be having to pay all my bills online now which is really pissing me off. Ahh, if only people would be reasonable and sensible about things!

  18. That ad is really a low act by the West and could backfire on both the Paper, and the Libs – I hope that the ALP do take this to the Electoral Commission as it does have the potential to mislead voters that this is an official Liberal Party endorsed Ad.

  19. Duke of Peredur #24, yes agreed. You get things in your mail you don’t want, then have to got out of your way to request paper copies of things you need!

  20. 25 – Well Frank I hope it doesn’t backfire on the Libs because that would really be most unfair. The West has chosen to run this provocative ad and hopefully it will make no difference to how people vote. Expect in Saturday’s edition to see a full page ‘mock’ Liberal ad, and Patterson polling showing Labor winning in a landslide.

  21. Re hospitals and emergency departments: the ideal location of these is very coloured by one’s own ability to reach one in a hurry. Looking at the wider community, how easy is it for people in a densely-populated area to reach an ED? Is there access by rail for the walking wounded or those needing out-patient services. How quickly can an ambulance reach the ED – does it depend on one major access route and what happens if that route is blocked? If Joondalup is blocked by ramped ambulances or no beds (or no suitable specialists), where is the next nearest hospital, and how long does it take to get there? For the northern suburbs, there is nothing between Joondalup and RPH, yet this is the area that has had most residential infill development. Access to Charlies is difficult now and that will only get worse. For those to the east of Perth, RPH is the nearest emergency dept (I don’t think Swan Districts is equiped to cope, but it should be). RPH might be a mess, but it is very valuable to have a hospital near Perth Central station and the CBD. PMH and KEMH are also in a mess and in very expensive locations and have to go. Osborne Park Hospital, adjacent to the freeway and a train station, is another hospital that should have an ED, but doesn’t. South of the river there’s SJOGM and Freo, again lots of further new developments to the south. The Fiona Stanley Hospital looks very flash for a public hospital and it looks like a bucket-load of public money will be wasted on inadequate design and poor project management.

    The dire situation in healthcare in WA, “led” by Jim McGinty and the diabolical planning by Alannah MacTiernan are 2 big reasons to get Labor out, as well as McGinty’s handling of the justice portfolio.

  22. For those to the east of Perth, RPH is the nearest emergency dept (I don’t think Swan Districts is equiped to cope, but it should be).

    Swan Districts DOES have an Emergency Deptart, I should know, I used it a few weeks back, and got treated fairly quickly.

  23. 8 “And they say The West isn’t biased”

    They also have not read the classic no nos of advertising even if it is presented as a “joke”. An ad with a photograph of Carpenter will be seen by many as an ad for Carpenter.

    Years ago CUB ran an ad on Brisbane TV featuring a large group of young women riding bicycles on the Storey Bridge. It increased beer sales in Brisbane but got no increase in the CUB market share. It has become a salutary lesson in ads being tightly targeted in what they try to achieve. It would be funny if the West is turning the swinging voters who don’t read ads in detail towards Carpenter.

  24. I am a bit shocked that even the West would dare to run an ad for the Libs like that and suspect that many Labor supporters deep down would not be comfortable if they had favoured Labor by printing something similar against Barnett. Our democracy is too fragile for this sort of thing.

  25. Duke @ 19

    It is the money and the time involved with letters which make them less of a problem than emails. If it cost people the same amount of money to send emails as it does letters I bet you would not get so many.

  26. If Labor goes down on Saturday – will the Feds intervene in the State Branch?

    Second Question: Win or lose it appears to have been a poor campaign for the ALP, why is the State Secretary being rewarded with a safe seat in these circumstances?

  27. I heard this from a friend of a friend

    The Labor party on Tuesday rang all the Liberal candidates up for election and 52% said they would vote for themself

  28. Going back to the post on the previous thread from Frank @ 435

    He quotes Barnett saying “I do not know the day to day polling”.

    This is absolute nonsense. The leader would receive daily briefings of the party’s polling. That’s why they do it for goodness sake!

  29. Kim Beazley writes an interesting piece in Fairfax today, reiterating teh point he made some weeks ago that WA is demographically a natural Liberal state without a large working class or ethnic bloc:

    “It takes quite a lot to shake an Australian electorate away from an intended course. Election results are determined in Australia by the sort of people who don’t vote in United States and United Kingdom elections. Compulsory attendance at our polls ensures this.

    Rather than being politically fascinated, this group is politically disinterested. They have an intense private focus which leaves them impervious to great debates, jazzy campaign launches and dyspeptic columnists and editorial writers.

    On the whole they will vote the way they did last time, which was the way they voted the time before. The way they voted last federal election was Liberal.”

    I mentioned in a previous post that WA had swung to the Libs last fed election, and got flamed by all you statisticians that although the Libs picked up a seat, the gross 2PP fpr WA swung towards the ALP.


  30. “The way they voted last federal election was Liberal.” It’s surprising Beazley has fallen for the same trap. Or he is using this wong impression to make his argument. The fact is there was a state wide swing to Labor last federal election in WA of around 2%. If that happens this state election (and I don’t think there is a snow flakes chance of that happening) then Labor wins easily. These are not figures Beazley would want to use to make his case.

  31. Depends on whether Beazley is making an honest assessment of the facts as he sees them or is trying to help Carpenter sell the “Labor is going to lose” line.

  32. Kim need to pick a side and not sit on the fence

    I think Kim did not see the Sniffler ad and webpages, or the entire theme that the Liberals are not ready to govern. These are hardly positive messages.

    Then he send his 2 cents worth, ie that Carpenter needs to be more negative. While he was saying how good it was to be positive

    He seems to be just mumbling something in the article, that was the same reason Australia did not vote for him to be PM

  33. The ‘suggested’ ad is a new partisan low, even for the West. I’m proud to say I haven’t paid for the rag since they stitched up Carmen Lawrence’s chance to become the first woman elected as premier. I sometimes get a recycled copy from a neighbour and cut it into cage-sized rectangles, on which my budgie makes appropriate comments several times each day.

  34. I think the ALP are trying to avoid the situation in the NT, where they underestimated the extent of the swing against them and did not campaign hard enough, and also avoid the ‘bandwagon’ lazyness that sank Kennett – as someone pointed out earlier on this site.

    I think both parties hope that there is so much conflicting polling, that voters will not vote tactically or informally, and vote for their preference of the major two.

    if I can paraphrase Gilbraith:

    “the only function of election forecasting is to make astrology look respectable”

  35. The highly… ahem… respected election poll on The Perth Files is showing a healthy lead to Carps with 50% of the vote and Col Canal languishing on 33%.

    I’m sure if the numbers were the other way around The West would find some way of presenting it as credible research.

  36. Sorry I’m a little late on this point but I seem to recall the Spam Act has a specific exemption for political parties/charities and political communication…
    Can’t look it up at the moment but I think I recall correctly.

  37. Why does Alan Carpenter keep making promises to spend OUR money on various projects? He’s in Government, why hasn’t it already been spent and why isn’t he spending it now, instead of making promises for election purposes? How long does the Labor Government need to start improving hospitals, police force, etc. Our hospitals have been in trouble for years, why hasn’t it been done already?

    Mr Carpenter, there is no need to sit on a big surplus just so you can say you’ve got a big surplus. It’s not YOUR money, it’s OURS. You should have been using it to improve things ever since you got into Government!

    And, Mr Carpenter, what is your attitude towards Referendums these days? How dare you suggest you ignore the results of a Daylight Saving and Extended Shopping Hours referendum just to suit yourself. If, as you say, a Referendum only lasts for the term of the Government of the day, then you HOLD ANOTHER REFERENDUM, you don’t just change the law to suit yourself! Such arrogance towards we, the people!

  38. I don’t doubt that the West’s lawyers will have vetted the piece closely, and they would have sailed as close to the wind as possible with this

    as the Duke points out @27, they may be road testing it on Thurday, and if they get away with it they will go large on Saturday.

    expect the West to have a blue wraparound election section using exactly the same font as the Liberal adverts, with a scowling shouty photo of Carps and a benignly smiling statesman-like photo of Barney the Dinosaur

  39. I don’t doubt that the West’s lawyers will have vetted the piece closely, and they would have sailed as close to the wind as possible with this

    Well the lawyers or the advertising dept didn’t vet the full page ad from the RPH Clinical Staff – it doesn’t have the necessary authorisation as required under the Electoral Act.

    I’ve made the relevant phone call 🙂

  40. WA did vote Liberal at the last Federal election: 53.26% of the Two Party Preferred vote was for the Coalition. I believe that is what Beazley was trying to say; more people voted for the Liberals (or Nationals) than voted for Labor in WA.

    Kim didn’t even mention the swing…

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