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. Van Onsolen is still predicting it will go down to the Wire with victory to whichever side by 2 or 3 seats – he must be basing this on Newspoll.

  2. If the ABC is gunning for a Lib victory

    WA ALP must be an arrogant government, out of touch and full of corruption

    wait … that is what they are

  3. #389, Southern River is the talk of the town atm, in regards to the election. Everyone seems to think the Liberal is a monty, which is why i’m backing it for the biggest swing also.

  4. Choc @389. Flawed calculation? If you take the results of the 2005 election and the transfers of enrolment between seats, that’s the value you get. If you’d like to invent a number you think is more appropriate, then do so, but don’t call it a calculation.

    Margins are calculated based on the last election. I happen to agree with you that the Southern River could well see a huge swing. The demographic profile of that seat makes it look like one that will swing and swing big. I’d expect it to fall before other more marginal seats.

    But 5.1% IS the margin if you use the results of the 2005 election. You don’t re-arrange seats on the electoral pendulum to match the order you think they will fall. Election night prediction is a statistical modelling exercise, and you have to start with a consistent set of electorate margins and booth results or you get garbage from your analysis. You always have to start with a validly and consistently calculated set of data. You can say you think that Southern River is more marginal than 5.1%. But on election night, I’m calculating swings on a booth by booth basis, and to get your swing right, than the two-party vote for the electorate has to match the two-party totals for the constituent booths, or your model produces nonsense.

  5. Ahh, Generic Liberal.

    You cannot discuss the issues, so you play the man.

    I’ll still be supporting my side, Win OR lose.

  6. i love how everyone has forgotten that Colin is a petulant drunk. Elect him at you peril! Four years is a long time

  7. Talk about Arrogant, and we aren’t talking the ALP people here either.

    All I can say to Generic Liberal, Glen and EdStJ – Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, I’m certainly not.

  8. Hey Frank, are you giving it away?

    Nope, I genuinely do not know who will win, Deep in My Heart I want Labor to win, but as I said earlier, with such a feral media here it may be decided by the Effluent Kath & Kim types who like the look of Barnett.

  9. Frank #420, based on the last Westpoll that’s certainly possible! But will there be a Galaxy poll as well to help make sense of things?

  10. Winston, didn’t you predict a Labor win?
    As for the polls I’d trust Newspoll over Westpoll any day, whether good or bad for Labor.

  11. Frank #420, based on the last Westpoll that’s certainly possible! But will there be a Galaxy poll as well to help make sense of things?

    Nope, Galaxy was only last week for the Sunday Times.

  12. frank
    fwiw im still sticking to 2-4 and have actually thought the 4-7 range is still in play.
    most people i think have already locked in.

  13. Frank, no one “genuinely knows” who’s going to win. But how about a prediction based on your close interest and knowledge? The polls are all over the place so I reckon your guess will be as good as any.

  14. There are too many new variables in this election to be confident of anything.

    Exactly, which is why I cannot pick an accurate result, all polling is based on the old system when distributing preferences

  15. Frank, no one “genuinely knows” who’s going to win. But how about a prediction based on your close interest and knowledge? The polls are all over the place so I reckon your guess will be as good as any.

    Well here it goes ALP by 5 seats, ALP to retain Swan Hills because of the fact the Liberal Candidate isn’t well liked in Ellenbrook.

  16. GB

    I am from NSW so I obvisously have a bad rap of the NSW ALP

    I also voted for Carr when he first got elected, so I do feel betrayed

    when you look back at Carr in NSW for 10 years, he really did nothing, what he did, ie Xcity tunnell, lane cove tunnel he did horribly (ie closing free lane, company making hugh losses annd suing government)

    the one big project he did was desalination plant, he propose it 2 weeks before his retirement, one week after his retirement he was on Macquarie’s board, guess who is building the desalination plant

    Iemma was the same today, he say how much he did, he forgot the rail network was promised 3 elections ago, the unsafe hospital at Dubbo

    You see the same type of things accross the labor state governments, ie Beattie in QLD, Carpenter in WA, and NT and you have to wonder whether it is just in the system

    and now we have Rudd, he has started about 400 committees and has done nothing yet. If you are in government, you are voted there to make decision for all of us, you are not there to give jobs to the mates, benefit the union movement by hiring more public servants, or setting you up for jobs after you retired

    ALP has just got a bad name atm

  17. What fence, Winston? If you checked earlier on another WA thread you’ll know that I have given my prediction. Labor by 1 seat. I hope I’m wrong and it is more, but I’ll tell you one thing, I won’t be slashing my wrists if Barnett gets in. I won’t have to live with it.

  18. Sorry I haven’t been reading all your posts Gary. Last time I looked you said you agreed with William. Not really the same as having your own opinion. And I don’t have to live with it either, but what’s the relevance of that?

  19. Dovif – “If you are in government, you are voted there to make decision for all of us,” WITHOUT PLANNING AND FORE THOUGHT? You know, like the 10 million for the Murray Darling, back of the envelope stuff?
    “you are not there to give jobs to the mates’ – LIKE HOWARD AND HIS MANY OVERSEAS APPOINTMENTS TO PARTY HACKS?
    “benefit the union movement by hiring more public servants” – DIDN’T THE PS BLOSSOM UNDER HOWARD AND DIDN’T RUDD CUT THE PUBLIC SERVICE?
    “or setting you up for jobs after you retired” – SEE ABOVE FOR HOWARD”S APPOINTMENTS
    “ALP – has just got a bad name atm” – Terrible federally, you can see it in the recent opinion polls. LOL

  20. I see things are getting a little more heated around here. Good to see everyone a bit edgy and so forth. I notice quite an obvious divide between the liberal and labor supporters – interesting how it all comes out around this time. Anyways, does anyone know what time the newspoll or westpoll is coming out?

  21. #413, Green,

    The thing i have heard about Southern River is that all the booths fell liberal during the 07 election, and that is why the margin is inflated compared to 2005.

  22. Anthony @413 – the problem with 5.1% for Southern River is that it uses the 2442 votes taken from Gosnells Snr High School in 2005. The Libs primary was only 24.45% on that booth. Following the re-distribution there are no longer 2442 electors from Gosnells in the “new” S/River (there are actually 230). Hence the re-distributed figure is grossly skewed in favour of the ALP and gives the perception that S/River is the 11th seat on the pendulum to fall. At 413 you quite rightly predict that it will fall before other marginals “up” the list.

    Average Joe @408 – wise choice.

  23. Anyways, does anyone know what time the newspoll or westpoll is coming out?

    Newspoll 11pm WST, Westpoll whenever the first edition of the Dead Tree version of The West – I think around 10.30pm WST

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