Some local level campaign news nuggets for your enjoyment, which I’ve used to update my election guide. You will also observe for selected marginal seats that 2008 results maps have been included. I guess I’ll post a more general seats-to-watch style form guide later today, so do stay tuned.
Swan Hills (Liberal 3.5%) and West Swan (Labor 4.1%): With the two seats sharing the rapidly expanding new outer urban centre of Ellenbrook, West Swan and Swan Hills have been ground zero in the debate over public transport. During the 2008 campaign the Liberals matched Labor’s promise to build a spur to Ellenbrook running off the Midland line after Bayswater station, and they have been rueing the fact ever since taking office. With promised first-term spending failing to eventuate, Barnett weakly offered that it was intended as a second-term project, only to announce earlier in the campaign that it was being scrapped altogether. The concept’s demise was hastened by a consultants’ report on the future of Perth’s public transport system, which recommended a $61 million rapid transit bus service to Bassendean as a more viable alternative. However, Barnett told a media conference earlier this week that this too had been knocked on the head. A muddle ensued between Barnett and Buswell, with the latter saying money might be committed after design works were completed, and the former claryfing that while there was work going on, no further commitments were being made. Barnett offered that locals would sooner have the money spent on the two major roads projects the government would pursue: the so-called Perth to Darwin Highway, in fact a 37 kilometre bypass road that promises to take 3000 trucks off the Great Northern Highway, and turning Gnangara Road into a dual carriageway. The former is among the projects where the Liberals have been faulted for relying on federal funding, making their own commitment of $196 million to an $830 million project.
Belmont (Labor 6.7%): One of the most hotly contested points of difference in the campaign has involved the competing concepts for an airport rail link, the chief distinction being the location of the station serving the domestic airport. Labor proposes a site on Tonkin Highway, some distance from the existing terminal 1.5 kilometres away, by the disputed reckoning of the Liberal Party which will equally service the suburb of Redcliffe and obviate the need for an expensive tunnel under a runway. This was mocked by the Liberals with radio advertisements mimicking an airport announcer who explained the practical difficulties for travellers requiring a shuttle bus to complete their connection. Labor responded that the domestic airport terminal was scheduled to close in 2020, although The West Australian’s aviation editor Geoffrey Thomas told 6PR that the industry doubted it would happen quite so soon. The Liberals argue that their domestic terminal station would remain of value after its closure by serving the upmarket business park that will be built there.
Kimberley (Labor 6.8%): Kimberley is the scene of the flashpoint environmental issue of the campaign, the government’s plan for a $40 billion LNG hub. The proposed location of James Price Point is 40 kilometres north of Broome, where it is a visibly divisive issue. Labor has been broadly supportive without being entirely committed, and there were suggestions early in the campaign that the federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, was holding off a decision on environmental approval until after the election to spare McGowan embarrassment. The issue has opened a gap in the market for the Greens, who are enthusiastically opposed. However, the project is looking increasingly in doubt as project partner Royal Dutch Shell pushes for an offshore floating LNG option. In other news, the Nationals have promised to use $125 million in Royalties for Regions funding over five years from a West Kimberley Revitalisation Plan, to be spent in various ways in and around Broome and Derby.
Pilbara (Labor 7.2%): An electorate like no other, the mining boom has had Pilbara edging out Nedlands and Cottesloe as the top seat in the state for median outcome. It is also, by some margin, the state’s most male-dominated electorate (61.9% against 58.9% for neighbouring North West, with daylight third), and the one with the highest proportion of renters. The latter has assumed crucial importance with median weekly rent increasing three-fold over five years to $1600 as of June 2012 the most expensive in the country. Presiding over much of this as Lands Minister has been Brendon Grylls, who has raised eyebrows with the recent frequency of ministerial press releases announcing land releases in the electorate he has chosen to personally target. Labor has sought to capitalise on the issue by promising the establishment of a Pilbara Development Commission with statutory power to address development bottlenecks.
Warren-Blackwood (Nationals 10.2% versus Liberal): There have been suggestions that Nationals member Minister Terry Redman faces a threat from a Labor decision to direct preferences to the Liberals and a campaign against his decision as Agriculture Minister to allow crop trials for genetically modified canola. An unhelpful development for Redman on this score has been a redistribution adding Margaret River to the electorate, where the vote in 2008 divided roughly evenly between Liberal, Labor and the Greens. Mark McGowan says Labor will do anything we can do to stop the rollout, although this turned out not to mean reinstating the ban.
Albany (Labor 0.2%): The biggest ticket local issue in Labor’s most marginal seat is a scheme to link Albany to the state’s natural gas network through a pipeline to Bunbury. After promising a $450 million project during the 2008 campaign, the government is only delivering a $135 million option that will carry 12 terajoules per day rather than the promised 50. Labor’s position is that the project should be left to the private sector, with the money spent instead on roads and schools.
Riverton (Liberal 2.0%): The Liberals went into the 2008 election promising $166 million would be spent on extending the Roe Highway through Bibra Lake to Stock Road south of Fremantle, thereby filling the last missing link in what was envisioned a metropolitan ring road. However, as the end of the term came into view the project remained under consideration by the Environmental Protection Authority. While the project involves enormously contentious construction through the Beeliar wetlands, which caused the previous Labor government to abandon the project on environmental grounds, it would be of value to the marginal Liberal seat of Riverton further north by reducing heavy traffic on Leach Highway. Labor has included a dividend from scrapping the project in its savings measures for Metronet.
Central Wheatbelt (Nationals 18.8% versus Liberal): The government’s reluctance to keep open the unprofitable tier 3 rail freight lines is a source of considerable local anger, as it promises to increase road train traffic on the Wheatbelt’s threadbare road network. Whereas Labor has promised $30 million over three years to keep the service open, the Liberals have so far offered only committed to a year’s extension upon the expiry of the operator’s lease, which will take it through to October. Beyond that the government would decide, in consultation with industry and farmers, which Tier 3 lines are viable and could remain open. The Nationals’ compliance with this position was described as inexcusable by Hendy Cowan, leader of the party from 1985 to 2001, who said he intended to vote for his brother Bill, the number three candidate on the independent Max Trenorden/Philip Gardiner upper house ticket for Agricultural region.
Geraldton (Liberal 8.5%): As part of its Metronet savings, Labor said it would scrap the $339 million the Barnett government committed to the Oakajee port and rail project 25 kilometres north of Geraldton, on the basis that the project should proceed on a private footing. Their readiness to do so might be read as an implicit acknowledgement that Labor is no longer competitive in the seat. The government received a blow when the project’s owners, Mitsubishi, announced in December it would be indefinitely delayed, although Barnett says he is hopeful it can proceed if Chinese investors can be brought in.
Collie-Preston (Labor 3.8%): On January 17, Labor promised to spend $18 million of Royalties for Regions funds on fixing black spots on the Coalfields Highway that connects the South Western Highway and Albany Highway via Collie. The Liberals responded on February 13 with a promise to spend $22 million over three years. The Liberals have promised to have Wellington Dam, located about 10 kilometres from Collie, de-proclaimed as a drinking water source, opened to recreational activities and restocked with fish.
Joondalup (Labor 3.3%): Labor made an early campaign promise of $9 million for new facilities at Joondalup Arena for the benefit of WAFL club West Perth, which relocated to the northern suburbs in 1994. The Liberals then trumped this with a $20 million promise that also included facilities for basketball and rugby.