Courtesy of The Australian, a Newspoll timed to coincide with the start of a Western Australian state election campaign that officially began yesterday has Labor leading 54-46, out from 52-48 since the previous poll in November. One Nation has gone from 3% to 13%, which I suspect has something to do with how it’s been treated in the questionnaire. This takes a four-point bite out of the Liberals, now at 30%, and one point out of the Nationals, at 5%, while Labor is down three to 38% with the Greens steady on 9%. However, movement on personal ratings is in the other direction, perhaps reflecting the previous poll being conducted in the wake of the September spill motion. Mark McGowan’s lead as preferred premier narrows from 47-29 to 44-32; Colin Barnett is up four on approval to 32% and down four on disapproval to 57%; and McGowan is respectively steady on 46% and up one to 34%.
Also noted around the place:
The Australian has been told by Liberal sources that internal polling shows Labor on track to win at least 12 extra seats but that senior figures also believe Mr Barnett could still win the campaign and sneak back across the line. It is understood the Liberals already are resigned to losing the marginal seats of Belmont, Forrestfield, Perth, Swan Hills and Morley, as well as the notionally Liberal seats of West Swan and Collie-Preston. The government is also deeply concerned about its chances in Morley (held with a margin of 4.7 per cent), Balcatta (7.7 per cent margin) and Southern River (10.9 per cent margin). In addition, internal polling is showing big swings against the Liberals in what appear to be three safe northern seats of Perth — Wanneroo (held by Local Government Minister Paul Miles), Burns Beach (held by Environment Minister Albert Jacob) and Joondalup (held by backbencher Jan Norberger). The Liberals hold all three seats with margins of between 10.4 per cent and 11.3 per cent.
• The West Australian reported on Tuesday that a Labor-commissioned ReachTEL poll of 700 respondents from Joondalup, indicating that Labor would easily account for the imposing 10.4% Liberal margin with an 18% swing. After excluding the 4.7% undecided, the primary votes were undecided Labor 36.9%, Liberal 34.1%, One Nation 14.3%, Greens 10.7% and others 4.0%, with Labor leading 58-42 on two-party preferred. The poll also found McGowan with preferred premier leads of 60.7-39.3 over Colin Barnett, and 68.4-31.6 over Deputy Premier Liza Harvey.
• In a ten-seats-to-watch review in The West Australian yesterday, it was noted that “insiders from both parties” expected Darling Range (13.1%) to go down to the wire.
A lot depends on the distribution of the swing — and here Labor has cause for optimism. The battle zone of the electoral pendulum runs from Balcatta on 7.1% to Darling Range on 13.1%, with another 12 Liberal-held seats at various points in between. Those past the 10% mark include six (Joondalup, Southern River, Wanneroo, Burns Beach, Darling Range and Kalamunda) on the electorally volatile metropolitan fringes, where swings to Labor at the federal election tended to be around three times higher than elsewhere in the state … If Labor can reel in at least three, it can get by without more established and electorally stickier seats on smaller margins, namely Balcatta (7.1%), Mount Lawley (8.9%) and Bicton (10.0%).
Given that ballot paper studies have shown nearly half of Liberal voters follow their party’s how-to-vote card, this promises to be a game-changer for One Nation in seats where the Liberals do poorly enough to drop out of the count. However, it’s less clear how much a benefit the Liberals stand to gain in return … After allowing for the tendency of preferences to flow more strongly to the dominant major party in any given electorate, One Nation preferences (at the federal election) divided fairly evenly where there was a split ticket, while a preference direction increased the share of preferences for the beneficiary by around 8%. In a typical electorate, this suggests a preference deal stands to benefit the Liberals by around 1% on the two-party preferred vote.
Much of the chatter surrounding the party’s prospects has focused on Nationals leader Brendon Grylls’ seat of Pilbara … A better bet may be the seat of Kalgoorlie, which ranked second behind Pilbara in terms of the One Nation Senate vote. Like Pilbara, Kalgoorlie was won by the Nationals for the first time in 2013, having variously been held in recent times by Labor, Liberal and an independent. One Nation’s task will be made easier by the retirement of sitting member Wendy Duncan, and it may also stand to benefit from the town’s simmering racial tensions. Alternatively, the party may find it easier to poach seats from Labor, given the potential for preference deals with the Liberals and Nationals — something that is certainly not in prospect with Labor. The strongest Labor-held seat for One Nation in terms of last year’s Senate vote was Collie-Preston, which Labor narrowly retained at the last two elections thanks to the local popularity of its sitting member, Mick Murray.