WA election: highlights of week one

Polling from Pilbara, plus a careful look at what the two leaders have been up to this week and why.

As the first full week of the Western Australian election campaign concludes, the big news is the pre-election financial statement issued yesterday by Treasury, which wiped out a budget surplus that was earlier projected for 2019-20, and amended the peak debt forecast for that year from $39.7 billion to $41.1 billion. With lip service thus paid to the big picture, the rest of this post probes into electorate-specific happenings of the campaign so far.

• A poll conducted for the Nationals by MediaReach suggests Brendon Grylls will not be greatly troubled in his seat of Pilbara. Conducted on January 24 from a sample of 513, the poll has Grylls on 33% of the primary vote, Labor on 23%, the Liberals on 13%, Shooters and Fishers on 11%, One Nation on 10% and the Greens on 9%, with 2% undecided. The poll also recorded net approval ratings of plus 23% for Grylls, minus 36% for Colin Barnett, plus 7% for Mark McGowan, and plus 6% for Pauline Hanson. The voting intention results are starkly at odds with two earlier polls of the electorate conducted by Utting Research for the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, which showed Grylls running third. The more recent of these was conducted November 29 to December 2, and found Grylls on 18%, Labor on 30%, Liberal on 26% and One Nation on 16%, translating into a 52-48 Liberal winning margin over Labor at the final count. The earlier poll, conducted between November 1 and November 3, had Grylls on 19%, Labor on 26%, Liberal on 22% and One Nation on 16%, with the Liberals to prevail over Labor by 55-45. The respective sample sizes for the polls were reported at 300 and 400.

• Whereas Labor has ruled out doing any sort of a preference deal with One Nation, Gary Adshead of The West Australian reported on Wednesday that “Liberal Party officials have confirmed discussions with One Nation, but nothing has been ratified by the Liberal executive”.

What Colin Barnett has been up to:

• The West Australian reports the Liberals will today promise to widen three stretches of the southbound Mitchell Freeway between Joondalup to Leederville. Once the traffic disruption attendant to the construction work is out of the way in late 2019, this will make driving to work easier for affected voters in the key seats of Balcatta (Liberal margin 7.0%), Joondalup (10.1%), Burns Beach (11.5%) and Wanneroo (11.0%).

• The flipside of this is that the $114 million funding will be reallocated from four existing projects, which will presumably impact on their completion dates. One of these is the Northlink WA project, running from Morley through Ellenbrook to Muchea – a course that takes it through the seats of Morley (Liberal margin 4.7%), West Swan (Labor-held, but notionally Liberal on a margin of 0.4%) and Swan Hills (3.9%) on its way to the conservative rural seat of Moore. This may well be thought to bespeak a certain lack of confidence on the Liberals’ part in retaining these seats. The other three projects encompass a stretch of the Kwinana Freeway servicing a marginal seat dead zone (safe Liberal Jandakot, safe Labor Willagee, Cockburn and Kwinana), and two regional roads in Nationals seats: one in North West Central, and the other running through Central Wheatbelt and Kalgoorlie.

• Barnett promised a $60 million redevelopment of Balcatta High School on Wednesday, offering further evidence that the Balcatta electorate, which the Liberals won for the first time in 2013, continues to feature in their strategic designs. The announcement modestly trumps an earlier promise by Labor to provide $50 million.

• Also on Wednesday, Barnett announced Collie would be the “preferred location” for the headquarters of a new rural fire service. The affected seat of Collie-Preston is held for Labor by Mick Murray, whose 0.1% margin at the 2013 election has been turned into a notional Liberal margin of 2.8% by the redistribution.

• On Tuesday, Barnett announced $105 million would be spent on a marina project in Ocean Reef, trumping an earlier Labor commitment to provide $40 million. Ocean Reef is now located in the Joondalup electorate following the redistribution, causing the electorate of that name to be changed to Burns Beach.

For his part, Mark McGowan has focused almost entirely on the Metronet expansion of Perth’s rail network, which also formed the basis of his unsuccessful campaign in 2013. In a circumstance very familiar from the 2014 election in Victoria, the Liberals will spend the election campaign pointing out that Labor has to rely on the federal government agreeing to divert funding from the Perth Freight Link project, which Labor plans to scrap, while Labor will argue that the federal government would not be silly enough to do otherwise once it is in power. Since unveiling the revised plan on Monday, McGowan’s main campaign activities have been as follows:

• Yesterday he was in Ellenbrook to promise that a rail spur linking the suburb to the Midland line will be operational in 2022. Ellenbrook is the main population centre in Swan Hills, and the spur will also service Morley.

• On Wednesday, McGowan was spruiking extensions of the Armadale line to Byford, servicing the potentially sensitive Liberal-held seat of Darling Range (12.8%), and a link between Thornlie and Cockburn in the southern suburbs, which I presume will run through the target seat of Southern River (Liberal margin 11.0%), among others.

• On Tuesday, McGowan took to the Joondalup line to commit $386 million to extending it by 13 kilometres through Alkimos and Eglinton to Yanchep, with a promised completion date of 2021. The entire length of the extension runs through the seat of Butler, which John Quigley holds for Labor on a margin of 0.7%.

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.

33 comments on “WA election: highlights of week one”

  1. McGowan commits $386 million to extend the Joondalup line to Yanchep, “with a promised completion date of 2012.” That’s really pushing the bounds of credibility 🙂

  2. Liberals promise wider freeways, Labor new rail. Pretty much sums up WA politics really.

    If anyone shows up promising a proper NBN and a concerted push to get businesses to allow any position that can be performed remotely to be done on a telecommuting basis (thus reducing demand on both road and rail), they have my vote.

  3. McGowan commits $386 million to extend the Joondalup line to Yanchep, “with a promised completion date of 2012.” That’s really pushing the bounds of credibility

    Ah, yeah … 2021. Corrected.

  4. “the Liberals will spend the election campaign pointing out that Labor has to rely on the federal government agreeing to divert funding from the Perth Freight Link project, which Labor plans to scrap, while Labor will argue that the federal government would not be silly enough to do otherwise once it is in power. ”

    State Labor promises a rail line, Liberals promise to block the funding. Pretty much sums up the dysfunctional nature of Federal State finance in Australian politics really. The Liberals are no longer even pretending to check if their projects are worthwhile any more. They are all just barrels of pork.

  5. Surely if the Libs sneak back they’d scrap the buslane from Ellenbrook to nowhere, an idea as stupid as the Lib member for Swan Hills, Mr Alban.

  6. Once again the West Australian and it columnist Murray pooh poohing Labours metro link proposal and pushing for the Roe Eight extension it drives you made the uncritical fawning by Murray and the Stokes interests on Barnetts Liberals
    Lets hope they get a rude awaking in March when Labour wins

  7. As much as it would pain me to see Barnett scrape back in (and their complete lack of commitment to public transport is depressing), this Ellenbrook spur line is a dog of a policy.

    It will be the second spur off the Midland line after the airport line is finished, diminishing the capacity of both those lines and fucking up the whole network’s resilience to delays (which currently puts the Perth train network at the top nationally), it will travel through vast empty spaces rather than populated areas, it will be down the bloody Tonkin median so stations will be a pain to access, and worst of all, the PTA has already done the hard yards of developing the case for a brand new Perth-Morley-Ellenbrook line involving a tunnel from Perth to Morley under Beaufort St, capturing a huge geographical gap of a highly (for Perth standards) populated area and thus providing a far better benefit to the community as a whole. The Labor spur idea is a bandaid that will only benefit the 200 residents of Ellenbrook who will actually catch a train, before they decide it’s not worth waiting half an hour for a service because it shares a line with Airport and Midland passengers.

    I get that the tunnel option is more expensive, but at least it’s worth doing rather than this current nonsense sop to the marginals. Whatever happened to ‘do it once, do it right’? I can only hope the PTA talks some sense into the minister once Labor is in office because this is just a waste of taxpayers money that is more likely to fuck up our public transport than enhance it.

  8. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I doubt this would have happened if Alannah was in charge of planning policy again.

    The rest of Metronet is fine though. Having said that I don’t see why Labor doesn’t just take the PTA’s published plan and say ‘we’ll do this, this and this section, and it’ll be way earlier than the Libs would do it.’

  9. [The Labor spur idea is a bandaid that will only benefit the 200 residents of Ellenbrook who will actually catch a train, before they decide it’s not worth waiting half an hour for a service because it shares a line with Airport and Midland passengers. ]
    The rest of your analysis might be worth discussing but the ‘thinking’ you put into this suggests it is very very unlikely.

  10. Joe Spagnolo in the Sunday Times reports the Liberals in WA are seeking a deal with One Nation in which they get preferences directed to them in all lower house, in exchange for directing preferences to One Nation ahead of the Nationals in the upper house (the report also says One Nation preferences cost the Liberals government in 2001, which probably isn’t true). The Liberals are also said to be looking at providing One Nation with volunteers to hand out how-to-vote cards.

  11. WB have one nation done something like that before? I didn’t think there was strong evidence the one nation pool were easily directable? I would have thought that One Nation would risk losing some of their attraction, but the taste of upper house seats might well make the risk very worthwhile.

  12. [The rest of your analysis might be worth discussing but the ‘thinking’ you put into this suggests it is very very unlikely.]

    Fine,I’m guilty of hyperbole in that sentence. But if we want a train line to Ellenbrook, let’s do it in a way that serves more than one other catchment area and doesn’t disrupt services on two other lines.

  13. [Fine,I’m guilty of hyperbole in that sentence. But if we want a train line to Ellenbrook, let’s do it in a way that serves more than one other catchment area and doesn’t disrupt services on two other lines.]
    So you have the line serving Ellenbrook that was promised it would already be in operation by now by both parties 8 years ago, and you have the Northern growth corridor south of it. It serves Whiteman Park with is a fantastic resource and is really really let down by the bus transport options, particularly on the weekend. You then have a link between Perth and a major employment node in Malaga (and it is also a much needed link between Ellenbrook and employment in Malaga). Presumably you then have two high density, multipurpose developments near the stations on the Tonkin highway, you know the kind of thing that should be happening at Ashfield, Bassendean, Guildford and Midland but isn’t, serving Noranda / Beechboro and Morley passengers which are not currently using the train or if they are, presumably are currently driving to (probably) Bassendean.
    As far as I can see the only real loser is the Galleria shops which will continue to require bus links, but wouldn’t have had the opportunity for any associated development (that I’m assuming will happen with the new stations because I think both liberals and labor have talked of that kind of development as part of the funding solution).
    As for the congestion in the line between Bayswater and Perth station, and I’m assuming some platforming congestion at Central: surely other places have and can manage that, surely it is not a unique problem. In a non-political environment I can see that raw passenger numbers projections might delay the spur (longer than Labor’s promise last week, but much shorter than the Liberals projection but we all know how woeful the Liberals are at delivering trains anywhere) but this whole don’t interfere with the airport / midland lines doesn’t seem sound to me based on current facts.
    It is very WA to plan to things as they were 15 years ago, rather than what they can be in 15 years time and the Ellenbrook line would be justified on the in 15 years time analysis alone. However there is this massive space of dead sand that used to have pine trees in it just to the West of Ellenbrook. The Ellenbrook Town centre, is oddly to the West of the Ellenbrook / Aveley / Vines, and it would seem a shame to waste both all those services provided in the Ellenbrook Town centre, and the dead sand of ‘Gnangara Park’. It is probably more likely the Libs will do it, but Labor could if it were smart. If I was running WA and trying to sell the new ‘West Ellenbrook’ residential area (starting after the train line is zipping people in and out of Perth) I’d make it sustainable (perhaps its own solar / wind / hydro storage system) earmark some of the profits to rehabilitation / development and access into Gnangara Park (which would still be a very very big resource even after you had excised land for another 50k people).
    I’m not sure how I’d tie it into the train but I’d be looking to an new industrial estate North of Ellenbrook (I know many of the existing land holders were hoping for windfall gains from a really bad really low density residential development model but meh you can’t win them all).

  14. Well how desperate are the Barnett Govt, doing a deal with the mad One Nation crowd most of this bunch would not know what day it was let along year,some one should tell them it not 1951 any more.
    As for the ratbag carperbagger Hanson and the utterly slimy sewer rat Ashby after Hansons endorsement of Putin/Trump axis when Putin murdered a plane full of passengers including Australians I have no idea.
    Have we sunk that low, place one nation last as their leader thinks Putin is OK because we all do bad things now and they ye Gods
    If any One Notion think Putin did not orger the plane shot down his forces would be under tight control they dare not fart without asking if Putin would let them

  15. Well how desperate are the Barnett Govt, doing a deal with the mad One Nation crowd

    Seriously desperate Libs.

    Wonder if their happy clapper element are behind this for the social conservative aspect?? Very interesting to see how this affects their relationship with the Nats who must be feeling used and shocked. Cant see any kind of coalition with the nats after this election unless the nats go uber pragmatic, the numbers VERY close, and they have the chance to extract absolute maximum pain / humiliation from the Libs in the process. If the Libs win, whoever leads them better have their gimp suit lubed up cause they are goin to get it from either the Nats or PHON.

  16. I expect the Nats to grin and bear it; especially if the preference swap leads to a bare LONP win or a dead heat, in which case they will almost certainly still offer support even if it comes down to confidence & supply.
    What strange times we live in.

  17. Now that the WA Liberals have opened the for for One Nation to win Upper House seats all eyes will be on the nominations for the regions where they might succeed.

    One Nation has already had some issues with lower house candidates not standing much scrutiny so it will be interesting to see the background of the people who want a gig in the Legislative Council.

    this is after all the party that gave us Rod Culletton and I reckon there are more than a few of his ilk out there itching to have a go, particularly as the preference deal increases their chances.

  18. Spare a thought for progressive voters in the seat of Albany. These are your choices and the ballot paper as the parties appear:

    Aust christians

    So I guess I’m going to have to vote as follows:

    Aust christians

    It’s the same in Warren-Blackwood except the religious fundy party is switched out for the blasted shooters and fishers.

  19. WWP: All good points, but:

    1. Catchments in any area will be seriously limited by the placement of stations in the Tonkin median. Rail in a highway median cuts out a huge swathe of the immediate pedestrian catchment area. Highways are also generally away from town centres, with good reason.

    2. PTA projects an Ellenbrook line will need to be served by 3 trains per hour when Perth’s population reaches 3.5m. It projects 12tph for Midland, 6tph for Airport, and (iirc) 12-15tph for Morley/East Wanneroo. PTA also says max realistic frequency on any line in the future is 18tph, so without track duplication (which isn’t featured in Labor’s costings or plan for Ellenbrook) Midland/Airport will not be able to handle another spur, and any spur line won’t have the capacity for the frequencies needed for locations like Morley. A spur is probably fine if you’re only talking about Ellenbrook: which is why the PTA’s current planning proposes Ellenbrook as a spur off a new Perth-Mt Lawley-Morley-East Wanneroo line.

    3. Taking the line up through the inner northern suburbs provides a better prospect of value capture through special purpose land taxes and the like, given the higher property values in that corridor. Perth would be better served as a whole by more in-fill development in the inner suburbs than new developments further from the city. Regardless of whether there’s a rail link the majority of commuters will still travel by private vehicle. Perth’s inner suburbs are still incredibly under-developed, which is one of the reasons we have problems with urban sprawl and housing affordability.

    Relatively speaking, greenfields housing developments away from the urban core tend to involve public subsidies in terms of infrastructure and false economies for residents. And we’re not talking about big blocks for families, most new developments are doled out in 300-400sqm parcels these days, with houses that take up the whole block. The developer is the biggest winner really. As an aside I’m not sure how comfortable I am knowing Nigel Satterley has endorsed the ALP this time.

    Confessions: that seems like a pretty standard list of candidates to me. Who are you missing in particular?

  20. Who are you missing in particular?

    A sane, rational independent or two, the Secular Party which I can remember seeing on a ballot paper at least once before. At least a bit more choice so my 3rd preference doesn’t have to be a choice between the Nats and the Libs!

  21. My old alma mater Balcatta High gets a boost. Hoorah.
    Great school BSHS. Still remember the front page of The Daily News/West Oz or something when they featured our school with it’s violent weapons, arrayed on the front page, Nuchakas.

  22. [Relatively speaking, greenfields housing developments away from the urban core tend to involve public subsidies in terms of infrastructure and false economies for residents.]
    Yeah I’m very happy to accept the Govt (a major joint venture participant in Ellenbrook) probably shouldn’t have let Ellenbrook be developed where they did, but they did and they profited from it.
    Politics is the art of the possible, not the perfect, and I would be just as happy with a massive tunnel from Perth through Mt Lawley and west Morley before getting out to Noranda, Beechboro, Whiteman Park and the Northern Corridor, but as stupid as it is people still believe the balanced budget lie the Liberals built into the public conscience as they wasted the boom, like no other country has ever wasted the boom. “Oh yes I support the train, Ellenbrook needs it, but how is Labor going to pay for it.” Not an isolated question.
    [Don’t be tricked – put Liberal last.]
    Again not a scientific sample in anyway but a sense I get is that a good proportion of the community has already decided to put Colin last, and a desperate stunt with one nation isn’t going to make a lot of difference (other than to the Nats and One Nation guys).
    Given Labor is committed to the stations on Tonkin, the experts should be looking at station designs that effectively link (and I’m not talking 1 km of narrow pedestrian walkway) the two sides of the otherwise divided communities as they maximise the commercial / residential value at these transport nodes. I’ve talked to engineers and it can be done.

  23. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-13/one-nation-candidate-refuses-to-preference-liberals-wa-election/8265354

    WA One Nation candidate Margaret Dodd refuses to preference Liberals
    Updated 31 minutes ago

    High-profile WA One Nation candidate Margaret Dodd has said she will refuse to preference the Liberal Party, contrary to a statewide deal announced on the weekend.

    The WA Liberals will preference One Nation above the Nationals in the Upper House in regional areas, with One Nation preferencing the Liberals in all Lower House seats in return.

    But Ms Dodd, who is contesting the Liberal-held seat of Scarborough for One Nation and is the mother of murdered teenager Hayley Dodd, today condemned the decision and accused the party of bullying its candidates.

  24. Thanks Antony, as always yours are much more user-friendly than the Electoral Commission’s.

    I’ve had a glance over them while awaiting more sophisticated analyses from William, Antony and others. I’ll give my quick impressions here. First of all, the micros are all treating One Nation like a major. One Nation doesn’t seem to have done brilliantly on micro preferences. The Libs have done badly. The Nationals have exacted a pretty big revenge. And micros doing well seem to be Fluoride Free, Flux and Daylight Saving. I’ve not looked at the independents – I don’t think any are rated any chance?

    Some quick summaries (apologies about length):
    LABOR has the Greens 2nd, Nats ahead of Libs, and One Nation last.
    LIBERALS have put both the Christians and One Nation ahead of the Nationals, and the Shooters too in Agricultural and South West. They have put Labor ahead of the Greens in rural seats, and the reverse in metropolitan ones.
    THE NATIONALS have created the illusion of harmony by putting the top Liberal second, but this is meaningless. Liberals are behind Shooters, Christians, Lib Dems and others in all seats, and behind the Greens (!!!!) in M&P and SW. Labor is ahead of One Nation.
    THE GREENS have a bunch of micros ahead of Labor: the Socialists, Animal Justice, Micro Business, Flux, Daylight Saving and Fluoride Free (!?), plus some indies. The Nats are fairly high, Libs low, and One Nation last.
    ONE NATION goes to all the micros and then Lib, Nat, Lab, Green. Animal Justice and the Socialists come below the Greens. They also really, really hate their former comrade Frank Hough, who is dead last in Agricultural.
    THE SHOOTERS and THE CHRISTIANS have done a deal and preference each other. They both then preference One Nation, with Labor and the Greens last. The Shooters have the Nats ahead of the Libs, the Christians vice versa.
    FAMILY FIRST has a shockingly decent ticket, given who they are. They go to micros and then the Nats, then to Labor (!!!), Liberals, Greens, Shooters, and One Nation dead last. The Liberals and Greens are ahead of Labor in North Metro.
    THE MICRO BUSINESS PARTY gives high preferences to the Christians and the Shooters. Majors go One Nation, Greens, Labor, Nats, Libs.
    THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS have done very different tickets in each region. Greens are last in all except East Metro and South Metro, where they are ahead of Labor. Shooters and Nats generally do well. Libs ahead of Labor in metro seats, the reverse in rural. They seem to have fallen out of love with One Nation, which usually comes in ahead of only the Greens and Labor.
    JULIE MATHESON has done some intra-micro deals, with majors at the end in this general order: Shooters, One Nation, Labor, Liberal, Nats, Greens. The Liberals are ahead of Labor in North Metro and South West; the Nats are ahead of both in South West.
    THE FLUX PARTY has a very varied set of tickets; micros are preferred. Various mixtures of Labor, Greens and Nationals are always ahead of Liberals and One Nation. They hate the Shooters, who are always last.
    DAYLIGHT SAVING generally goes Greens, Nats, Labor, One Nation, Libs, Shooters. Labor is ahead of the Nats in M&P; Liberals ahead of One Nation in North and South Metro; One Nation ahead of Nats in South West.
    FLUORIDE FREE has deals with the usual micros, and varied tickets. The Greens are first in every region except Agricultural, where they are behind the Nationals and One Nation. The Liberals are always last.
    ANIMAL JUSTICE (not running in Ag or M&P) goes to various micros, then to Greens, Labor, One Nation, Nationals, Libs, Shooters.
    THE SOCIALIST ALLIANCE (South Metro only) goes Greens, Labor, Libs, One Nation last.

    Overall, not actually too much shenanigans from my reading, although the micros are all preferring each other for obvious reasons. Looking forward to more from others on this for possible snowballs, etc.

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