Western Australia has its first state by-election involving both Labor and Liberal candidates tomorrow since the Peel by-election in 2007, at which, in a non-portent of things to come, the Labor government of Alan Carpenter picked up a rare pro-government swing. The circumstances this time around would not appear to be fortuitous for Labor, as the by-election was initiated by the resignation in disgrace of Barry Urban, who won the seat from Liberal incumbent Tony Simpson at the March 2017 state election by a margin of 5.8%, after a swing of 18.6%. This was the eighth highest swing of the election, making Darling Range the fourth safest seat lost to the Liberals and Nationals at the election.
Urban’s career unravelled last November when it emerged that a decoration he wore for police service overseas, which he originally claimed to have received for war crimes investigations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, had actually been bought online, and that two British universities he claimed had awarded him degrees had no record for him. He resigned from the ALP shortly after the story broke in November, and announced his resignation from parliament on May 7, a day before the parliament’s privileges committee was due to bring down a report on the matter. However, Labor’s troubles didn’t end there: a similar, though less severe, controversy would shortly engulf the candidate anointed by the party’s state executive as Urban’s successor: Colleen Yates, former chief executive of Regional Development Australia Perth. It shortly emerged that Yates had exaggerated her educational attainments on her LinkedIn profile, a misdemanour she could probably have glossed over under other circumstances, but fatal in the context of the by-election.
Labor promptly announced its new candidate would be Tania Lawrence, senior manager of global business integration at Woodside. The Liberal candidate is Alyssa Hayden, who held a Legislative Council seat in East Metropolitan region from 2008 to 2017, when she unexpectedly lost her seat to One Nation. Despite the seemingly ill portents for Labor, the one opinion poll of the campaign, from ReachTEL, credited Labor with a clear lead. My newly updated guide to the by-election can be viewed here.