Western Australian election minus two days

Further suggestions the Liberal Party could need a minivan rather than a sedan to seat its lower house parliamentary contingent after Saturday.

With just two more sleeps until polling day, now would be a good time to acquaint yourself with the sundry delights of the Poll Bludger’s state election guide if you haven’t done so already (or to reacquaint yourself if you have). As well as that, I have the following electorally relevant developments of the past few days to relate:

Paul Garvey of The Australian reports a “growing belief within both major parties that the Liberals’ warnings of the dangers of ‘total control’ may be enough to prevent its electoral oblivion”. However, that would still leave the Liberals’ representation in the “high single digits”, down from 13 at the 2017 election. Zak Kirkup is rated as likely to rank among the casualties owing to Mark McGowan’s popularity among the large retiree population of his electorate of Dawesville. The report notes that Zak Kirkup has campaigned in Darling Range, in which the Liberals had generally been written off after gaining the seat in a by-election in 2018, and its Labor-held neighbour Kalamunda. Conversely, Mark McGowan has seen fit to visit the seat of North West Central, which the Nationals hold on a margin of 10.1%.

The West Australian reports three unnamed Liberal MPs and another three unnamed candidates have lined up to drop a bucket on Zak Kirkup, mostly over his renewable energy policy but also for his pre-emptive concession of defeat, which one MP felt should have included some wriggle room. Another was “worried that by trying to appeal to left-leaning voters – particularly in the western suburbs – the Liberals had instead unwittingly provided the extra nudge required to push lifelong conservatives to lodge a one-off vote for Labor”. The issue was said to be particularly a problem in the South West, “including in coastal communities such as Australind and Eaton”

• A former research officer to Matthew Hughes, the Labor member for Kalamunda, had lodged a complaint against him over “verbal aggression and workplace bullying”, while another two former staffers say they quit over his behaviour. This follows extensive reporting in The West Australian on a former electorate officer’s claim that Roger Cook, Deputy Premier and member for Kwinana, unfairly dismissed her and was responsible for a “toxic environment” in his electorate and ministerial offices.

• One Nation has dropped its candidate for Forrestfield, Roger Barnett, over the more than usually racist tenor of his social media exploits, though he remains identified as the party’s candidate on the ballot paper.

Western Australian election minus one week

Highlights from the penultimate week of a campaign that has failed to catch the imagination.

The campaign continues to be light on for news, with no published polling since Newspoll a fortnight ago, a deadening of interest arising from the certainty of the outcome, and rape allegations in the federal sphere sucking up much of the news media oxygen. This week’s assembly of campaign highlights accordingly casts the net a little wider than it ordinarily might:

• Mark McGowan was reckoned to have presented the Liberals with their first real opportunity of the campaign on Tuesday, when he suggested COVID-19 border control measures might be extended beyond the end of the pandemic. McGowan soon scotched the notion that this might mean maintaining the GTG (“good to go”) passes that require interstate visitors to disclose personal details when visiting the state, but said police might remain stationed at border crossing points due to their positive side-effect of preventing importation of methamphetamine.

Joe Spagnolo of the Sunday Times reported last week on “long-running rumours” that Bill Marmion would make his seat of Nedlands available for Zak Kirkup if he lost his own marginal seat of Dawesville, which Kirkup denies. That assumes Nedlands, the party’s fifth safest seat, is not lost as well – which can’t be taken for granted if either Newspoll or second-hand accounts I’ve heard of Liberal internal polling are any guide, both suggesting the Liberal seat count could fall as low as four. Eliza Laschon of the ABC looks at the potential for the Liberals to lose their status as the official opposition and/or a parliamentary party.

• Joe Spagnolo offers a much rosier assessment for the Liberals in today’s Sunday Times, based on “the vibe I am getting from both Labor and Liberal camps”. Spagnolo suggests the Liberals will lose “three or four seats at worst”, with Hillarys and Riverton most likely to fall, Darling Range a “line-ball call” (though so apparently is Riverton), Labor-held Kingsley “an interesting one to watch”, and Zak Kirkup predicted to retain Dawesville.

• Low-level candidate issues continue to dog the Liberal Party campaign. The candidate for Collie-Preston, Jane Goff, has complained of Zak Kirkup’s failure to consult her over his keynote policy of closing Collie’s coal-fired power stations by 2025; and Jandakot candidate Mihael McCoy’s involvement with the Kings Chapel Church, which is run by his father, has tied him to viewpoints fully as extreme as those of the Republican Party and The Australian’s editorial page cartoonists. On the other side of the fence, an unidentified Labor candidate reportedly considered withdrawing over the dismissal of one of Deputy Premier Roger Cook’s electorate officers.

• The Sunday Times reports more than 210,000 pre-poll votes have been cast and 311,676 postal vote applications received, which compares with slightly more than 200,000 pre-polls and postals combined in 2017.

• You can hear my reading of the situation on last Tuesday’s edition of RTR-FM’s The Swing program here, starting at the 26:20 mark.

Western Australian election minus two weeks

As pre-poll voting centres open to brisk business, Zak Kirkup waves the white flag.

Notable developments of the past week:

• Zak Kirkup conceded on Thursday that the Liberals would not win the election, and indeed that he held a “fear that we could be decimated”. Liberal campaign material implicitly acknowledges the certainty of the defeat by promising to “hold Labor to account by keeping the important checks and balances”. State political observers with long memories may recall Geoff Gallop doing much the same on the eve of the 1996 election, which was not reckoned at the time to have done Labor any favours.

• With the opening of pre-poll voting on Wednesday, The West Australian conducted a straw poll of 335 voters at centres in Scarborough, Mandurah, Hillarys and Riverton. While this exercise is obviously highly unscientific, it’s surely worth noting that 70% said they were voting Labor. There were 94,379 pre-poll votes cast between Wednesday and Friday, with The West Australian reporting an expectation (it does not say whose) that 60 to 70 per cent of all votes will be postals or pre-polls.

• Antony Green’s Legislative Council election calculators are now in business. Kevin Bonham observes that they show a particularly strong potential for a preference snowball to deliver a seat to Bass Tadros of the flaky Health Australia Party in Agricultural region.

Newspoll: 68-32 to Labor in Western Australia

The most authoritative poll yet to emerge from the Western Australian campaign suggests Labor could be headed for the biggest election win in the country’s history.

A Newspoll in today’s Australian is remarkable in two ways: for being only the second media-commissioned poll of statewide voting intention in Western Australia to appear anywhere since the 2017 election, and for what may be the most lopsided result of any opinion poll this site has ever reported on.

Labor is credited with nothing less than a lead of 68-32 on two-party party preferred, a swing of 13.5% on their already commanding win in 2017, from primary votes of Labor 59% (!), compared with 42.2% in 2017; Liberal 23%, down from 31.2%; the Nationals 2%, down from 5.4%; the Greens 8%, down from 8.9%; and One Nation 3%, down from 4.9% (presumably the question was only posed in the 40 seats where the party is fielding candidates).

Mark McGowan’s personal ratings are in line with other pollsters at 88% approval and 10% disapproval, but Zak Kirkup’s ratings would be particularly disappointing to the Liberals, at 29% approval and 41% disapproval, with McGowan leading 83-10 on preferred premier. The poll was conducted from last Friday to Thursday from a sample of 1034.

Elsewhere:

• The Liberals may perhaps take solace in the finding of the finding of new-pseph-website-on-the-block Armarium Interreta that state polling has historically skewed to incumbents, although there is some evidence the effect has moderated over time. Then again, the site’s election forecast model rates the most probable seat outcome as 50 for Labor, five for Liberal and four for the Nationals. A new post explains how the model has reacted to the apparent peculiarity of the Newspoll result, namely by boosting Labor’s expected two-party vote from around 60% to 63% and widening the range of uncertainty.

• I’ve been provided with breakdowns from the Online Research Unit poll that was covered in the previous post. These suggest age effects will be relatively subdued at this election: applying crude preference estimates to the primary vote results, I get Labor’s two-party leads gently sloping down from 62-38 among the 17-24 cohort to 56-44 among the 65-plus. By comparison, Newspoll’s most recent federal breakdowns had Labor leading 61-39 among the 18-34 cohort and trailing 62-38 among the 65-plus.

• Peter Law of The West Australian (no link that I can find) relates a prediction by Glenn Druery that Labor will fall just short of a Legislative Council majority with 17 out of 36 seats, with the Greens almost certain to hold the balance of power if they fail. The Nationals are campaigning on the likelihood that a left-dominated Legislative Council will reduces or eliminate the chamber’s rural malapportionment: the Greens are open in their advocacy for one-vote one-value, but Labor is fudging the issue by saying the question is “not on our agenda”.

• On the subject of Glenn Druery, his network’s preference arrangements are as usual specifically to the advantage of particular parties in designated regions: the Liberal Democrats in South Metropolitan (where Aaron Stonehouse is trying to win re-election for the party); the Daylight Savings Party in Mining and Pastoral (notwithstanding that daylight saving is a largely metropolitan enthusiasm); Liberals for Climate in North Metropolitan; the Western Australian Party in East Metropolitan; the Health Australia Party in Agricultural; and Sustainable Australia in South West.

Western Australian election minus three-and-a-half weeks

A rare whiff of voting intention polling from Western Australia, plus a deep dive into the group voting tickets for the upper house.

UPDATE: The West Australian now reports on a further poll, this one conducted by uComms for the Conservation Council of Western Australia, giving Labor a 61-39 lead on two-party preferred statewide poll. The primary votes are Labor 46.8%, Liberal 27.5% and Nationals 5.1%, Greens 8.3% and One Nation 6.9%, after inclusion of a forced response follow-up for the 5.3% who were initially undecided. There was also apparently a separate poll targeting the northern suburbs marginals of Joondalup, Hillarys and Scarborough, which showed “Labor’s primary vote at 46.1 per cent and the Liberals at 31.9 per cent, followed by The Greens (8.8 per cent) and One Nation (3.8 per cent)”.

The West Australian has details of a poll conducted by something called the Online Research Unit for an unspecified political party, encompassing all of the state except for the Agricultural and Mining and Pastoral upper house regions, which is to say all but the nine most far-flung of the state’s 59 seats. Labor is credited with 49% of the primary vote, up 6.8% on the 2017 election, with the Liberals down 7.2% to 24%, The Greens little changed on 9%, the Nationals down from 5.4% to 3% and One Nation down from 5.4% to 3%. The poll was conducted from a sample of 1546 “in the week before the five-day lockdown”.

Numbers are also provided for upper house voting intention, though respondents do not traditionally do a good job of answering this question accurately: Labor 45%, Liberal 25%, Greens 11% and One Nation 2%, the latter comparing with 8.2% in 2017. On the subject of the upper house, yesterday saw the publication of group voting tickets, which are neatly laid out by Antony Green on the ABC site. We await his calculators to help us determine where the chips are most likely to land, but I offer impressionistic summaries of each party’s approach over the fold.

Continue reading “Western Australian election minus three-and-a-half weeks”

Western Australian election minus four weeks

The closure of nominations reveals a glut of candidates, as parties frantically negotiate ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for upper house preference tickets.

The Poll Bludger election guide has now been updated will full lists of candidates for every seat, after Friday’s closure of nominations and ballot paper draw. This revealed an over-supply of candidates for both houses, calculated by Antony Green at 7.8 per lower house district (463 across 59 seats) compared with 7.1 in 2017 and 4.9 in 2013, and 54.2 per upper house region (325 across six regions), compared with 50.3 in 2017 and 27.5 in 2013.

The boom in candidate numbers over the past two elections partly reflects the lure of preference harvesting as organised by Glenn Druery, whose machinations will become clearer after Legislative Council group voting tickets are lodged at noon tomorrow. One Nation and Shooters Fishers and Farmers are contesting a similar number of seats this time as in 2017 (up from 35 to 40 in the former case and down from 19 to 15 in the latter). The decline of Christian minor parties is interesting to observe: Australian Christians are down from 45 lower house candidates to 29 and Family First is not contesting for the first time since 2001. No doubt this reflects the diversion of religious conservative energies into the Liberal Party, a notable example being party powerbroker Nick Goiran, whose mother Madeleine Goiran is again running for Australian Christians.

A number of parties who were in the Glenn Druery network in 2017 have rebranded themselves for 2021, including the former Flux the System! party, which once promised a revolution in digital direct democracy but now purports to represent “Liberals for Climate”. It will thus join the Liberal Democrats as a second l-word minor party that will gain a small dividend from confused Liberal supporters, particularly where they are in an opportune position on the ballot paper. Only in Agricultural and North Metropolitan regions is the Liberal Party the first party so named in the ballot paper order. However, Aaron Stonehouse, whose opportune ballot paper placement helped him win a South Metropolitan seat for the Liberal Democrats in 2017, has been a good deal less fortunate on this occasion.

The party that ran in 2017 as Julie Matheson for Western Australia is now the Western Australia Party, which I’m guessing has heard its fill of WAP jokes by now. The party has secured a seat in parliament by recruiting former One Nation MLC Charles Smith, but it pitches itself as a centrist concern that hopes to take a leaf from Nick Xenophon’s book. Matheson herself, who is on Subiaco City Council, is only running this time as second on the Mining and Pastoral ticket behind Dave Grills, who held a seat in the region for the Nationals from 2013 to 2017. Taking the cause of regional particularism a step further is the secessionist WAXit Party, which has recently merged with a party that contested the 2017 election as the Micro Business Party.

Further developments:

• Despite the disastrous response to its preference deal with One Nation in 2017, the Liberals show no inclination entertain Labor demands that they put the party last on how-to-vote cards and group voting tickets. Joe Spagnolo of The West Australian reports One Nation’s member for Mining and Pastoral region, Robin Scott, is likely to behind only the Nationals in the Liberal preference order (which is at least a step down from the 2017 deal, which put One Nation ahead of the Nationals), and that it is “widely speculated” that One Nation will direct preferences to Liberal ahead of Labor.

• Labor is also putting a “No Mandatory Vaccination” party behind the Liberals and Nationals in second last place. The party is competing for the same corner of the electoral market as the Health Australia Party, which contested the 2017 election as Fluoride Free WA.

Peter Law of The West Australian reports Labor is negotiating a deal that will give Shooters Fishers and Farmers preferences ahead of the Greens in the Agricultural and Mining and Pastoral upper house regions, in exchange for directing preferences to Labor ahead of the Liberals and Nationals in the lower house. The Greens were unlikely to win a seat in Agricultural region in any case, but Greens member Robin Chapple, who is now retiring, narrowly held out against Shooters at the 2017 election.

Joe Spagnolo of the Sunday Times reports emergency plans are being drawn up in case a COVID-19 outbreak requires the election to be delayed, which could be done to as late as April 3 (although I note the Electoral Act says “no extension of the time for taking the poll shall be made … later than seven days before the time originally appointed”. Another COVID contingency is that every voter will get a free pencil, since these are not to be reused, unless they follow the WAEC’s advice and bring their own writing implement. This should not include a highlighter pen – apparently Sharpies are okay.

The West Australian had a Painted Dog Research poll on Monday showing Mark McGowan on 88% approval and 7% disapproval. Zak Kirkup is on 17% satisfied, 24% dissatisfied, 42% neither and 17% don’t know (suggesting the 5% balance in McGowan’s results included both neither and a presumably very low “don’t know” reading. The poll had a sample of 804, with field work dates not provided.