Manna from Newspoll

Two agonising weeks without a serious opinion poll have finally come to end with a survey from everybody’s favourite, Newspoll. The verdict: Labor ahead 45 per cent to 39.5 per cent on the primary vote and 54-46 on two-party preferred. That’s enough for me to make good on my earlier threat to withdraw Albany as a projected Liberal gain, thus returning my projected Labor majority to five. The Poll Bludger rarely gets excited about personal approval ratings, but it’s hard not to notice that Colin Barnett’s disapproval has broken through the 50 per cent barrier, defying the conventional wisdom that an opposition leader can expect to get a personal boost out of an election campaign.

Mug’s game

Brian Burke and Noel Crichton-Browne appeared on Paul Murray’s 6PR program this morning discussing the state of play in important marginal seats. On balance, Burke expects a narrow win for Labor, Crichton-Browne a narrow win for the Coalition, and Murray stands by his assessment of a minority Coalition government. Meanwhile, Charles Richardson at Crikey has made a detailed prediction that adds up to Labor maintaining its current seven-seat majority.

Murray (Labor 0.7%): Burke and Crichton-Browne both agree that the Liberals will win this seat, in part due to local hostility over the fact that Labor candidate Nuala Keating does not live in the electorate. Richardson tips this as the only Liberal gain out of what he sees as the five "battleground" seats. Labor people have expressed pessimism owing to demographic change from the area’s rapid population growth and a concentrated swing to the Coalition at the federal election. The Poll Bludger does not like being this far out on a limb and has amended his initial assessment that Labor would retain the seat, which for the time being reduces his projection of Labor’s majority from five seats to three.

Kingsley (Liberal 2.5%): Burke and Crichton-Browne agree this is the one seat that Labor has a serious prospect of picking up from the Liberals. Crichton-Browne criticises the process of Liberal candidate Colin Edwardes’ preselection, saying little time was given for others to nominate. He also argues that voters feel one parliamentary superannuation payment should be enough for the Edwardes household, but ultimately concludes that the Liberals will narrowly retain the seat.

Mindarie (Labor 1.2%): Burke says Labor polling showed the Liberals with a substantial lead going into the campaign, but feels the Liberals have frittered it away. Crichton-Browne tips the Liberals to win, citing the strength of evangelical churches in the area and the importance of Family First who are directing preferences to Liberal. Richardson nominates it as one of five "battleground" electorates but tips Labor to hold, as does the Poll Bludger.

Swan Hills (Labor 0.3%): Crichton-Browne is one of a number of observers who have noted that Liberal candidate Steve Blizard does not seem popular in the electorate, but still expects him to win the seat from Labor member Jaye Radisich. Burke thinks the local popularity of Radisich might make the difference. Another battleground seat where Richardson thinks the Liberals will fall short; the Poll Bludger concurs.

Joondalup (Labor 3.1%): Burke says Liberal candidate Dean Solly is one of two candidates whose personal strengths will improve the Liberals’ chances (the other being Andrew Partington in Albany) and believes this puts them in contention here. Crichton-Browne notes doubtfully that "Labor is defending a big margin", an assessment shared by Richardson and myself.

Geraldton (Labor 2.7%): Paul Murray reckons the strength of Shane Hill’s performance since he won the seat for Labor in 2001 will make the difference here, and Crichton-Browne roughly agrees. Burke cites heavy pork-barrelling by the government but sounds less sure of the outcome than Murray and Crichton-Browne. Richardson and the Poll Bludger say Labor.

Riverton (Labor 3.1%): Burke is critical of Labor for making its contentious promise to divert road freight traffic from Leach Highway too late in the campaign. Crichton-Browne thinks this and the dummy candidate controversy should deliver the seat to the Liberals, but Burke is less sure. Richardson says Labor and so does the Poll Bludger.

Alfred Cove (Independent 8.2% vs LIB): Crichton-Browne thinks it "still possible" that Graham Kierath could defeat independent member Janet Woollard. Richardson says "it’s a toss-up, but I’m tipping Woollard to hold on". The Poll Bludger’s money has always been on Woollard.

Albany (Liberal 3.7%): While Noel Crichton-Browne calls it for the Liberals, Burke merely says it will be "very difficult" for Labor. Charles Richardson warily tips Labor to hold. It remains in the Liberal column for the Poll Bludger but late opinion polls might change his mind.

Darling Range (Liberal 0.6%): Richardson rates this as an outlier in the event of a Labor blowout, but all concerned have their money on the Liberals holding on.

Bunbury (Labor 0.2%): Nobody is tipping that Labor will retain this seat.

Unless I missed something, the 6PR panel did not rate Collie-Wellington (Labor 2.6%) or Wanneroo (Labor 3.1%) worth a mention, and both myself and Richardson have them in the Labor column. Richardson includes Serpentine-Jarrahdale among the seats to watch if there’s a swing on to Labor, and Labor apparently think themselves in with a chance. Richardson also concurs with my judgement that the Liberals will win Roe from the Nationals, and that no other seats will change hands between the Coalition parties.

Judgement reserved

You know the Coalition has had a bad day when The West Australian’s front page devotes equal space to criticising both parties. Under the heading "double trouble", the left half of the page covers what most would have regarded as the major story on election eve, the universal thumbs-down given to the Coalition’s costings announcement, while the right is an exposé of a mere dummy candidate put up by Labor in Riverton. Admittedly, the latter seems like an unusually clumsy piece of work on Labor’s part. The West reports that independent candidate Choy Chan Ma thought that a form she was asked to sign at Labor member Tony McRae’s office related to her work as a voluntary interpreter, and was unpleasantly surprised to find herself running for parliament. Ma is a Chinese Malay in an electorate "where Malays and Indians account for 30 per cent of the population".

Also in The West are a number of reports on turmoil afflicting the conservative side of politics in the south-west. A spray delivered by Liberal candidate Graham Jacobs against the Coalition hierarchy is reported in vague terms, with Jacobs criticising "policy on the run" from Colin Barnett which he blames on "underhanded tactics" by the National Party, from whom he is attempting to win the seat. It is also reported that Wilson Tuckey, federal Liberal member for O’Connor, got federal government permission to spend "several thousand taxpayer dollars" on letters promoting Jacobs and his Liberal colleagues in Geraldton and Stirling at the expense of the Nationals.

However, those of us waiting with bated breath to see which side wins The West’s reluctant editorial endorsement will apparently have to wait until tomorrow.

Murdoch’s goons

The Australian has come out for the return of the Gallop government in an editorial that follows the traditional format, with ridicule of the government followed by an assessment that the alternative would be even worse. The paper’s News Limited stablemate, Perth’s Sunday Times, followed much the same outline last weekend except that it also managed a few kind words for Labor, reaching the upbeat conclusion that "the Gallop Government deserves another term in office". The West Australian’s verdict is eagerly awaited.

Momentum seized

Perth talk radio host and former West Australian editor Paul Murray tells erstwhile sparring partner Peter Brent of Mumble that he sees six seats as likely Liberal gains and six more as possibilities, with the most likely outcome being a minority Coalition government. Robert Wainwright of the Sydney Morning Herald thinks otherwise, reporting today that "the West Australian Labor government appears to have seized the momentum in the final days of a see-saw election campaign and is now a slight favourite to win on Saturday". The assessment is based on the Prime Minister’s refusal to lend substantial backing to the canal project and the Premier’s renewed interest in Albany, earlier reckoned to be a write-off. In light of the bucketing Colin Barnett is copping over his belated costings announcement and its $200 million hole, the Poll Bludger continues to favour the latter view.

Some recent updates to the election guide:

Albany (Labor 3.7%): The three-cornered contest for this seat has taken a confusing twist with Nationals candidate Beverley Ford dumping on the Coalition’s proposal to build a local hospital for $40 million, to the delight of endangered Labor member Peter Watson. Health Minister Jim McGinty had earlier described the hospital promise as "lunacy". Ford’s campaign manager has written to Peter Brent at Mumble talking up her chances; the Albany Advertiser reports that Professor David Black of Curtin University thinks her likely to finish third, but says she "can complicate the situation for the Liberal candidate". All five respondents in an Advertiser vox pop tipped Watson to win.

North West Coastal (Labor 5.4%): Rod Sweetman, the outgoing Liberal member for abolished Ningaloo who failed to win preselection elsewhere, continues to exasperate his former colleagues. The ABC reports that Sweetman has spoken highly of the Gallop government’s achievements in his electorate, saying it has been "a pretty good time of late for the Gascoyne region and particularly Carnarvon. We have been a very fortunate community over the last little while".

Kimberley (Labor 8.5%): Liberal candidate Ron Sos Johnston told a candidates’ debate on Wednesday it was "no secret that Barnett and myself are at loggerheads over the canal project and how he has gone about it". The Liberals appear not to have given up hope, unveiling late-campaign promises including a $500,000 birthing suite at Kimberley Hospital. Paul Murray thinks it more likely to fall than North West Coastal.

Central Kimberley-Pilbara (Independent 16.2% vs ALP): Independent candidate and former ATSIC WA chairman Barry Taylor has endorsed a boycott of the election by the community of Ngalingkadji in protest over lack of housing maintenance. Fifty-five votes were cast there at the federal election, 35 of them for the same Tom Stephens who will be Labor candidate at the state poll.

Collie-Wellington (Labor 2.6%): Liberals have been muttering darkly about the pace of an investigation into the leak of candidate Craig Carbone’s drink-driving record to the Sunday Times. It has been noted that Labor member Mick Murray’s wife works at Collie police station, though Murray denies her involvement.

Girrawheen (Labor 8.5%): Family First will direct preferences to Jon Kelly, Wanneroo mayor, Labor renegade and independent candidate, ahead of Labor member Margaret Quirk.