Humiliating backdown

For about one hour, this entry proclaimed that Charles Richardson of Crikey and myself shared the honours for best Western Australian election prediction since we ended up reaching identical conclusions after my late change of heart on Albany. On re-reading Richardson’s piece I see that he did warily predict that Labor would take Kingsley, which unquestionably makes him the king of the castle. He scores a further point for expressing more doubt about Alfred Cove than myself. Kingsley, a formerly Liberal seat where Labor ended the night with a lead of 1.1 per cent, is my only clear wrong call apart from Greenough, which only half counts because it is a Nationals gain from the Liberals (it might emerge as Richardson’s only error). The other swap between the Coalition parties, Liberal candidate Graham Jacobs’ apparent victory at the expense of the Nationals in Roe, was correctly tipped by us both. In Alfred Cove independent member Janet Woollard is struggling to prove us right by staying in front of a Labor candidate she must keep in third place to ride over Liberal Graham Kierath on preferences; and Labor might yet hold Bunbury and Murray, tipped as Liberal gains. But in each case the predicted outcome is still the more likely and everything else went according to script.

The key to Labor’s win was a strong performance in the northern suburbs marginals, which constitute a collective bellwether of far greater utility than Bunbury. Labor picked up swings of between 3 and 4 per cent in Mindarie and Wanneroo as well as Kingsley (which should be of some comfort to the Edwardes clan), and also held firm in Joondalup. This area switched sides en masse with the three previous changes of government in 1983, 1993 and 2001 and the Liberals are unlikely to lose sight of the fact next time. Elsewhere, a 2.0 per cent swing was not enough to see Labor’s Tony McRae off in Riverton, while Jaye Radisich added a handsome 3.3 per cent to her shaky margin in Swan Hills. The picture was patchy outside Perth but Labor performed well where they needed to, picking up a huge 6.9 per cent swing in Collie-Wellington and holding firm in Geraldton.

How to vote

The long-awaited West Australian election editorial nominates Labor as the lesser of the available evils, but the paper makes up for it with a second successive front page on the matter of independent candidate Choy Chan Ma in Riverton. Labor member Tony McRae is reported as having gone "into hiding" while much is made of Liberal Party complaints to the Crime and Corruption Commission and the Electoral Commission (although the latter has already investigated the candidate’s complaint and found no wrongdoing). Elsewhere, Robert Taylor reports that the Coalition is "comfortable" with the prospect of governing with the support of Churchlands independent Elizabeth Constable but "horrified at the thought of relying on Alfred Cove‘s Janet Woollard"

The Westpoll results mentioned earlier in the Sydney Morning Herald are from a survey taken on Monday and Tuesday, before Colin Barnett’s costings disaster:

Primary 2PP
ALP LNP GRN ALP LIB
Bunbury 32 49 7 41 59
Joondalup 39 50 4 46 54
Riverton 42 43 5 49 51
Albany 39 45 5 44 56
Murray 38 53 4 43 57

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.