Matters Western Australian

With the electoral boundaries now finalised, some reflection on how things stand in Western Australia, where the next state election is to be held in March 2021.

Western Australia’s state redistribution process has been completed, without making any major changes to the minimalist approach that was unveiled when the draft boundaries were published in July. There have apparently been “a limited number of changes to the original proposals”, but they haven’t made it easy to see where – no geospatial data has been provided, and any acknowledgement of them must be buried somewhere in the report’s discussion of the submissions that were received.

If there are any changes worth remarking on, they relate to two changes in name from the draft proposals. Thankfully, the commissioners have decided not to proceed with a plan to have a new electorate in the northern suburbs called Kingsway right next door to an existing electorate called Kingsley. Rather, the new seat will take the name of Landsdale. Another potential point of confusion has been removed a little further to the south, in that an electorate that was to be called Girrawheen will instead be called Mirrabooka. It can now be said that Landsdale is the successor to abolished Girrawheen, while Mirrabooka maintains continuity with the redrawn electorate of the same name. Had the draft proposal remained intact, Labor’s likeliest approach would have been to “move” Girrawheen MP Margaret Quirk to Kingsway/Landsdale (though she may instead retire), and Janine Freeman from Mirrabooka to Girrawheen. Now, Freeman can, in a sense, “stay put”.

I’ll come up with my own full accounting in due course, but that will be redundant for most purposes as Antony Green has sprung into action with his own set of estimated margins. His calculations include one notable difference with my own in that the northern suburbs seat of Joondalup, which Labor’s Emily Hamilton gained by a 0.6% margin in 2017, is rated as now being notionally Liberal with a margin of 0.4%, whereas I had it as 0.1% in favour of Labor (UPDATE: Antony has revised his numbers, and Joondalup is now fractionally on the Labor side of the pendulum). Neighbouring Hillarys, a 4.1% Liberal seat that I reckoned to be absolutely lineball when the draft was published, is credited by Antony with a 0.6% Liberal margin.

This and other actual and potential redistributions are the subject of a podcast on which I appeared with Ben Raue of The Tally Room, which you can listen to below. My focus is on the changes in the northern suburbs, particularly to Balcatta, Burns Beach and Wanneroo, all of which have been strengthened for Labor. Joondalup wasn’t discussed, the feeling being that anything with that narrow a margin is likely to revert to the Liberals after the once-in-a-generation Labor landslide in 2017.

Since there isn’t a huge amount to discuss in the redistribution, I encourage the thread below to be used to discuss Western Australian state politics generally. The subject hasn’t had much of a run on this blog since the 2017 election, in which time there has been a grand total of one published opinion poll. Last month the Liberals were circulating highly bullish internal polling, but it had an implausibly wide split in its gender breakdowns. The Liberals have been using these to promote the notion that Liza Harvey, who succeeded Mike Nahan as leader in June, has been a big hit with the “soccer moms” of Perth’s suburbs. The state of the Western Australian economy certainly gives the Liberals some cause for optimism, although there are signs emerging that it may be turning around.

However, the Liberals’ hopes of exploiting this are being complicated by the euthanasia laws that have been stuck in parliament for the last few months, which have consumed most of the oxygen available for state politics in the media. Grumblings are accordingly emerging within the party about the role of conservative powerbroker Nick Goiran in keeping the legislation stalled in the Legislative Council. Besides a huge majority, Labor has some other points in its favour: the state’s credit ratings have improved since the government came to office, with S&P Global recently providing an assessment of the situation that the government might well have written itself; and local monopoly newspaper The West Australian, while as conservative as ever in most respects, is showing little of the hostility towards Labor that blighted it during its last tenure in office.

Western Australia redistributed (state)

A draft new set of state boundaries in Western Australia produces little to frighten the horses.

Update

Over the fold is a table showing an almost-complete set of Labor-versus-Liberal/Nationals two-party margins, excluding a few seats where the 2017 result was Liberal-versus-Nationals (Moore and Roe) or Labor-versus-independent (Baldivis). This treats Kingsway as the successor to Girrawheen, and Girrawheen as the successor to Mirrabooka. I am now calculating the Labor margin in Kingsway at 9.1%, which is modest enough that Labor would lose the seat at a bad election, like 2013. This amounts to a 7.6% cut in the old margin from Girrawheen – so if, as I suggested, Labor runs Margaret Quirk in Kingsway and gives Girrawheen to Janine Freeman, who is technically homeless with the abolition of Mirrabooka, Quirk would consider that regrettable.

As noted in the original version of this post (also over the fold), Labor has been short-changed by the redistribution’s determination to preserve the existing number of country seats, but finds ample consolation in a number of helpful revisions to marginal seats:

• Labor’s margin in Balcatta, which the party lost for the one and only time in 2013, goes from 5.8% to 8.0%, as it loses marginal territory (at least on 2017 results) in the north to Kingsley and gains Labor territory in the east from Mirrabooka.

• The change just noted to Kingsley also nudges the dial there very slightly in Labor’s favour, from 0.7% to 1.2%.

• In Burns Beach, the loss of territory in the south to Joondalup and gain in the north from Butler boosts Labor from 2.5% to 4.9%.

• No doubt the 2017 election is as bad as it will ever get for the Liberals in Hillarys, but I am calculating that Labor would have won it in 2017 by the barest of margins, after falling 4.1% short at the election. Marginal territory has been gained in the north from Joondalup, and Liberal territory in the south has gone to Carine.

• The transfer of part of Liberal-voting Leeming to Riverton in the north boosts Labor from 1.0% to 2.0% in Jandakot.

• Tweaking of the boundary with Fremantle improves Labor’s margin in Bicton from 2.9% to 3.6%.

• A territory swap with West Swan boosts Labor from 7.3% to 9.2% in Wanneroo.

• An exchange of rural territory in the south for Mandurah’s fringes in the north boosts Labor from 1.4% to 2.3% in Murray-Wellington.

Conversely:

• In Joondalup, which gains in the north from Burns Beach and loses in the south to Hillarys, Labor’s margin is reduced from 0.6% to 0.1%.

• In Swan Hills, a Labor margin of 14.5%, which belies its history as a tight marginal seat, reduces to 12.0%, as Ellenbrook suburbia is exchanged for parts of the Swan Valley.

Continue reading “Western Australia redistributed (state)”

Ain’t no party like a west coast party

Numerous electoral and political developments from Western Australia, as the McGowan government moves into the business end of its four-year term.

There’s a fair bit of psephological interest to relate from Western Australia right at the moment:

• A bill to abolish group ticket voting for the upper house, which now persists only in Western Australia and Victoria, has been introduced by the Greens. Nick Butterly of The West Australian reports it is likely to receive support from the Coalition, One Nation and Shooters and Fishers – but not from Labor, which apparently has its own plans to use the measure as a bargaining chip to gain support for reform to the chamber’s egregious malapportionment, whereby some rural voters enjoy more than six times as much representation per head as those in the city.

• The party composition of the Legislative Council underwent a change last night after one of its three One Nation members, Charles Smith, announced he would follow the well-worn path of walking out on the party to sit as an independent. Thanks to the aforementioned rural malapportionment, Labor does not enjoy anything near the Council majority that was available to the Barnett government through its two terms in office, despite the scale of its landslide win in 2017. The numbers in the 36-seat chamber are now Labor 14, Liberal nine, Nationals four, Greens four, One Nation two, and one apiece for Shooters Fishers and Farmers, the Liberal Democrats and Charles Smith.

• Talk is mounting that Mike Nahan, who turns 69 next month and has always had the look of a post-defeat seat warmer, will shortly vacate the Liberal leadership. Despite denials, The West Australian today reports that “senior Liberals believed Dr Nahan was considering stepping down, possibly before the coming winter parliamentary break”. Former Deputy Premier and Scarborough MP Liza Harvey has always been considered his most likely replacement, having declined to contest the leadership after the election citing family reasons. However, Churchlands MP Sean L’Estrange and Bateman MP Dean Nalder have also been mentioned as possibilities.

• A redistribution process is currently under way, with draft boundaries to be published between July 10 and July 31.

YouGov Galaxy: 54-46 to Labor in Western Australia

Nearly eighteen months after its election, the McGowan government records a strong result in its first published poll.

The first Western Australian state poll since Labor’s election win in March 2017 comes from YouGov Galaxy, courtesy of the Sunday Times, and it credits Labor with a 54-46 lead on two-party preferred, compared with 55.5-44.5 at the election. The primary votes are Labor 40% (compared with 42.2% at the election), Liberal 32% (31.2%), Nationals 6% (5.4%), Greens 11% (8.9%), One Nation 5% (4.9%). Presumably there were other questions featured in the poll, but that’s all we have for now. The sample for the poll was 800; I presume it was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday.

UPDATE: This turns out to have been part of the same poll from a week ago which found federal voting intention in Western Australia at 51-49 in favour of the Coalition. As such, the field work dates were August 2 and 3, which were the Thursday and Friday of last week.

Darling Range by-election live

Live coverage of the count for Western Australia’s Darling Range state by-election.

Final for Saturday. Some better results for Labor on pre-polls have brought the swing inside 10%. My own accounting of the results and swings can be found here.

8.24pm. Two booths are outstanding on the two-party vote, and with the writing well and truly on the wall, I won’t be waiting up for them. I’ve got the Liberal swing at 10.1%, which is a little down on where it was before, but still handsomely sufficient to account for the 5.8% margin. Other than Labor, the other losers are pollsters – ReachTEL was way off, and apparently there was a report this morning of Labor internal polling crediting Labor with 38% of the primary vote, which is 7% north of where they seem to have ended up.

7.57pm. All polling day booth results now in on the primary vote, Byford and Kwinana South doing nothing to disturb the overall picture. Still only eight booths in on two-party.

7.49pm. The biggest booth yet, Kelmscott Primary School, is round about par for the course.

7.47pm. Finally some two-party votes to play with: from seven booths, with an overall Liberal swing of 12.8%.

7.40pm. West Byford booth is consistent with the overall picture. We’ve also got a bunch of pre-polls and postals now, which are very slightly better for Labor than the polling booth votes.

7.34pm. Not sure where the numbers are, but Antony Green reports a 12.7% swing on two-party preferred from six booths counted out of 14, which is bigger than I’d figured.

7.27pm. Bedfordale and Mundijong booths maintain the overall picture of a double-digit drop in the Labor primary vote and only a slight improvement for the Liberals, with minor parties (not including One Nation and the Greens, who are static) soaking up the rest. The minor party vote is about evenly split between candidates of the left and the right, so presumably the primary vote will be a pretty good guide to the final outcome, and I’m projecting the Liberals will end up 4% in front (it’s 8% on the raw vote, but that’s because smaller rural booths have come in earlier than larger metropolitan ones). I’m not sure what’s going on with the two-party vote – I would certainly have expected to see quite a bit of it reported by now. There are four booths outstanding on the primary vote.

7.24pm. Roleystone Hall added, a slightly better result for Labor, but not enough to change the overall picture.

7.16pm. Mundaring Hall and Oakford are in, and Labor are still on track for a double-digit drop on the primary vote that could roughly be projected to give the Liberals a winning margin of maybe about 4%. Still no two-party results though, oddly.

7.12pm. Serpentine Primary and Picking Brook both in; the latter not bad for Labor, but the former has another double-digit swing on the primary vote and twice as big.

7.08pm. Big swing to Liberals at Marri Grove booth, so not looking good for Labor.

7.05pm. The non-major party vote is heavily right-of-centre, so Labor would want to be ahead on the primary vote, and I’m projecting that they won’t be.

7.04pm. Serpentine-Jarrahdale booth added, with nearly 1000 votes, and the primary swing vote against Labor is looking big enough now to be alarming for them. Still nothing on two-party preferred though.

6.59pm. I’m having trouble finding the error I thought I must be making, so it may just be a case of me and Antony doing things differently, and it generally being too early to tell.

6.53pm. It seems my projections are going awry, as Antony Green calculates a 7.6% primary vote swing to Liberal and minus 14.6% from Labor.

6.50pm. Another two smallish booths in: Armadale Primary and Bruno Gianetti Hall. Still looking close, but with a high combined non-major party vote, a lot will depend on preference flows we don’t know anything about yet.

6.42pm. Karragullen District Hall’s 234 votes in: Liberals up 3.3% on the primary vote, Labor down 7.2%. This suggests a very close result, but it is of course an extremely small booth.

6.32pm. I can’t quite get the formatting right, but my projections of the results can be found here. Unusually, we have 68 pre-poll votes in before anything else, which are impossible to booth-match. For what it’s worth, 28 of them are for Liberal and 19 for Labor.

6pm. Polls have closed. I will hopefully have tables presenting booth projected results by the time the first results are, which I’m guessing should be in about an hour, but I have a great many kinks to iron out before that can happen.

‘Twas the night before the Darling Range by-election

One last overview ahead of tomorrow’s Darling Range by-election in Western Australia.

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.