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Western Australian election guide: March 9

The Poll Bludger’s seat-by-seat guide to Western Australia’s March 9 state election is now open for business.

With a little over four weeks to go, my guide to Western Australia’s March 9 state election, reviewing each of the state’s 59 lower house electorates, is open for business. Considerably more to follow …

UPDATE: And here’s the “considerably more” I was just talking about:

Labor goes into the election with 26 seats out of a parliament of 30, against 24 for the Liberals and five for the Nationals, with four independents. The numbers after the 2008 state election were Labor 28, Liberal 24 and Nationals four, with three independents. Since then, Labor has lost a further two seats, adding an extra seat each to the ranks of the Nationals (with North West MP Vince Catania’s defection to the Nationals in July 2009) and independents (Adele Carles having won the April 2009 by-election for the Greens, then parting company with the party the following year). It thus needs to find four new seats if it is put together a parliamentary majority after the election.

Two suggest themselves as low-hanging fruit: Fremantle, which is expected to revert to type after Carles’s heavily publicised travails, and Morley, where Labor was hindered in 2008 by the former Labor member’s decision to run as an independent and direct preferences to the Liberals. Morley has also been strengthened for Labor by redistribution, while the opposite has happened in Catania’s seat of North West (now re-named North West Central), making his decision to switch sides all the more opportune.

Seat-level factors are likely to cause Labor further difficulties holding its ground outside Perth. Sitting members are retiring in the state’s northernmost electorates of Pilbara and Kimberley, which are under determined challenge from the Nationals – especially Pilbara, which will be contested by party leader Brendon Grylls in an audacious hands-on bid to expand the party’s base. Labor also has an anomalous hold on the south coast regional city seat of Albany, which voted 67-33 against them at the federal election. Their 89-vote victory at the 2008 state election was aided by support for the then Premier, the locally born and bred Alan Carpenter. Taking all that into account, it can reasonably be surmised that Labor will need at least four Liberal-held seats in the metropolitan area if it is to be in serious contention.

Labor appears to be backing itself in the face of this formidable challenge, even if nobody else is (Sportsbet is currently offering $10 on a Labor win). Opposition Leader Mark McGowan has seized the early campaign agenda by promising four major rail projects will be built by 2019, as part of a scheme it collectively brands as MetroNet. This will cost $3.8 billion by Labor’s reckoning, and $6.4 billion by the Treasurer’s. While the promised benefits in terms of congestion are city-wide, the policy will be particularly handy for Labor in the Liberal-held marginals of Morley, Swan Hills, Jandakot, Riverton and Southern River, while also shoring up its own precarious seats of Balcatta, Forrestfield and West Swan.

Whatever its merits as policy – and there are doubts relating to cost, viability, planning and capacity to deliver on schedule – it’s impressively cogent as a political gambit. With Perth famously attracting 1000 new residents from interstate and overseas every week, congestion on the city’s roads is a sleeper issue that appears to have awoken just in time for the election. Patterson Market Research, which conducts the Westpoll series for The West Australian, last month found that Perth respondents rated “transport/congestion” the election’s single most important issue, the statewide response rate of 21% comparing with just 6% when the same question was posed in July.

As election promises go, a Labor plan to deal with the problem through a massive program of rail works is likely to ring truer in the public mind than most. Labor’s promotional material for MetroNet boasts of “110km of rail built under WA Labor”, compared with “7.5km of rail built under the Liberal Party (still under construction)”. Each of the last two Labor governments bequeated suburban rail lines built entirely during their time in office: the Joondalup line in the north, built between 1989 and 1992 under the Dowding-Lawrence government, and the Mandurah line in the south, built between 2004 and 2007 under Geoff Gallop and Alan Carpenter. The Mandurah line was contentious in conception and dogged along the way by industrial disputation and cost blowouts, but it has proved an outstanding success, with patronage of the rail system as a whole almost doubling since it opened. As the two lines straddle the Mitchell and Kwinana freeways which form the unavoidable backbone of Perth’s road network, each stands as a highly visible monument to Labor’s otherwise troubled periods in office.

The rail promises also dovetail neatly with the negative dimension of Labor’s campaign strategy, which seeks to exploit Barnett’s imperious image and western suburban detachment from daily life in Perth’s cheaper seats. One of the showpieces of Barnett’s agenda for the next term is a grand plan to redevelop the Swan River foreshore, which will tellingly have the effect of constricting one of the city’s main road thoroughfares. Another is the construction of a new football stadium at Burswood east of Perth to replace the decrepit Subiaco Oval (a.k.a. Patersons Stadium). While a vote-winning proposition in its own right, it is of narrative value to an opposition that says it can save money by pursuing an alternative proposal for a new stadium in Subiaco. In this context, Barnett seemed to misread the breeze last week when he opened the Liberal campaign with a $70 million plan to redevelop and beautify Perth’s most popular beaches.

For all that, there are good reasons why the odds being offered on Labor are as long as they are. Labor is yet to say how its rail promises will be funded, and whatever it comes up with either in terms of spending cuts or revenue raising will leave it exposed to a counter-attack. Pursuing a city-centric public transport strategy might also cost it seats it can’t afford to lose in the country, where the Nationals remain rampant after using their balance-of-power position to secure the extravagant Royalties for Regions program. In staking its campaign strategy on an early seizure of the initiative with its rail announcements, Labor has given the Liberal Party a full month to tactically respond. It did so yesterday by throwing the switch to law-and-order, with a promise to introduce mandatory sentencing for perpetrators of violent home invasions.

Labor will also be grappling with first-term sitting Liberal members in the key marginal seats who have had over four years to cultivate their personal votes, and with a Premier who projects a strong image of competence and reliability, whatever might be said against him. It will be a big task to persuade voters to dump him after a single term in favour of Mark McGowan, with whom the electorate at large still has little familiarity.

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  • 1
    Posted Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I see I’ve had comments switched off. Silly me.

  • 2
    Mod Lib
    Posted Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I predict a Lib win in their own right.

  • 3
    davidwh
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    William your review seems like it is possible for things to be closer than the polls suggest. From the opposite side of the country Barnett comes across as the most competent of all the Premiers. But of course we don’t get all the local vibe being so far away.

  • 4
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    Mod Lib@2


    I predict a Lib win in their own right.

    Quelle surprise.

  • 5
    WeWantPaul
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    I am not at all sure that Mod Lib is wrong, but the Metronet idea seems a good idea on two levels. Firstly in the unlikely event Labor win (I might put a 20 on it just for fun) then actually doing Metronet is a good idea, the cost wont be a great problem (because punters will see what they are getting for the dough) and there is a really strong argument if WA can’t do it now, it will never be able to do it. Barnett might be able to be backed into a corner where he looks weak and lacking in vision and passion for Perth.

    In the much more likely scenario that the Liberals win, for four years amongst other things Labor can remind the voters that the traffic jams on the freeways will just be getting worse, and the Govt is doing nothing. I think it can be a very strong theme to backbone the opposition, if they stick to it.

    Having said that I was previously of a view that a promise of a train to Ellenbrook would be a great indicator of concern for West Swan. This indicator is weakened by the fact that they are promising trains everywhere (a very good strategy I think) but I still suspect Rita is in a fight, not in the cosy safe seat Alan thought he was giving her. But Alan got lots of that kind of stuff wrong very badly wrong last time.

  • 6
    hairy nose
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    WWP – I like Alan Carpenter but he did stuff up. At the moment Labor has the momentum – can they keep it up? Mod Lib – Barnett is very average and looking rattled – wonder why? Alannah McTiernan would have had him on toast.

    William – congrats on your wireless performance – you show promise!

  • 7
    Woeisme
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    I think it’s going to be a lot closer than the pundits think. I don’t think the last polls accurately reflected the publics
    mood which increasingly sees Barnett as arrogant and out of touch. I also think the preferred premier rating for Barnett / McGowan which for McGowan was pretty good in the ast poll was also not consistent with the gap in voting intention.

    The Libs have truck loads of money to spend on the campaign but I think people are genuinely pissed about a range of issues and that’s gonna reflect on election day

  • 8
    WeWantPaul
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    The Libs have truck loads of money to spend on the campaign but I think people are genuinely pissed about a range of issues and that’s gonna reflect on election day

    We can hope.

    As for Barnett if he is the most capable Liberal premier it says a lot about the others – they must be terrible.

  • 9
    WeWantPaul
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    The Libs have truck loads of money to spend on the campaign but I think people are genuinely pissed about a range of issues and that’s gonna reflect on election day

    We can hope.

    As for Barnett if he is the most capable Liberal premier it says a lot about the others – they must be terrible.

  • 10
    WeWantPaul
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Hopefully a few extra votes for Labor this morning as a broken down carriage starts havoc and delay before the peak. I don’t know how much Barnett has saved with having inadequate numbers of rolling stock inadequately maintained but it hopefully will cost 1000′s of votes.

  • 11
    Von Kirsdarke
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Does anyone know if any polls are expected in the campaign from Newspoll/Westpoll/Reachtel?

  • 12
    rossmcg
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    After weeks of slagging labor’s rail plan while offering no alternative himself, liberal treasurer and transport minister and premier in waiting Tory buswell has made a big public transport announcement today. A liberal government will … Wait for it … Build a multi story car park at one of the northern suburbs stations ….

  • 13
    WeWantPaul
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    After weeks of slagging labor’s rail plan while offering no alternative himself, liberal treasurer and transport minister and premier in waiting Tory buswell has made a big public transport announcement today. A liberal government will … Wait for it … Build a multi story car park at one of the northern suburbs stations ….

    They are a bad government.

  • 14
    Phen
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    WWP – Does Colin do the maintenance on the trains now does he?

    In all seriousness, I hope CB gets the boot, but he does project the strong impression of competence and being relatively safe hands which generally plays well with voters (as noted in OP). The rest of his team are a real dog’s breakfast though.

    And Labor should rightly be criticised for including airport rail within MetroNet given the terrible performance of interstate equivalents.

  • 15
    WeWantPaul
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    WWP – Does Colin do the maintenance on the trains now does he?

    Well no but he and his treasurers set the transperth budgets and failed to have adequate rolling stock adequate staff or an adequate maintenance budget. It is typical if libs that you’d try to blame good honest hard working men and women of transperth while accepting no responsibility in the Premier, who is totally responsible for the situation.

    And Labor should rightly be criticised for including airport rail within MetroNet given the terrible performance of interstate equivalents.

    I’m not sure you are actually making any point here at all but I think Labor should be applauded I’ve used airport trains from heathrow, CDG and Brisbane (all the way to Gold Coast) and in Perth you struggle to even get a taxi. Also if you look at metronet you might notice it is on a line called the south circle route, and so if you were trying to suggest great expense for a few users you will probably find its economics are a bit different to having a dedicated airport only type service. Could be too that people who get on the train will get to Ellenbrook while others from the same flight are still in a queue for a taxi.

  • 16
    rossmcg
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    I am not so sure of the train to the airport either but you have to star somewhere . The airport line links in with other lines and will service the foothills on the eastern side of the airport. The alternative seems to be to do nothing. To Give the emperor some credit, if i recall correctly the rail to mandurah might originally have been a liberal idea and he set aside the money from the privatisation of the government gas utility to pay for it. But the liberals chosen route through the south east suburbs was rubbish and ignored rocking ham (they vote labor) and when gallop came in the route was changed to what it is Today. And who can forget all those liberals who opposed it, even down to saying you couldn’t build a tunnel under the CBD and the only people who would use the train were pensioners and single mums who were alleged to make up the population of mandurah. Oh, and what ever happened to the construction boss (was it wal king of Leighton) who was gong to sue Alannah for Zillions …
    Like is said you have to start somewhere and that is usually with a plan. We are still waiting to see Tory’s, apart from the car park.

  • 17
    WeWantPaul
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Well the govt must love this trains not right again tonight.

    You just can’t neglect public transport underfund the agency responisble for it and then be surprised when the wheels start falling off.

    #libfail #lliblies

  • 18
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Newspoll WA February 3-7 2013 – 1100 Voters

    Two Party Preferred: LIB 57 (-1) ALP 43 (+1)
    Primary Votes: LIB 45 (+2) NAT 6 (0) ALP 35 (+5) GRN 8 (-4)
    Barnett: Approve 47 (-2) Disapprove 42 (+5)
    McGowan: Approve 51 (+7) Disapprove 26 (0)
    Preferred Premier: Barnett 44 (-4) McGowan 40 (+11)

    Which party will win: LIB 59 ALP 25
    Which party will win (ALP Voters): ALP 44 LIB 40
    Which party will win (LIB & NAT Voters): ALP 10 L/NP 80

  • 19
    Kevin Bonham
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Ghost Who Votes:

    #Newspoll WA State 2 Party Preferred: LIB 57 (-1) ALP 43 (+1)

    #Newspoll WA State Primary Votes: LIB 45 (+2) NAT 6 (0) ALP 35 (+5) GRN 8 (-4) #wapol

    #Newspoll WA Barnett LIB: Approve 47 (-2) Disapprove 42 (+5) #wapol #auspol

    #Newspoll WA McGowan ALP: Approve 51 (+7) Disapprove 26 (0) #wapol #auspol

    #Newspoll WA Preferred Premier: Barnett 44 (-4) McGowan 40 (+11) #wapol #auspol

    #Newspoll WA State Which party will win: LIB 59 ALP 25 #wapol #auspol

    Outstanding leader ratings for McGowan given that his party is being smashed to smithereens on 2PP.

  • 20
    Kevin Bonham
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Snap.

    So more Labor voters than not think they will win despite trailing 57-43 with a month to go. Sigh.

  • 21
    James J
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    WA State Newspoll

    2PP: 57-43 to Libs/Nats

    Primaries: Labor 35, Lib/Nat 51, Greens 8

    Barnett: Satisfied 47, Dissatisfied 42

    McGowan: Satisfied 51, Dissatisfied 26

    Better Premier: Barnett 44, McGowan 40

    Which party will win the WA election: Labor 25, Lib/Nats 59

    Poll conducted 3-7 Feb. 1100 sample size

  • 22
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Newspoll post.

  • 23
    James J
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Voting
    This is the only party or candidate you will consider voting for on election day 49 (Labor 47, Coalition 56)
    You will probably vote this way but there is a slight chance you may vote for someone else 36 (Labor 42, Coalition 30)
    You could vote this way but there is just as much chance you will vote for someone else 13 (Labor 10, Coalition 12)
    You will probably not vote this way on election day 1 (Labor *, Coalition 1)
    Uncommitted 1 (Labor 1, Coalition 1)

  • 24
    Graeme
    Posted Friday, February 8, 2013 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    “So more Labor voters than not think they will win despite trailing 57-43 with a month to go. Sigh.”

    Why sigh? At least the naive can be optimistic.

    What astounds me is folk, on the other thread, focusing on new boy McGowan’s shine. It’s not US, direct election coattails in Oz ! It’s the credibility of the party as a whole (leadership, team, reputation, brand). And Labor’s, everywhere bar Victoria, is shot: sub-40%.

    In such a way that not only can’t a clean skin like McGowan do much: but a cancer like Abbott is only a marginal drag on the Opposition.

  • 25
    WeWantPaul
    Posted Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    It’s the credibility of the party as a whole (leadership, team, reputation, brand). And Labor’s, everywhere bar Victoria, is shot: sub-40%.

    I am not sure how you guess this. You are clearly equating a brand score of less than 40% 1st preference as ‘shot’. I’m not sure this is a reasonable speculation, much less a solid conclusion.

    WA has always from well before Federation lent to quite conservative. Not too stupid like Qld does, just conservative.

    I don’t think for a minute Labor will win, I hope, but no rational part of me expects it, but the Labor brand at a State level has been a lot more shot over the last 20 years than it is this year. The last loss should and needs to be put down to Carpenter, Sullivan, Bullock and a couple of friends like Burke, but it wasn’t a brand shot issue.

    Much less so now.

  • 26
    Graeme
    Posted Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    WWP. I expressed myself hastily. There’s nothing magical about 40% primary support. But there is something diabolical about 35 (and less elsewhere) when your two-horse race opponent for capturing govt, the Coalition is upwards of 150% of your support.

    It’s a nationwide Labor malaise; WA state Labor may be ahead on the long road back, but the cure cannot just be regional.

  • 27
    WeWantPaul
    Posted Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    There’s nothing magical about 40% primary support. But there is something diabolical about 35 (and less elsewhere) when your two-horse race opponent for capturing govt, the Coalition is upwards of 150% of your support.

    It’s a nationwide Labor malaise; WA state Labor may be ahead on the long road back, but the cure cannot just be regional.

    I agree.

  • 28
    Posted Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    An interesting cartoon in this morning’s West showing McGowan standing in front of a map of the MetroNet system, and Barnett running with a bucket to put out the fire on a burning bus. The caption said simply, Labor transport plan v Coalition transport plan.

    I believe that on election day, it’ll be a lot closer than the polls are indicating at the moment. How close, is impossible to quantify though.

    Even if Barnett wins, I think the actual result will give him a wake up call.

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