Electorate: West Swan
Margin: Labor 4.1%
Region: East Metropolitan
Click here for electoral boundaries map
Electorate analysis: West Swan combines two disconnected suburban areas in Perth’s outer north – Ballajura and Beechboro in the electorate’s south-west, and Ellenbrook in the north-east – along with the Swan Valley wineries of Caversham, West Swan and Henley Brook (the Swan River forming the eastern boundary at this point). Most of the Ellenbrook area, which has expanded dramatically since the 2008 election, has been acquired in the redistribution from Swan Hills, while at the western end it loses part of Ballajura to Mirrabooka and all of Landsdale to Girrawheen. Antony Green calculates the post-redistribution margin at 4.1% compared with 4.4% at the 2008 election, although development at Ellenbrook may have weakened Labor’s position slightly further.
The Labor member is Rita Saffioti, who came to the seat at the 2008 election after serving as chief-of-staff in the Department of Premier and Cabinet under Alan Carpenter. Carpenter’s determination that the new seat should go to Saffioti met resistance from the late Jaye Radisich, who saw in the seat an electorally secure alternative to her existing marginal seat of Swan Hills. This was seen to colour Radisich’s subsequent decision to quit politics at the age of 32, and perhaps also her refusal to deny rumours Carpenter had lifted her shirt and revealed her bra at a party function in 2004. Saffioti emerged as a backer of both leadership challenges against Eric Ripper, being among those frozen out of the Right faction by Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association state secretary Joe Bullock for supporting Ben Wyatt’s abortive challenge in January 2011.
The seat will be contested for the Liberals by Natasha Cheung, who represents Ellenbrook ward on Swan City Council.
As the new post-redistribution home to Ellenbrook, West Swan together with neighbouring Swan Hills has been ground zero in the debate over public transport. During the 2008 campaign the Liberals matched Labor’s promise to build a spur to Ellenbrook running off the Midland line after Bayswater station, and they have been rueing the fact ever since taking office. With promised first-term spending failing to eventuate, Barnett weakly offered that it was intended as a “second-term project”, only to announce earlier in the campaign that it was being scrapped altogether.
The concept’s demise was hastened by a consultants’ report on the future of Perth’s public transport system, which recommended a $61 million rapid transit bus service as a more viable alternative. However, Barnett told a media conference earlier this week that this too had been knocked on the head. A muddle ensued between Barnett and Buswell, with the latter saying money might be committed after design works were completed, and the former claryfing that while there was “work going on”, no further commitments were being made.
Barnett offered that locals would sooner have the money spent on the two major roads projects it would pursue: the so-called “Perth to Darwin Highway”, in fact a 37 kilometre bypass road that promises to take 3000 trucks off the Great Northern Highway, and turning Gnangara Road into a dual carriageway. The former is among the projects where the Liberals have been faulted for relying on federal funding, making their own commitment of $196 million to an $830 million project.