UPDATE (9.30pm): Liberals win Nedlands by 987 votes.
UPDATE (9pm): Janet Woollard wins Alfred Cove by 405 votes. Liberals win Morley by 340. Labor wins Collie-Preston by 411. Labor wins Kwinana by 300. Only Nedlands to go, where the Liberals are believed to be home and hosed.
UPDATE (3pm): Alan Carpenter resigns as Labor leader.
UPDATE (11.30am): Nationals back the Liberals. Colin Barnett the new Premier.
UPDATE (11am): Brendon Grylls to hold press conference at 11.30am.
Perth’s Sunday Times newspaper brings a remarkable account of yesterday’s deliberations by the WA Nationals’ state parliamentary party, which met to decide who it would back to form government. Appearing under the headline: “DONT YOU DARE: Nats’ boss last-ditch plea to stop WA Labor marriage”, the report by Joe Spagnolo relates that federal leader Warren Truss made a “last-ditch plea” to talk state leader Brendon Grylls out of “a shock alliance with Labor”. Agricultural region upper house MP Max Trenorden, a known opponent of any deal with Labor, is quoted saying: “I am not going to say whether I am happy with the decision or not, but I’m certainly not going to commit suicide over it.” We will find out what that means exactly later today, after the parliamentary party puts its recommendation to the state council.
The Nationals’ endgame comes as the Western Australian Electoral Commission spends the weekend conducting preference counts in 11 seats designated as in doubt. The big news from the six counts conducted yesterday was that Labor retained Albany by a surprisingly comfortable 96 votes, while falling 64 votes short in Riverton. In North West, the Nationals fell 67 votes short of overtaking the Liberals in the second last count and taking the seat from Labor with their preferences, the final result being a 719 vote (6.9 per cent) Labor win over Liberal. Also determined were Forrestfield (Labor by 98 votes), Wanneroo (Liberal by 322) and Pilbara (Labor by 534).
Of the five seats to be counted today, two are genuinely in doubt: Alfred Cove, which the Liberals might recover from two-term independent member Janet Woollard, and Kwinana, where Labor has been gaining on independent front-runner Carol Adams in late counting. This puts the numbers at Labor 27, Liberal 24, Nationals four, independents two and two in doubt. The two confirmed independents are both in the orbit of another party: Churchlands MP Liz Constable has been promised a position in a Liberal cabinet, while Kalgoorlie MP John Bowler has resolved to work in concert with the Nationals. Nonetheless, any Liberal-Nationals arrangement will have to rely on the support of one or possibly two independents to maintain a majority in the lower house, whereas Labor plus the Nationals will equal a clear majority.
It’s the opposite story in the upper house, through which any Royalties for Regions deal would also need to navigate. While final seats remain in varying degree of doubt in all regions except North Metropolitan, the Liberals appear certain to win 16 seats out of 36 while Labor can hope for no more than 13, and are more likely to win 11. With the Nationals looking at five or six seats, the support of the Greens would probably be needed to pass a Labor-Nationals scheme that was opposed by the Liberals.