LABOR is set to be dealt another savage blow today as Western Australians go to the polls to elect a state government for the next four years; Colin Barnett’s minority Liberal government is set to be re-elected in such a landslide as to underpin two more terms in office, whilst the ALP will be crushed.
In an election that is as much a referendum on the Gillard government as it is on state issues, Labor is set to record its third poleaxing at a state election in three years, following record defeats in NSW in 2011 and in Queensland last year.
Whether the ALP cares to admit it or not, it has needlessly trashed a bright future prospect by switching leaders last year; I contend that the Liberals’ win today was only ever going to be a question of the margin, and that Labor would have been better served allowing former leader Eric Ripper take the hit that today’s election will inflict.
A Newspoll published this morning in The Weekend Australian suggests Labors worst fears are set to materialise tonight; Newspoll is showing a 59.5-40.5% lead to the Liberals after preferences, which if uniformly replicated equates to a 7.6% swing, the loss of 13 Labor seats, and Labor reduced to just 14 of the 59 seats in the WA lower house.
This is consistent with my estimate of the Liberals and Nationals winning 40 to 45 of the 59 seats, which includes two usually safe but independently held Liberal seats (Alfred Cove and Churchlands) returning to the Liberal fold.
Should such a result be recorded, Mark McGowan is going to have to carry the can for it; it is true WA Labor unearthed a fresh young face that is attractive to the electorate, but McGowan’s future will be perhaps fatally compromised after shouldering the responsibility for what always loomed as a horrific result.
I warned six weeks ago that the greatest threat to the Liberals in this election would be any hint of hubris; to their credit, the Liberals have run a disciplined campaign showcasing the achievements of their four years in office, and making a compelling argument in favour of their re-election.
WA voters seem unconcerned at the prospect of chair-sniffer and Treasurer, Troy Buswell, becoming Premier in a mid-term leadership handover; the ALP has attempted to extract mileage from the admittedly unsavoury prospect, which is one of the very few cards it has had to play during the campaign.
For one thing, this election is set against a commitment from Barnett to serve a full term, and for another — even if he opts to retire in, say, three years — there is no guarantee Buswell would even be a candidate.
Indeed, the Treasurer has ruled himself out, saying he will “never, ever” return to the leadership of the Liberal Party.
It is noteworthy that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has not only failed to set foot in Western Australia for the duration of this campaign, but has been actively discouraged from doing so by Labor’s WA leadership.
Yet as I stated at the outset, this election — despite any delusion to the contrary — is as much a referendum on the Gillard government’s performance as it is on state issues.
Federally, the Labor Party has been on the nose in Western Australia for many years now; its best result in that state in the past 20 years was to win 7 of the then 14 seats in WA in 1998, and its most recent return in 2010 was 3 out of 15.
Labor last won a majority of federal seats in WA in 1990, taking 8 of its then 14 seats.
Today at the federal level, WA competes with Queensland as Labor’s worst state; whilst I don’t agree for a minute with ALP assertions that Campbell Newman’s conservative state government in Queensland will help Labor win additional seats in Queensland, I think WA is easily the most anti-Labor place in the country at present.
Western Australia under Colin Barnett has been a thorn in the side of the Rudd/Gillard government for four and a half years, with entirely legitimate grievances over its treatment at the hands of federal Labor across a range of issues including the carbon tax, the mining tax, and its poor deal on the share of GST revenue collected in WA that is returned to that state by the Commonwealth.
It is for this reason that it really doesn’t matter whether Gillard appeared on the campaign trail for WA Labor or not; today’s result will be partially generated by a competent Liberal government being rewarded by voters with an additional term in office, but much of the swing against Labor will be fuelled by open hostility towards the ALP for which Labor generally, and Gillard in particular, can only blame itself.
I will be watching the results as the evening progresses; for those like me who are based on the east coast, coverage will be online on ABC24, which is providing the feed from the local ABC broadcast in Perth. Coverage begins at 9pm, Melbourne time (8pm in Queensland).
The Red And The Blue endorses — heartily — the re-election of Colin Barnett’s government today. To be frank, the case for the Liberals’ re-election is so open and shut in my mind as to wonder who — aside from ALP and union apparatchiks, the welfare and migrant lobbies, and a small portion of the unionised workforce — would see any reason whatsoever to even contemplate voting Labor.
It promises to be a very interesting night indeed, and one conservatives across the country will savour.
For the ALP the result will spell trouble, and whilst Gillard will refuse to accept any of the blame for it, the repercussions for federal Labor will not end when the final votes are tallied late tonight.