WA ELECTIONS: by Richard EganNews Weekly
Labor's Geoff Gallop looking at defeat
, January 29, 2005
As Western Australians prepare to go to the polls to elect their State government for the next four years, the Labor Government led by Dr Geoff Gallop seems to be in some difficulty.
Labor swept to power in February 2001, despite getting a primary vote of just 37.3 per cent. The key factor was the preference flow from One Nation's 9.6 per cent of the primary vote which delivered 10 seats to Labor.
The Gallop Government wasted no time in pursuing a radical social reform program. It set up a committee, made up entirely of homosexual activists, to advise on gay law reform and proceeded to legislate their whole agenda, including legal recognition of same-sex couples, same-sex adoption and lowering the age of consent for male homosexual acts from 21 to 16.
After convening a community drug summit stacked with supporters of its drug law reform program, the Government legislated to remove criminal penalties for possession of 25 grams or less of cannabis or cultivation of up to two plants per household.Legislation
The Government's attempts to legalise brothels ironically failed due to the combined opposition of the Coalition - who, despite having pursued the same goal under the Court Government, were persuaded to oppose the plan - and the Greens, who objected to there being any regulation of "sex workers" at all.
Attorney-General Jim McGinty suffered setbacks in his law reform plans. His push for "one vote, one value" electoral reform failed when the courts ruled that his approach to ramming the legislation through the Legislative Council violated the Western Australian constitution. He also had to back down on a plan to remove all reference to Almighty God from oaths.
Late in 2004, the Gallop Government abandoned plans to introduce religious vilification legislation on the Victorian model, when swift action by the National Civic Council and Life Ministries resulted in over 2,000 submissions opposing the move.
The Government was also frustrated in its efforts to deregulate retail trading hours, after united opposition from the Liberals and Greens in the Legislative Council. The Government has resorted to a referendum on this issue with voters to be asked:
(1) "Do you believe that the Western Australian community would benefit if trading hours in the Perth metropolitan area were extended to allow general retail shops to trade until 9 pm Monday to Friday?"
(2) "Do you believe that the Western Australian community would benefit if trading hours in the Perth metropolitan area were extended to allow general retail shops to trade for 6 hours on Sunday?"
Joe Bullock, the leader of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Union, has attacked Dr Gallop over his support for a Yes vote to the question on Sunday trading.
The Liberal Opposition, headed by Colin Barnett, has been resistant to economic deregulation, thwarting the Government's plan for the break-up of Western Power. They have also promised to repeal some of the worst aspects of the homosexual law reform, such as same-sex adoption, as well as to reinstate criminal penalties for cannabis possession and cultivation.
There has been a redistribution of Legislative Assembly seats since the 2001 elections. The Liberals and Nationals need to win 10 seats from Labor. This will require a four per cent swing in the two-party preferred vote from the 2001 results.
As well as the broader party issues, electors concerned about the protection of human life will be recalling how individual members voted on the Human Reproductive Technology Amendment Act 2003 which endorsed destructive embryo research and eugenic screening of human embryos.
Control of the Legislative Council will be critical, no matter which party wins government.
In 2001, One Nation delivered the balance of power to the Greens through foolish preference allocations. Greens are likely to lose one or two of their five seats.
The three members elected as One Nation representatives have all gone over to the New Country Party. Their survival will depend on personal popularity.
The Christian Democrats are fielding a strong team in North Metropolitan, hoping to win the last seat in this region.
Family First will participate for the first time in a State election. They have got off to a bad start in Western Australia with their preference deal with homosexual activist Senator Brian Greig at the recent federal election and their initial endorsement and subsequent dumping of two disaffected sitting Liberals who had voted for abortion or embryo destruction.
As the first State election since Latham led Labor to resounding defeat federally, the result will be of national interest.
Can the Coalition success federally be translated into a turnover of government in the States?
- Richard Egan is WA state president of the National Civic Council