WESTERN AUSTRALIA: by Richard EganNews Weekly
ALP rides One Nation to victory
, February 24, 2001
Dr Geoff Gallop (a sort of pale Antipodean reflection of Tony Blair, with whom he was mates at Oxford) has won the Premiership of Western Australia on a tide of One Nation preferences targeted against sitting members as payback for being treated as a pariah party by the Liberal Party.
The ALP only picked up two percent in primary votes from the 11.4% swing against the Court Government. It has won government, but perhaps not a mandate, with less than 38% of the primary vote.
Most of the swing against the Government went to One Nation whose vote was 9.5% statewide, about the same as the 1998 Federal election, but spread unevenly ranging from 2.8% in Court's seat of Nedlands to 28% in Greenough. It was over 15% in most of rural and regional Western Australia. Disenchantment
There is no doubt that this vote was primarily a protest vote, far more on Federal than on State issues, reflecting a feeling of disenfranchisement and frustration with the major parties from small business, farmers and middle Australia, hurting from deregulation, GST compliance costs, petrol prices and a general abandonment of regional Australia by the Federal Government.
The message to John Howard is loud and clear.
As well as delivering government to Labor, One Nation may have secured the balance of power in the Legislative Council, with three members likely to be elected, one each from Agricultural and South West with a quota in their own right, and One Nation State President, John Fischer, from Mining & Pastoral on preferences from former Labor MLC, Mark Nevill.
This would make it harder for Gallop to pass controversial social legislation promised by Labor in the area of drug policy - decriminalisation of possession of 50g of cannabis and heroin injecting rooms - and the homosexual agenda - relationship recognition, anti-discrimination legislation and lowering the age of consent to 16 for male homosexual acts.
One Nation would also block any attempt by Labor to introduce "one vote one value" electoral redistribution.
It remains to be seen whether Labor would then abandon their moral posturing of refusing to deal with One Nation. If they don't, it appears likely that One Nation voters can just as easily deprive the ALP of power, but that's four years away and the ALP under Gallop seems ready to enjoy the power while it lasts.
The Australian Democrats vote collapsed completely in this election from the 1996 high of 5.9% for the Legislative Council to just 3.6%. Sitting MLCs Norm Kelly, proponent of a bill to legalise euthanasia, and Helen Hodgson, best known for her homosexual rights bill, have both lost their seats, leaving the Democrats without parliamentary representation and a spent political force in Western Australian state politics.
The Greens are the major beneficiaries of this collapse, consolidating their presence in the Legislative Council with possibly four or even five seats. If they secure five seats then the ALP will have a free run with its libertarian social agenda on drugs and homosexuality and the Greens would be able to hold the Government to ransom on environmental issues.
The Coalition for the Defence of Human Life, who backed Labor pro-life candidates in several seats, is hoping that the sizable and determined ALP pro-life group - 10 or 11 out of a caucus of between 43 and 47 - will be sufficient to block any moves towards legalised euthanasia or embryo experimentation from within the Labor Party.
The Christian Democratic Party, who directed preferences to pro-life candidates, was instrumental in saving three Liberals from defeat.
Labor has not governed in Western Australia since the WA Inc. years ended in electoral defeat in 1993.
Western Australians will be watching with interest to see how Dr Gallop translates his academic political science and his too-obvious enjoyment of the public face of politics into actual government.
The revelation in the last week of the election from his one-time colleague, Julian Grill, that Gallop had promised the bleeding hearts in caucus that his tough law and order policy was for public consumption only and would be toned down once they won power, is perhaps the most telling indicator of what Western Australians face for the next four years.