WA ELECTIONS: by News Weekly staff writersNews Weekly
Conservative tsunami hits Labor and the Greens in WA
, March 30, 2013
The landslide swing to Western Australia’s coalition parties was “the most definitive, unambiguous result I’ve seen” in 40 years, according to the former editor of The West Australian, Paul Murray.
The Liberals have won 31 seats in the 59-seat Legislative Assembly (up by eight seats), and the Nationals seven, an increase of two.
Statewide the Liberals and Nationals increased their primary vote by 8.7 and 1.2 per cent respectively, giving them a combined total of 53.1 per cent of the primary vote.
In the upper house, the Greens suffered the greatest drop in support. Their primary vote declined from 12 to 8 per cent, causing them to lose two of their four seats.
Although the Liberals have the numbers to form government in their own right, they will stay in coalition with the Nationals. The Liberals need the five upper-house seats held by the Nationals to give them a majority in the Legislative Council.
Meanwhile, in the lower house, the ALP won 21 seats, down eight seats, with their vote falling 2.7 per cent.
The swing against the ALP was devastating.
The Nationals won Pilbara (with an 18.7 per cent two-party preferred swing against the ALP) and Kalgoorlie (formerly Independent ALP), where the ALP ran a distant third behind both the Liberal and National parties.
Marginal Liberal seats that were once held by the ALP, such as Ocean Reef and Southern River, recorded phenomenal swings to the Liberal Party of 20 per cent and 18.4 per cent respectively.
In the once safe Labor seats of Midland and Collie-Preston, the ALP held on by a mere 23 and 59 votes respectively.
In the once safe Labor seats of Midland and Collie-Preston, the ALP held on by a mere 24 and 59 votes respectively.
Unless the fortunes of the ALP turn around, seven of its currently-held 21 seats — including Albany, Butler, Cannington, Collie-Preston, Kimberley, Midland and West-Swan — could fall at the next election with swings of as little as 2 per cent.
The Liberals’ resounding win was due to the very strong WA economy, low unemployment and the fact that, unlike previous Labor governments, the Barnett coalition government has not been embroiled in scandal.
A major issue that assisted the return of the Liberals was their plan to extend Perth’s rail network to the airport and build a light rail system to the nothern suburbs. The Liberals were effective in attacking the shortcomings of Labor’s parallel plan.
The unpopularity of the Gillard government in WA, whose mining tax, carbon tax and GST distributions are particularly unpopular, also played a factor in the result. The Australian Financial Review (March 12, 2013) published a leaked poll which concluded: “There’s no doubt the federal Labor government’s lack of popularity isn’t helping the state Labor campaign.”
When voters were asked if their “view of the federal Labor government led by Julia Gillard would affect their voting intention in the state election”, 21 per cent said they would be less likely to vote for a WA state Labor government.
Although issues such as euthanasia and same-sex “marriage” never featured strongly during the campaign, the supportive statements by the ALP opposition leader, Mark McGowan, could only have had one effect — driving Christian voters further away from the ALP.
A major concern in WA is the level of state debt, which has increased 458 per cent since 2008, from $3.6 billion to $16.5 billion. It is forecast to hit $24.7 billion by 2015/16.
Major mining companies, such as BHP, have forecast iron ore prices to fall dramatically in the years ahead with major financial implications for the WA state budget which is highly dependent upon royalties income.
The Shooters & Fishers Party, which was unregistered 14 weeks before the election, is poised to win two seats in the Legislative Council.
Their win is due in large part to preferences from other minor parties, particularly the Australian Christians and Family First, going to the Fishers & Shooters ahead of each other.
For the two minor Christian parties, the Australian Christians (AC) and Family First (FF), the election brought no joy as they suffered a 2 per cent fall in their combined primary vote.
According to ABC election analyst, Antony Green, the results indicate that the Greens could lose a WA Senate seat at the forthcoming federal election to the WA National Party.
He suggests that a similar result could occur in Queensland, where there is the prospect of a Katter’s Australian Party candidate winning a Senate seat at the expense of the ALP. This could give a Tony Abbott-led government the numbers in the Senate to repeal the carbon tax.