Election 22 / 11 May 2022

Western Australia

Western Australia might be a long way from Canberra, but it’s very close to the heart of the Coalition when it comes to a federal election. This time around, the Coalition is fighting to hold on as Labor has big hopes of picking up a couple of seats in its campaign to win government on 21 May.

How important is Western Australia in the context of a federal election?
So WA accounts for 10% of the federal parliament. Along with Queensland, WA is a state that the Coalition relies on for support if it’s to win government. That’s because if the Coalition loses seats in WA and Queensland, then they must win seats in another state – and as we’ve talked about, that’s going to be hard for them to do.

So just a bit of pressure then… What’s the political vibe in the West?
At the state level, Labor Premier Mark McGowan has a firm grip on power. His government was re-elected in a landslide of gargantuan proportions last year – there are 59 seats in its Legislative Assembly, and the Liberal Party won just 2, while the Nationals won 4. And throughout the pandemic, McGowan has been unapologetic about essentially sealing off the state from the rest of Australia and the world.

Is McGowan’s popularity expected to influence how the state votes in the federal election?
That’s the big question. When you look at what happened in 2019, the Coalition beat Labor in WA 54 to 46 on a 2-party preferred basis, and Labor’s primary vote was 29.8% to the Liberals’ 43.8%. The Greens’ vote was 11.6%, which was pretty steady on its 2016 election result. And One Nation and the United Australia Party saw 7.3% of the vote between them. So even if you put all the support for the Greens next to Labor, that would take them to a primary vote of about 42%, which is just lower than the Liberals’ primary vote.

So Labor has a fair hill to climb…
That’s right, so you can see again why there’s a lot of focus at the moment on the major parties lifting their primary vote. And for Labor to take seats off the Liberals in WA, they are going to have to find a lot more voters who will put Labor first on their ballot paper. And given the dominance of the McGowan Government, that’s what many are saying that Labor could do this time around.

What’s the state of play in WA this election?
Last election, the Liberals won 11 of the state’s 16 seats. But this time around there are 15 seats up for grabs because a redistribution saw WA lose one seat – that was the Liberal-held Stirling covering the northern suburbs of Perth. Its former MP Vince Connelly is contesting the neighbouring Labor-held seat of Cowan. Labor’s Anne Aly just scraped through last election with a margin of 0.9%, making it Labor’s 4th most marginal seat in this election. In the neighbouring seat of Stirling, Connelly won more comfortably, but the prediction is that Cowan will remain a Labor seat.

What are some other key seats to watch?

The south Perth seat of Swan is one to keep an eye on. The Liberals are seeking to replace Steve Irons – who is a close mate of PM Morrison – with Kristy McSweeney. She’s a former staffer, her mum was a state Liberal MP, and she has her own PR consultancy firm. Labor has Zaneta Mascarenhas – she was born in Kalgoorlie, she’s an engineer and she’s worked across regional WA. Pearce is another seat that comes up quite a bit – it takes in Perth’s outer northern coastal suburbs and the redistribution saw the Liberals’ margin cut from 7.5% to 5.2%. It was the seat held by former Attorney-General Christian Porter, who is leaving politics after this election.

Why’s that?
At the start of last year, the ABC published an online article alleging an unidentified cabinet minister had been accused of rape in January 1988. Porter then identified himself as the minister and very strongly denied the allegations. He then moved to sue the ABC, and the case was discontinued – his legal costs were high and he accepted financial support from a blind trust, which was problematic. He then resigned from the Morrison Cabinet and said he will be leaving politics altogether. So this election, Pearce is being contested by 2 first-timers: Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts from the Labor Party is up against fellow Wanneroo Councillor Linda Aitken for the Liberals.

Any independents to keep an eye out for in the West?
Absolutely – Curtin is the seat that was held by former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop – it’s in the inner suburbs of Perth that takes in Subiaco and Cottesloe. She resigned at the last election and her seat was won by Liberal Celia Hammond, who was the Vice Chancellor of the University of Notre Dame – Hammond took at 6.4% hit, but she has a margin of 13.9% going into this election. This election, her fiercest competitor is Teal independent Kate Chaney.

Why does her name sound familiar…
The Chaney name carries a lot of weight in WA in business and politics… Her father Michael Chaney is the chairman of Wesfarmers, and he has formerly held the same position at the National Australia Bank and Woodside. Her uncle is Fred Chaney, who was deputy leader of the Liberals in the Fraser Government. And her grandfather was a minister in the Menzies Government. So there’s quite a history there but Kate is giving it a fair shake. Just to round out her CV, she’s the strategy director at Anglicare WA and she was previously with Boston Consulting Group and Wesfarmers. She has a big margin that she has to close in Curtin, but it’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

Speaking of keeping an eye on WA – does the state’s different timezone affect the timing of the election results?
It certainly does. WA is 2 hours behind the east coast and if the election results are tight it can become a bit of a waiting game as the results from WA start trickling in at about 9pm AEST. But patience is a virtue, they say…

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