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We’ll be watching the media and the candidate very closely during the West Australian election.

It is a very sad fact that Crikey will be the only independent national news website covering the election. If this was America or the UK there would be hundreds of people in for their chop.

Crikey has not yet decided how we will recommend WA electors vote, with the exception of our ringing endorsement of the legendary Denise Brailey who is running as an independent in Alfred Cove, the seat held by discredited Unfair Trading minister Doug Shave and which Labor has decided not to contest.

However, we start out with a couple of negative inclinations about the Court government. Firstly, can anyone show a third term government in recent Australian history that has performed well. Governments grow tired and and complacent, they become prisoners of their own past and Crikey has a strong disposition against third term governments of all persuasion.

The other big negative is Court’s endorsement and strongly reliance upon the rural gerrymander. He is attacking Labor for proposing to introduce the universally accepted principle of one vote one value. The Liberal Party nationally ought to be ashamed of themselves for allowing Court to say that non-Perth people are politically up to four times as important as Perth residents.

Do we discriminate in voting power between sex? No. Between race? No. Between religion? No. Then why are the city folk of Perth being discriminated against.

It is a recipe for uneconomic pork barrelling and vote rorting. Watch for a whole of heap of late enrolments in marginal rural seats before the rolls close in a few days. We’ve already had several stories about voting irregularities in the Pilbara with dozens of former cattle station workers no longer living in the electorate but remaining on the electoral rolls.

It is amazing that the media has not made more of this issue over the years? Remember how former Queensland Premier Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen rightly got hammered over his rural gerrymander for years. His Labor successor Wayne Goss rightly got rid of it.

There are lots of parallels between the Court and Kennett governments. They got elected in landslides at around the same time, taking over from financially discredited and corrupted Labor regimes. In both cases it was unelected female Labor Premiers that were demolished.

Court has not been nearly as adventurous on privatisation but despite substantial proceeds, Labor claims that Court has run a deficit for the last four years. You could never accuse Stockdale and Kennett of that. And now Court’s own Treasury has revealed the budget is sprinting back into deficit from next year, although Court has bravely predicted surpluses whilst also spending up big on election promises. Sounds like a Magic Pudding politician. This is what you get when the Premier is also Treasurer.

However, the deficit is partly because Court, to his eternal credit, has resisted the temptation to embrace the dreaded poker machine. When Crikey drove the length of WA in 1997, we managed a visit to the Burswood casino in Perth. The management complained that the government made them use poker machines that required the punter to think. Profits (player losses) would be 30 per cent higher if they had the same brainless pokies that Liberal and Labor government across the rest of the country had permitted.

Maintaining the ban on the pokies is the biggest positive we can come with when assessing Court’s reign. They’ve even maintained state ownership and control over the TAB whereas Liberal and Labor government elsewhere have created rapacious privatised wagering monopolies in each eastern seaboard state.

We’ll be keeping a very close eye on the media during this election. It is disappointing to say the least that the ABC’s Media Watch will not be back on air before the election. The Australian’s Media section will keep an eye on things but is hardly independent given that The Oz is the only competition in town to the West Australian.

It is Crikey’s self-appointed role to be media watchdog during this campaign. We are already concerned about the Liberal leaning of The West under new editor Brian Rogers but will expand on this in a separate piece.

Perth is the most isolated city in the world so this will also be a big test for internet content providers in the West to keep the rest of the country informed about what is happening. The West’s website will be closely tracked as will the ABC’s. So far, it is fair to say that The West’s site is pretty thin. The most information comes from the site run by Denise Brailey. You can find it at http://www.arach.net.au/users/reca/ and check out the election coverage from various media outlets.

That’s all for now, let’s just bring on the election.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-In-Chief of Crikey

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