Alan Carpenter in calling the earliest Western Australian election in 103 years has shown himself to be just another grubby and tawdry politician.
This is the same Labor Party which attempted to introduce four year fixed term parliaments so as the Labor Minister for Electoral Matters stated, “the Premier of the day cannot make political mileage out of calling an election to suit the mere convenience of the Government of the day".
The election of 1905 was called after 14 months of unstable government because neither party had a majority.
What, one might well ask, has caused Carpenter to go to the polls which by Western Australian standards is extraordinarily early? The answer is the Liberal Party’s change of leadership just one day ago. The Labor Party’s recent internal polling revealed that new Liberal leader Colin Barnett would comfortably defeat the Labor government.
Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial and get Crikey straight to your inbox
Labor’s polling was undertaken while Troy Buswell was Liberal Leader and given the voters’ revulsion at his chair sniffing episode it may well be that the polling was in part a vote for anybody but Buswell. Be that as it may, it has panicked Labor and Carpenter has, with indecent haste, rushed to an election before Barnett has time to hit his stride.
This election is Barnett’s to win or his to lose. That said, it will of course be all the more difficult because of the crude and selfish ambition of one Liberal member now in the Upper House who in forcing out a sitting Liberal so as to snatch his seat, caused the passage of Labor’s one vote one value legislation through the parliament. The result has been the removal of seven conservative country seats and the addition of seven principally Labor seats in the metropolitan area.
The Labor government is not liked and nor is its Premier. Carpenter is an unpleasant and nasty bit of work whose character possesses a Mark Latham streak. His foul temper and appalling behaviour towards his Ministers in Cabinet is furtively discussed in inner Labor circles.
Carpenter leads what is overwhelmingly a very ordinary Ministry and his own record as Education Minister, Indigenous Affairs Minister and later Resources Minister is in the failed category. Education is a shambles, Indigenous Affairs have sunk into a disgraceful scandal and owners of a multi billion dollar energy project are about to flee Western Australia for the Northern Territory.
If Barnett is to win he needs to behave in the fashion Howard displayed in 1996. He should make himself a small a target. Having led the Party to the last election Barnett can escape a full suite of detailed policies. He must in all circumstances resist the temptation to again promise to build an absurdly expensive water canal from the Kimberley to Perth, a vision that was central to him losing the last election.
The voters of Western Australia do not want grand visions nor big picture stuff; they want good government. They want to be able to take their grandmother to a public hospital without her being left for 24 hours on a trolley parked in a cold corridor stripped of all dignity and comfort because there are no beds available.
The voters want their children to receive a public education which leaves their children with good standards of literacy and numeracy obtained in an environment which offers discipline and life skills.
The voters want to live in a community in which they are safe from theft and assault in their own homes and streets upon which they are free to stroll at any time with their children and grandparents. They want to know that if they are burgled a police officer will call upon them in proper time and that their complaint is registered as more than just an insurance number.
Western Australia as with the wider Australian economy has parallel economies. There are those who are benefiting from the wealth of the mining industry and there are those who are being squeezed by a dramatic increase in costs driven by the strength of the economy.
The State government has had an increase in revenue growth unmatched in Australia’s history. However the increase in government taxes and charges after two terms of Labor has outstripped that of previous governments.
For those receiving the benefit of the mining boom, the punters know better than to give a government credit for the wealth that is being dug up by mining companies.
Health in Western Australia is a shambles; education has seen a dramatic flow from government schools to the private sector because of appalling state of public schooling; there is a public perception that there has been a steep increase in crime treated with soft penalties and the public is being stung with ever increasing State taxes and charges.
The voters of Western Australia have little for which to thank the present Labor government. If Colin Barnett can keep on message; reassure the voters that he will fix health, education, law and order and cut taxes and charges he can be the first Liberal Premier in Australia in almost a decade. If he blacks out these issues with grand canals he will be just another loser.