The Western Australian Liberal Party stumbled badly on two issues this week, which in the normal course of events should have been substantial pluses for them — daylight saving and extended shopping hours.

At first blush these may appear to be second-line issues, however both continue to generate very considerable agitation among voters. Getting them right is free votes in the bank.

Western Australia has trialled daylight savings in past years. The Labor government again introduced it with an undertaking to hold a referendum following the ending of a three year trial at the conclusion of the coming summer.

Previous referendums have overwhelmingly rejected daylight saving, but the Labor government seems determined to impose it upon the state. Alan Carpenter is highly likely to be aware of the opposition to daylight saving however having previously committed the government to a three year trial he has resisted calls to hold a referendum before this summer.

Immediately following the trial last summer, Channel Seven held a phone poll in March which attracted 27,000 calls, the second greatest response to an issue ever received. 86% of callers opposed daylight saving with just 14% supporting it.

Clearly those opposed to daylight saving in Western Australia in the main feel intensely about it.

Liberal Leader Colin Barnett is supporting Carpenter’s position.

Barnett’s position is all the more mystifying because the National Party understands how powerful is the issue in the country, and is campaigning strongly on the issue. The Liberal Party should be aware of the significance of this.

The Nationals are refusing a future coalition and have announced they will be negotiating with both the Greens and the Labor Party for preferences. The consequence is that National primary votes are far from necessarily Liberal Party preferences.

Barnett should have undertook to hold a referendum immediately before the coming summer. That he did not is difficult to understand, in not doing so he has missed on a significant parcel of votes.

Just days before to calling the election, Premier Carpenter pledged to deregulate Perth’s restricted trading hours, which he condemned as archaic; despite the fact Labor held a referendum on the issue at the last election with a commitment to abide by the outcome. The referendum found in favour of present shopping hours.

The Liberal Party has historically opposed the extension of shopping hours because of the obvious fierce opposition from small business, a traditional Liberal heartland, who will be forced to open seven days to compete with the large retailers.

After spending $60,000 of taxpayers’ money to poll the electorate, Carpenter has now announced a significantly watered down policy of partial deregulation in line with the outcome of the polling.

This position still gave Barnett wriggle room to announce a policy of lesser regulation or a commitment to be bound by the referendum. He chose neither. Instead he will consult all parties before arriving at a position.

This is seen by small business as a concession to Coles and Woolworths and who fear the Liberal Party will if elected, support extended deregulation after the election.

In an election, which at the very best will be enormously difficult for the Liberal Party to win, the Party’s response to these two issues is unfathomable.