WA Premier Mark McGowan (Image: AAP/Richard Wainwright)

While Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese was in Perth yesterday, common sense told him there were two people he had to demonstrate a good relationship with. One was Kerry Stokes, owner of the one daily paper in the state. The other was Mark McGowan, the Western Australian premier who in last year's election reduced the Liberal Party presence in the lower house to a duo.

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McGowan's approval rating peaked above 90% early in the pandemic, and although it has waned since, it's still at levels any other leader in the country would push a pensioner off a cliff for. Does it follow that McGowan has repaired the Labor brand in WA enough to turn a tightening federal election that might hinge on the party's performance there?

"You feel like McGowan's popularity certainly won't hurt federal Labor," says Professor John Phillimore, executive director of the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy*. "We've never seen such a dominant state premier, and as far as we know his popularity is holding up. And his government isn’t so long term that people are necessarily looking for someone to kick."