An old-fashioned election
For all the battering that received political wisdom got in 2016, it still has its uses.
The lead-up to the Western Australian state election has felt a bit like going back in time, all the way back to a decade ago. Then, as now, state politics are less important than they used to be, with the federal government vacuuming up revenue and powers from the states, leaving them on the edge of irrelevance. But one effect of this is that federal politics has come to an almost complete standstill, with the sheer numbers of important issues piling up, and the capacity of any government to make changes in any of them decreasing. This, however, has freed up state politics to continue being about ‘the issues’ (mostly), even though the importance of those issues is not as great as it used to be.
The Australian government has been in a state of paralysis for some time, across both major parties, because any real movement one way or the other on the vast array of ‘big issues’ it can now legislate on is likely to be met with absolute fury and, therefore, a loss at the next election, which always seems just around the corner – particularly in the modern, worldwide political environment, which is happy to throw the established order of things out the window. At state level, though, ‘big issues’ are no longer at play. The kind of things that are driving people to vote against the liberal order in national elections are not able to do the same as state level, because the states aren’t really able to do much about it. Conventional wisdom is therefore thrown a lifeline at this election which, I must admit, makes it a bit less interesting, but without the dull elections we wouldn’t be able to tell when a truly extraordinary election is taking place.
The two old maxims
The oldest maxim in Australian state elections is that voters will try to balance out the federal government. Lo and behold, since the Liberals became the party of government in Canberra, Labor has won elections in the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria, and now looks on track to do so in Western Australia.
Another classic maxim is that ‘when the swing is on, it’s on.’ People like picking a winner, so when a) voting is compulsory and b) the narrative for some time has been of a healthy victory for the opposition, people tend to jump on the bandwagon. The swing in state elections on the back of this phenomenon tends to be larger, because each electorate is smaller and therefore each vote swinging to the opposition is a larger proportion of the overall vote share.
Bear in mind, though, my favourite maxim: swing is not uniform. At this election, it will likely be bigger in areas with new housing estates, along with a decent swing in traditionally Labor areas. This is because those that live in these electorates are generally younger, and therefore less likely to be rusted-on voters for either party, because they have not had enough elections to become rusted-on and their generation is simply less likely to wed themselves to one party, as well as being more likely to be affected by the end of the mining boom, thereby causing them to worry about employment and house prices, and looking for someone to blame – and a government that’s in their ninth year with large state debt, and is proposing to sell a state-owned utility is a prime target.
It’s not the federal election
Labor won five of the sixteen seats on offer in Western Australia at the 2016 federal election, and received less than a third of the primary vote in the House of Representatives. So why are they on track to do so much better in the state election?
Partly, this is because of the aforementioned maxims. But there are other thing unique to WA that add to the differences. Both federal parties are unpopular in Western Australia, but WA is a naturally conservative-leaning state, and so when presented with two choices they don’t particularly like, WA voters tend to gravitate towards the more conservative choice. However, voters know the difference between federal and state politics, and so as long as they can express their conservative sentiments at some level, many voters are happy to vote against an unpopular state government, even if it means voting in the ALP. This has been true for many years – the various non-ALP parties have always done better, on average, at federal elections in WA than Labor, but the state election record is fairly even.
The minor party explosion
At the 2013 state election, there weren’t many minor parties. The parties that run upper house candidates were as follows: Labor, Liberals, Nationals, Greens, Australian Christians, Family First, Shooters & Fishers. That’s it. Four years on and the explosion of minor and micro parties running at federal elections has finally been replicated at the state election, where a great mass of tiny, never before seen parties are trying to take advantage of this continued existence of Group Ticket Voting. This ridiculous system allows parties to decide for themselves where their preferences will go if people vote for them above the line, and most voters simply do not have the time or the interest to find out.
As a result, parties like Fluoride Free WA and the Daylight Savings (sic) Party have a serious chance of being elected. Of course, they would have a chance at all if there was not widespread disillusionment with the major parties, which there most certainly is. This is the same reason that One Nation has been resurrected, seemingly out of nowhere. This time last year, they were a distant memory, but one double dissolution later, they have become the go-to party for the disillusioned, and will likely get more than one seat in the Legislative Council.
A new electoral act absurdity (and an old one)
Talk of seat redistributions often bores even those who otherwise pay attention to elections, but the redistribution of seat boundaries for this election takes the cake for some of the unusual boundaries that the Western Australian Electoral Commission has had to draw up, which are all due to one clause of the Electoral Act. The Legislative Assembly, by law, is only allowed to have 59 members, and therefore the WAEC has to draw up 59 seats, and no more. The problem for the commission is that Perth has grown equally rapidly in its north and south corridors, but they couldn’t add a new seat in both without merging four rural seats into two, which was out of the question.
The drawing of the seat boundaries is meant to reflect two things: population, and communities of shared interest. As it was, the merger of Eyre and Wagin, along with the shifting of other shires in the south-west, was fiercely contested by a number of towns who were affected by it, while the decision to add the new seat in the southern metropolitan corridor meant that some unusual boundaries were created in the eastern and northern suburbs to accomodate it. If the Electoral Act allowed for more seats – say, 61 – this would not have been an issue, as a rural seat would not have had to disappear, and a new seat could have been added to both the metropolitan corridors.
The same Electoral Act also has the provision that each region of the Legislative Council must elect six members, which means that a vote in the Upper House in the Mining and Pastoral region is worth around five times as much as a vote in the North Metropolitan region. While the idea of regions is not the worst in a state as large and varied as Western Australia, it does seem rather odd to force all the regions to have the same amount of members, when there is such a large population disparity.
Seat name (Party/margin held by), seats predicted to change hands in bold
Albany (ALP 1.1%): Peter Watson, the incumbent Labor MLA, has the kind of election record most politicians dream of. In a seat that isn’t naturally Labor territory, Watson has won at four consecutive elections, including overcoming a redistribution against him in 2008 that made the seat notionally Liberal, in an election that his party lost, and in 2013 he was one of only two Labor MPs that had a swing towards him. The other? The leader of the WA Labor Party, Mark McGowan. In light of this, it is impossible to see him losing this seat at all.
Armadale (ALP 9.6%): Has been held by Labor since its creation in 1983.
Balcatta (Lib 7.0%): Despite the decent margin, it is quite likely this seat will return to the ALP, as the area has long voted Labor, and the margin is well within the expected statewide swing. However, like neighbouring Mount Lawley, the swing may not be as large as it is in other areas of Perth.
Baldivis (ALP 7.7%): Baldivis does not have a sitting member, being a newly created seat, but this is likely to be an enormous victory for Labor, as it covers is both traditionally Labor and is part of the new mortgage belt, which is probably going to swing heavily towards the ALP. A win for Labor here will mean that former television reporter Reece Whitby will finally enter parliament after two failed runs at the seat of Morley in 2008 and 2013.
Bassendean (ALP 4.6%): Has been held by Labor since its creation in 1996.
Bateman (Lib 22.6%): One of the seats greatly affected by the great southern suburbs reshuffle is Bateman, which has shifted north towards the riverside suburbs on the south of the Swan River. This was used by Alfred Cove MLA Dean Nalder as a justification for his preselection in this seat, forcing the incumbent to move elsewhere – convenient for Nalder given it is the safest Liberal seat in the state.
Belmont (Lib 1.1%): Unquestionably the seat which signalled how the Liberal vote was sky high in 2013, Belmont will return to the ALP at this election, being a seat that they had never lost until 2013. However, it is not quite the safe seat Labor it once was, with a large number of developments near the riverside bringing in more affluent voters.
Bicton (Lib 10.6%): Formerly named Alfred Cove, this seat moved closer to Fremantle and has been renamed Bicton. Standing for this seat is Bateman MLA Matt Taylor, and unlike Nalder in Bateman, Taylor has never represented any part of this electorate. This means he is essentially running as a new candidate, and that’s not his only problem. This is the only Liberal-held electorate in which Roe 8 is a major issue, and the rumblings about how it’s been handled may exacerbate the stronger Labor vote in the southern half of the electorate. This area, though, is quite well established, and Taylor may be able to hold on to it on the back of the strength of Liberal voting in the northern half of the seat, and the promise to build a tunnel, rather than the forced acquisition of property, in the southern half.
Bunbury (Lib 11.8%): The retirement of sitting member John Castrilli has put this seat up in the air. The Liberals have a better record here than Labor does, but the statewide swing will likely affect the increasingly suburban Bunbury as well, and both the Nationals and One Nation have high hopes in the seat. One Nation doing well here would make sense, as it is the kind of regional centre that they can attract voters from across the board in. The Nationals, however, are a surprise, having only gained 8% of the vote in 2013. Nevertheless, they are making a strong push here, but their chances of winning are pretty slim given none of other contenders are preferencing them. Given this will probably be Lib vs ALP, the one thing that may indicate a Liberal hold is that they won this seat in 2005, an election in which they were otherwise beaten badly.
Burns Beach (Lib 11.5%): The margin of this seat isn’t quite what it was after the 2013 election. Ocean Reef, as it was then known, had a 16% swing towards sitting MLA Albert Jacobs, making it a very safe seat. But the seat looks rather different now, having lost the coastal suburbs of Ocean Reef and Mullaloo, and replacing them the with new, mortgage belt suburb Clarkson. It is quite conceivable that Jacobs will suffer a larger swing against him in the southern half of the electorate, where Labor did not campaign at the last election, and most of the electorate can be classified as new mortgage belt. If Jacobs holds on, it will be because of the coastal suburbs sticking with him, but this is less likely in a newer seat like Burns Beach than it is in a well-established seat like Bicton, which is similarly split in half by proximity to a waterway and by a major road.
Butler (ALP 1.1%): Butler covers the northern-most reaches of Perth, stretching out to Yanchep. Despite losing its most heavily Labor-supporting suburb to Burns Beach, it seems highly unlikely that sitting MLA John Quigley, now entering his 16th year in the state parliament, will lose this seat, which is almost entirely made up of new housing estates.
Cannington (ALP 1.5%): Don’t let the slim margin fool you – this seat is not up for grabs. Liberal candidate Jesse Jacobs (son of Eyre MLA Graham Jacobs) also ran for the seat in 2013, and ads for him appeared all over the seat. By all reports, this is not the case this time around, as the Liberals are spending their money elsewhere.
Carine (Lib 18.3%): Has been held by the Liberals since its creation in 1996.
Central Wheatbelt (Nat 8.8% vs Lib): Has been held by the Nationals since 2008, and since 1986 and 1974 in its two predecessor seats.
Churchlands (Lib 20.2%): Was held by independent Liz Constable from its creation until her retirement in 2013. Without a strong independent candidate, this is a very safe Liberal seat.
Cockburn (ALP 4.5%): Has been held by Labor since its creation in 1962.
Collie-Preston (ALP -3.0%): The seat of Collie was held by Labor from 1908 to 1989, and has again been held by Labor since sitting MLA Mick Murray first won the seat in 2005. The problem for Murray is that at every election his seat expands, taking in rural conservative areas and diluting the importance of the enormous Labor vote in the town of Collie. This time around the redistribution has turned this into a notional Liberal seat, but Murray may well be saved by the outer suburbs of Bunbury/Eaton, which have been redistributed into the seat. There are a number of housing developments going on here, which makes this area of the seat much more like Perth. One Nation may also do well here, so Murray may also have to hope that their preferences follow the historical trend and come out evenly towards both major parties.
Cottesloe (Lib 20.2%): Has been held by the Liberals since its creation in 1950, and is the seat of Premier Colin Barnett.
Darling Range (Lib 13.2%): Has been held by the Liberals since 1962, and most of the new housing estates that were in the seat have been redistributed away. There have been murmurs of this seat being in danger, but it is difficult to see how.
Dawesville (Lib 12.7%): Covers the more affluent, southern part of Mandurah, and has been held by the Liberals since 1996, when it was created.
Forrestfield (Lib 2.3%): This is a seat that predominantly leans Labor, but got lost in the high Liberal vote in 2013. The ALP will be getting it back.
Fremantle (ALP 13.8%): Has been held by Labor since 1924, apart from one term between 2009 and 2013 where an Greens candidate won in a by-election. The Greens are likely to come third in the seat at this election, thereby making the seat quite safe for Labor.
Geraldton (Lib 10.9% vs Nat): A speck of blue in a sea of green. Once upon a time, this seat – rather like Collie – was a safe Labor seat, but over time the area of the electorate has expanded, and the Labor vote has been diluted. A second factor is more relevant here than in Collie-Preston, though, which is the strength of the Nationals. In 2008 the seat absorbed the old rural seat of Greenough, which is Nationals territory through and through, particularly given their resurgence on the back of Royalties for Regions. The legacy of that policy is so strong that Labor came a distant third in 2013, in a seat they had won only two elections earlier. This is another regional centre in which One Nation is hoping to do well, and it may be that that helps get the Liberals back over the line, assuming their voters follow the how-to-vote cards. This will probably to too tough a mountain for the Nationals to conquer – at least this time around – just because they do not have the advantage of incumbency that they have in other regional seats.
Girrawheen (ALP 2.6%): Has been held by Labor since its creation in 1996.
Hillarys (Lib 16.2%): Has been held by the Liberals since its creation in 1996, but there’s a catch: the MLA who has held it for all 21 years of its existence, Rob Johnson, is running as an independent. Now, the thing with metropolitan MPs that quit their party and run as independents is that they usually don’t win, because unlike in the regions, where voters often vote for the candidate rather than the party, city voters tend to vote for the party rather than the candidate. If Johnson is going to win, he would have to do it by snowballing the other three candidates’ preferences to jump over Liberal MLC Peter Katsambanis on the two-party count. One Nation is not running because they believe their most likely voters will instead go to Johnson anyway, but the Greens are preferencing Labor ahead of Johnson, which means the ALP may overtake Johnson during the preference count and deliver Katsambanis an easy win, in which case Johnson’s only hope of ‘revenge’ on the party he quit would be to deliver his preferences to Labor to get them over the line. This happened in Morley in 2008, in a very similar situation, but the Labor vote here seems fairly weak, so it is unlikely – but don’t rule it out.
Jandakot (Lib 17.1%): Jandakot has been held by the Liberals since its first creation in 1989, along with the period from 1996-2005 when it was named Murdoch, and again since 2008. Despite this long history of electing Liberals, and the enormous margin MLA Joe Francis has here, this is potentially a danger seat for them, and they have reportedly been campaigning a decent amount in the seat. This is due to the redistribution of the seat boundaries bringing in areas to the seat that are new mortgage belt housing estates, which voted very heavily for the Liberals in 2013 – around 70% on two-party preferred. These areas are quite likely to swing enormously in the other direction, which means Francis will be relying on the older suburbs that have been in the electorate for some time in order to hold on.
Joondalup (Lib 10.3%): There are a few unusual factors going into this one. Sitting member Jan Norberger in his first term, and usually such people get a swing towards them, or at least a muted swing against them, at their second election. Furthermore, Norberger managed to unseat a popular, well known sitting member at the last election, which meant that the swing towards him in 2013 was also muted, even though it was 8%. On the other hand, the redistribution has added the lower half of the electorate that was Ocean Reef, and Labor did not campaign at all there, meaning that the two-party margins there are inflated, and Norberger was not their local member. I don’t normally mention seat polling, as they have a tendency to be rather wacky, but there have been three polls reported here. All have Norberger losing, but by smaller margins each time, with the most recent one being 52-48. I suspect that of the three outer northern suburbs seats held by the Liberals (also including Burns Beach and Wanneroo), this will be the one they might be able to hold on to, but Labor would still be more buoyant about their chances than the Liberals. Much like Burns Beach, it will depend on the coastal suburbs, and I suspect it will be closer than Burns Beach.
Kalamunda (Lib 10.0%): Kalamunda has had an on-off history of existing and not existing, but in the years it has existed it has been consistently won by the Liberals. MLA John Day has been in Parliament since 1993, representing first Darling Range, and then Kalamunda since 2008 when it was recreated. While this seat is in the danger-zone at this election, with a margin of exactly 10%, it is a different seat to some other Liberal held seats with similar or larger margins. There is little in the way of new housing estates in the area, and, as mentioned, it has long been a Liberal seat. There will be a swing to Labor here, and the result will likely be close, but I suspect Day may hold on.
Kalgoorlie (Nat 4.1% vs Lib): The ALP is not what it used to be in the eyes of many of its old supporters, and no seat sums this up like Kalgoorlie. In 1986, Labor got 80% of the primary vote, although they only had one opponent, an independent. Every decade since then has seen their vote decline by 10% or more, which meant that in 2013 they came third with a rather miserable 19.2% of the vote. Their chances at this election may well be even worse, as One Nation are back this time, and are coming for the old Labor vote. This won’t only affect them, as the Nationals have been the ones to gain the most from Labor’s misery in regional WA, and therefore may also lose votes to One Nation, particularly if their proposed mining tax is unpopular. Furthermore, sitting MLA Wendy Duncan is retiring, but she is being replaced by former federal MP Tony Crook, which will afford the Nationals some name recognition.
The Liberals have little cause to cheer either, as the statewide swing will probably affect them here as well, which leaves the final result rather up in the air. Even the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party may influence who wins, depending on how well they can do in a crowded market. Unless One Nation get a surprisingly high primary vote, it seems likely that, based on preferences, the final two will again be National vs Liberal. The Greens and SFF are directing preferences to the Nationals, while the ALP and ONP are directing theirs to the Liberals. The primary vote of the latter will far outweigh the former, but One Nation is notorious for having mixed preference flows that don’t follow the how-to-vote cards, and it is questionable to imagine that Labor voters would prefer voting Liberal to voting National. On balance, a Nationals retain is the most likely result, but it will be very much worth watching.
Kimberley (ALP 5.1%): If Kalgoorlie is anything like described above, it will simply be following in the footsteps of Kalgoorlie, a seat which was won by the ALP in 2013 with a mere 26% of the primary vote in a four-cornered contest. This time around, though, it will probably end up being more conventional, as the Liberal vote was at a high watermark, the Labor vote at an all-time low, and the Greens vote magnified by the James Price Point protests. The Nationals may come second here after finishing fourth with 18.2% in 2013, but Labor should be confident in winning.
Kingsley (Lib 14.0%): Has been held by the Liberals since its creation in 1989, aside from 2005-2008, on the back of a 400 vote loss.
Kwinana (ALP 4.1%): MLA Roger Cook has, in theory, been in one of the safest Labor seats in the state since its creation in 2008. But he has twice had to fend off a challenge from Carol Adams, Mayor of Kwinana. Adams has chosen to run for the Legislative Council instead, which means Cook should have a clear run at it, although he has gained some Liberal-leaning areas in the north of the seat.
Mandurah (ALP 7.7%): MLA David Templeman has held this seat since 2001 and will win again. Worth watching how well One Nation does here.
Maylands (ALP 2.9%): The ALP have held this seat since 1968.
Midland (ALP 0.4%): Veteran MLA Michelle Roberts barely held onto Midland at the last election, a seat she has held since its creation in 1996. This, however, was mostly just part of the wider swing towards the Liberals, rather than a reflection of any serious change in the preferences of voters in the electorate, and Roberts should retain with a nice swing back to her.
Mirrabooka (ALP 4.6%): This seat has only existed in its current form since 2013, but previous seats covering the area have voted Labor for many years, and it will be no different this time.
Moore (Nat 4.1% vs Lib): It’s been a long time since the Nationals won the primary vote in Moore, but Labor preferences have got them over the line at the last two elections. This time around, however, Labor are directing their preferences to the Liberals, so the Nationals may be hoping that the statewide swing against the Liberals will work in their favour here. Having said that, rural Labor voters have a tendency to ignore their how-to-vote cards when told to preference the Liberals.
Morley (Lib 4.7%): Sitting MLA Ian Britza pulled off one of the stunners of the 2008 election when he won Morley, a seat never before held by the Liberals, on the back of generous preferences from dumped Labor minister turned independent John D’Orazio. Britza held onto the seat in 2013, but won’t be able to stop the tide at this election.
Mount Lawley (Lib 9.0%): The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Michael Sutherland, sits in this seat, but his high profile here – thanks to signage for him being found pretty much everywhere – may not be enough to save him. This is a genuine toss-up, despite not being a double-digit margin, because the area is not one that is necessarily prone to large swings, and is dotted with Labor and Liberal leaning areas. It may end up being to Sutherland’s advantage that One Nation is not running a candidate, given that their voters have a tendency to come strongly from the Liberals, but their preferences usually come out about 50/50. If Sutherland can maintain a primary vote along the lines of what he received in 2008, he can probably hold on by the skin of his teeth.
Murray-Wellington (Lib 12.0%): The appropriately named Murray Cowper has been the MLA for Murray/Murray-Wellington since 2005, and only once, in 1989, have the Liberals not won the seat.
Nedlands (Lib 19.0%): Since its creation in 1930, the only time a Liberal has not held this seat is when an independent has.
North West Central (Nat 9.6% vs Lib): Surely the most brilliantly named electorate on Earth, North West Central is, like its neighbours, a seat that was once solidly Labor, but is now part of the Nationals’ resurgence. This is doubly true in this district, because the sitting MLA, Vince Catania, was first elected to the Assembly as a Labor candidate. Labor ran third here at the last election, but it’s feasible to see them getting a swing back to them from the inland mining towns. However, they won’t be able to pick up enough votes on the coast for that to have any real effect, so Catania should be re-elected.
Perth (Lib 2.7%): The 2013 election ended a 45 year hold for the ALP on this seat, but with Labor picking popular Mayor of Vincent, John Carey, as their candidate, Perth will be back to normal at this election.
Pilbara (Nat 11.5% vs ALP): Much like Kalgoorlie, this is a seat that was once solidly Labor that has turned to the Nationals, and which will probably go in a similar direction this time around. This is the seat of Brendon Grylls, leader of the Nationals, and has been heavily targeted by ads against their proposed mining tax. Labor’s chances of winning are minimal, as every party is preferencing the Nationals ahead of them, and Royalties for Regions is exceptionally popular here, even if the mining tax is not. The One Nation candidate here has been in the news for the wrong reasons, which will limit their otherwise good chances of success, and may instead help the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers to at least do well.
Riverton (Lib 12.3%): This was once a marginal seat, but it’s mighty difficult to see Labor winning here, as any residual Labor leaning areas have been redistributed away, leaving behind only well-established suburbs that have become more Liberal over time.
Rockingham (ALP 13.2%): The ALP have held this seat since its creation in 1974, and it is currently held by the Leader of the Opposition.
Roe (Nat 16.7% vs Lib): Technically this seat, like Baldivis, does not have a sitting member, though for the opposite reason. Because the Legislative Assembly can only have 59 seats by law, in order for Baldivis to be created, two seats had to be merged. Those seats were the rural seats of Eyre and Wagin, which have together created Roe. The sitting MLA for Eyre, Graham Jacobs of the Liberals, is running for re-election, but the sitting MLA for Wagin, Terry Waldron of the Nationals, has retired. Jacobs has a habit of holding onto this seat, but the only way he could conceivably win this time is if a) his vote in what was Eyre holds up and b) One Nation, who will probably do well here, manages to get him across the line on preferences. Labor are again preferencing the Liberals over the Nationals here. On balance, the Nationals should win here – but it may be quite close.
Scarborough (Lib 17.3%): This was notionally a marginal seat when it was re-created in 2008, but two elections later and it seems highly unlikely that the swing in this seat will be anything like it is in other seats that have swung so heavily towards the Liberals in that time.
South Perth (Lib 20%): Has never been won by the ALP since its creation in 1950.
Southern River (Lib 10.8%): I said above that the two areas that could be expected to deliver the biggest swing towards the ALP would be traditionally Labor leaning areas that are ‘coming home’, and new mortgage belt areas that have felt the heaviest impact of the end of the mining boom. Thanks to redistribution, Peter Abetz, the sitting MLA for Southern River, has both of these in his seat. Abetz had an eye-popping 18.2% swing on primary votes in 2013, but this electorate takes in a large number of new housing estates, and has lost the slightly older, more affluent estates in the redistribution, in return for Labor leaning suburbs. Given the likely swing in new housing estates across Perth is going to be large, this seat will probably return to Labor hands.
Swan Hills (Lib 3.5%): Having had the outer suburban area of Ellenbrook and its near-mythical train line redistributed into this seat, Labor will have an easy win here.
Thornlie (ALP 1.3%): This seat, like Midland, is traditional Labor territory that was made to look tighter than it is at the last election.
Vasse (Lib 21.2%): Has been won by the Liberals at every election since its creation in 1950.
Victoria Park (ALP 4.9%): Has never been won by the Liberals since its creation in 1930.
Wanneroo (Lib 10.9%): An outer suburban seat with a long history of being won by the party of government, Wanneroo looks like sticking to that trend. Almost all of the current margin was won at the last election, and a matching swing in the opposite direction would be in line with the statewide trend. There is little sign that the Liberals will be able to put up fight here, as there is in some other seats of a similar margin.
Warnbro (ALP 10.2%): Has been won, when including its predecessor seat, by the ALP since its creation in 1989.
Warren-Blackwood (Nat 6.9% vs Lib): Although sitting MLA Terry Redman has had some near misses in this repeatedly renamed seat, it is hard to see anyone but the Nationals winning here, given the likely tanking Liberal vote. This may well leave the battle for second being the most interesting part of the night here.
West Swan (ALP -0.8%): Thanks to redistribution, this seat is notionally a Liberal seat, and also has some of ugliest boundaries ever seen. There are plenty of new housing estates scattered throughout this absurd seat, though, and Labor should have a comfortable win.
Willagee (ALP 2.4%): Has been won by the ALP since its creation in 1996.
Total: ALP 31 (+10); Lib 21 (-9); Nat 7 (-); Oth 0 (-1)
Name of region (current/predicted result)
Agricultural (2 Lib; 2 Nat; 1 ALP; 1 SFF/2 Lib; 2 Nat; 1 ALP; 1 ONP): The Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party nabbed the last seat in this region in 2013 on the back of preferences, and seem like being the only real spanner in the works. If MLC Rick Mazza has been able to get his name recognised in the region, he may well be able to get his vote high enough to play spoiler in the last seat, as he gets preferences from pretty much every party. If he does, it will likely be at the expense of the Liberals. One Nation should do well enough to get a seat here, but the question is: where will their votes come from? If it comes roughly evenly from the three major parties (which seems most likely), then it may actually end up locking Mazza out, unless he can get up near 10% of the vote himself.
East Metropolitan (ALP 3; Lib 3/ALP 3; Lib 2; ONP 1): A lot of the discussion about this region has been about Fluoride Free WA, who are the main beneficiary of preferences thanks to Glenn Druery’s wheeling and dealing. Despite this, they are not actually the minor party with the greatest chance of nabbing a seat. In order for them to win, they have to leap-frog both One Nation and Australian Christians. One Nation is likely to do well here, and Australian Christians performs better in this region than any other in the state. If FFWA fails to leap-frog both of them, then it will come down to the two of them to decide who wins the last seat. The greater the drop in the Liberal vote, the greater the chances of ACP winning the last seat, because they need to jump over the Liberals after FFWA is knocked out in order to take their preferences all the way to the top. Most likely, however, is that One Nation will win the final seat, despite very few preferences going their way.
Mining and Pastoral (Lib 2; Nat 2; ALP 1; Grn 1/ALP 2; Nat 2; Lib 1; ONP 1): The smallest region by population is also, unsurprisingly given the tiny quotas and large area of the region, the toughest to pick. Three of the seats are straightforward enough to pick, for the ALP, Liberals and Nationals respectively, but from there it gets somewhat tougher. One Nation should pick up votes in mining areas, which will probably be enough to get them over the line for the fourth seat. But seats five and six are entirely dependent on how many votes the ALP, Greens, Liberals, Nationals and SFF get. The Greens seat is particularly unsafe – if there is any drop in the vote, and I suspect there will be given James Price Point is not the issue it was in 2013, along with an increase in the ALP vote, which there probably will be, then that seat will go to the ALP. The final seat will probably be between the Liberals and the Nationals, and the Nats have a better flow of preferences.
North Metropolitan (Lib 4; ALP 2/ALP 3; Lib 3): The Liberals managed to get four seats here at the last election with a rather ridiculous 57% of votes, which is quite an achievement. They won’t be repeating it, but it’s hard to see a minor party breaking through here. The Greens aren’t polling high enough, and One Nation has such a bad preference deal that the Liberals will probably be able to get the third seat, even if they lose 20% of primary votes from last time.
South Metropolitan (Lib 3; ALP 2; Grn 1/ALP 3; Lib 3): Much like North Metro, South Metro has high quotas which are difficult for minor parties to overcome, even with good preference deals. Daylight Savings (sic) is the main beneficiary of preferences here, but they have an even tougher task than Fluoride Free WA in East Metro, and it seems highly unlikely they will pull it off. The actual end result may depend entirely on how much of the major party vote bleeds to minor parties. In order for the Greens to win, the ALP may actually need to lose votes from 2013, which seems unlikely. One Nation will not be able to win a seat unless they get a full quota on primary votes, while Australian Christians have a slim opportunity in much the same way they do in East Metro: prevent DSP from jumping over them, and win on Liberal preferences.
South West (ALP 2; Lib 2; Nat 1; SFF 1*/ALP 2; Lib 2; Nat 1; ONP 1): One Nation shouldn’t feel too confident of picking up the last seat here, despite running their WA leader. The other five seats are probably quite safe in the hands they’re already in, but the SFF representative is Nigel Hallett, a long-time MLC for the region who resigned from the Liberal Party last year to join SFF. If he has strong enough name recognition to get around double what SFF got in 2013, he will take that last seat, because basically every party is preferencing him ahead of One Nation. If he doesn’t, then One Nation will pick up the last seat.
Total: ALP 14 (+3); Lib 13 (-3); Nat 5 (-); ONP 4 (+4); Grn 0 (-2); SFF 0 (-2)
Looking at these predictions, some may be wondering why it doesn’t appear to be an absolute landslide for the ALP, to which I remind you: swing is not uniform. There will be some seats that have massive swings, but don’t change hands – the same thing happened in the 2016 federal election. Labor could win more seats quite easily, if established suburbs swing by margins as well, which could bring Bicton, Kalamunda and Mount Lawley into their column, and perhaps even Jandakot. The ALP could also win less seats, not even forming a majority, as in 2008.
It’s also worth paying attention to the Legislative Council, which has not receieved anywhere near enough attention. The best possible result for a Labor government is that the Greens retain their two seats in the Upper House, because there is no chance of the ALP winning a majority of their own there. The Nationals will more than likely be able to do whatever they want, even if Labor wins a majority in the Assembly, simply because of the malapportioned regions of the Council.
In any case, a Labor victory with 31 seats in the Assembly and 14 seats in the Council is what I am predicting, thanks to a surge of votes in the new mortgage belt seats scattered around Perth’s outer suburbs.