MINOR parties may form the biggest risk to the WA Labor Party’s bid to win government, according to a political expert.
John Curtin Institute of Public Policy director John Phillimore said the resurgence of Pauline Hanson’s populist party Pauline Hanson’s One Nation had the potential to disrupt the WA parliament’s two-party preferred structure.
Professor Phillimore said there was a movement in the air that drew voters towards fringe parties like One Nation, but it did not mean the attention would be beneficial or get results.
“Pauline Hanson is getting a lot of publicity, but my gut feeling is that it is more of a circus,” he said.
“The recent collapse of a Senator (Rod Culleton) was highly publicised but it remains to be seen whether that damaged the impressions people have of the party.”
Prof. Phillimore said a combination of economic and unemployment problems had put the Liberal Party on the nose but, in a national context, the Government was not particularly bad.
“There is a general unease in the community about how there can be so much debt and deficit after an economic boom which has left a lot of people scratching their heads… but I don’t quite see whether WA is the better or worse than any other government in Australia,” he said.
Prof Phillimore said it was the responsibility of the Labor Party to get their message right.
“More generally this looks like the 2001 election (when Richard Court’s Liberals were ousted by Geoff Gallup’s Labor), and I predict six out of the ten seats Labor are targeting will fall well,” he said.
Those seats are West Swan, Belmont, Forrestfield, Morley, Swan Hills and Perth.
Prof Philli more said the notionally Liberal Bicton, Mt Lawley and Balcatta could be more difficult, but were possible to attain.
He said country Labor seats Collie-Preston and Albany ran the biggest risk of falling to One Nation, due to their increased vote in regional WA.
“Traditionally we see big swings in the outer suburbs, but we don’t get much polling in WA which makes prediction quite difficult,” he said.
Prof Phillimore said preference deals would not change the Government, but rather targeted campaigning.
“Within the Liberal Party there might be temptation to do deals with One Nation, but progressive Liberals will get frustrated and vote against the Party,” he said.
“And it will be up to the Labor Party to convince people to vote against the Government, rather than against both major parties.”