Judging Colin Barnett’s second term: who wins?

Colin Barnett.
Colin Barnett.

IF the past four years were a political prize fight, Labor is poised to claim a close but decisive victory when the judges’ scorecards are tallied on March 11.

That’s the opinion of political experts as the State Election campaign enters its final frantic rounds.

Colin Barnett has been a premier with vision, hanging his hat on the success of legacy items like Perth Stadium, Elizabeth Quay and the Perth City Link.

But that development has come at a cost, with the State’s debt tipped to hit $41.1 billion, huge deficits and unemployment at 6.5 per cent.

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“Colin Barnett’s government has had a very poor second term,” former Labor treasurer Eric Ripper said.

“Broken promises, personal ill-discipline with Troy Buswell, party disunity with Dean Nalder; and then there’s the state of the finances and the economy.”

Mr Barnett’s second term has been pocked by missteps, like the unpopular deployment of shark drum lines in early 2014.

“It was just a mistake; a misreading of the public,” UWA political expert William Bowe said.

“Colin Barnett thought ‘People are worried about sharks, this’ll be a winner’.”

In March 2014, scandal-plagued treasurer Buswell resigned after being given plenty of chances.

There have been broken promises on the Ellenbrook rail line and MAX light rail, an ill-fated bid to reform local government, contention over Roe 8 and a leadership challenge from former transport minister Nalder.

In the plus column, Fiona Stanley Hospital opened in 2014, St John of God Midland in 2015 and the Perth Children’s Hospital will – after a litany of delays – be following soon.

Mark McGowan, meanwhile, has kept his party largely unified behind him.

Aside from a doomed leadership challenge from Stephen Smith, Labor has been largely scandal-free.

But have they landed enough decisive blows to win?

“There isn’t any massive scandal that Labor are able to campaign on,” Mr Bowe said, before praising the party’s unity.

“I think the key thing is that they’ve stayed by their leader for a long time.

“That’s a difficult thing for an opposition leader to achieve.

“It’s hard for them to draw blood from the government.”