State Election 2017: Barnett government staring down the barrel of huge losses

Colin Barnett.
Colin Barnett.

THE Barnett Government is staring down the barrel of huge losses in the State Election, according to political experts.

Mark McGowan’s Labor needs to pick up nine seats in the March 11 poll to form government, channelling the massive swing engineered by Geoff Gallop in 2001 when he ousted Premier Richard Court.

William Bowe, an election expert from UWA, thinks a combination of ‘Colin fatigue’ and economic mismanagement means Labor can do just that.

“I think once the campaign is on you’ll see a younger, fresher Mark McGowan up against a Colin Barnett who… everybody is sick of,” he said.

“That’s going to swing over a lot of voters.”

The resurgence of Pauline Hanson furthers muddies the waters.

In a year that has seen the rise of the far right in Britain’s Brexit and Donald Trump’s election win, One Nation could cash in on voter disquiet.

While Roe 8 is a hot-button issue in the south, Mr Bowe predicted a broken promise on the Ellenbrook rail line would cost Liberal Frank Alban his seat of Swan Hills.

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Another public transport pledge – a train line to Perth Airport from the city, through the Forrestfield and Belmont electorates – has been issued to help shore up those knife-edge seats.

But John Phillimore, public policy director at the John Curtin Institute, doesn’t think that ploy will work – predicting Belmont, Forrestfield, Morley, Swan Hills, West Swan and Perth will all fall.

Treasurer Mike Nahan’s May budget showed the worst deficit – $3.9 billion – in State history, with debt to climb past $40 billion.

“The Liberals have been around for eight years and they wear the fact that the budget is in such a dreadful state, that debt is at high it is,” Mr Bowe said.

However, he was not sold on the Opposition’s plan for economic repair.

“Labor’s plan is to tighten up the public service and make it leaner and more efficient,” he said.

“The Liberals are actually doing things.

“They’re selling Western Power, but Labor are just sort of selling a magic pudding.”

Mr Bowe said outer suburbs would form key battlegrounds, and believes swings in excess of 10 per cent are possible.

The redistribution of electoral boundaries has put Liberals like Albert Jacob (Burns Beach) and Peter Abetz (Southern River) at risk.

Even Matt Taylor’s seat of Bicton may be in trouble.

“They look very safe for the Liberals but I don’t think they are really,” he said.

“The swing is on.

“Labor would be hoping for a 9-10 per cent swing overall. In seats like that it would translate into 15 per cent I think.”