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Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Page: 2179

Senator JOHNSTON (Western Australia) (13:46): Today I want to talk about the very fantastic phenomenon that was the Western Australian state election. In May 2001 the Labor Party, for the first time in my home state's history, took control of both chambers of our state parliament. The first thing they sought to do was change the electoral boundaries but, because of a constitutional mechanism called 'entrenchment', they needed an absolute majority. They then set about the task of giving the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly a vote to try to defeat the entrenchment rules.

The clerk of the lower house of state parliament said that without a proper absolute majority, he would seek a declaration from the Supreme Court of Western Australia as to the lack of constitutionality of the move. He took the case and the Supreme Court said that the Labor Party's legislation to change the state electoral boundaries was unconstitutional. So convinced were the Labor Party they took it on appeal to the High Court, and lost. Only with the assistance of a disaffected Liberal, one Alan Cadby, did the Labor Party get their legislation through in 2005. So in Western Australia the state electoral boundaries were determined by the Labor Party in a most partisan way, moving some eight seats into the metropolitan area. Every commentator said that the ALP in Western Australia had a five-seat advantage in moving these boundaries in the expedient and self-interested way that they did.

Two Saturdays ago, my son and I turned up at 3 am to the Kewdale Primary School to set the booth up for our state candidate in Belmont, a seat that we have not held in 60 years—when we did hold it, it was just farming country. It was the seat of Eric Ripper, the former leader of the state ALP, which he had held for 25 years. We set the booth up with a number of other dedicated workers and spent the first four or five hours of that day handing out how-to-vote cards—this seat has been, for us, tiger country, a strong Labor seat—and watching the way the vote unfolded.

The campaign was most interesting. The Labor Party did not go near the issue of cost of living—did not touch it—because they were so frightened that it would be a reflection of the carbon tax in Western Australia. That is the only reason I can think of why they would not touch cost of living. The cost of living in Western Australia is very high, very high indeed, but they made no mention of it. Indeed, the leader of the Labour Party in Western Australia only a month out from the election said that he was opposed to the carbon tax. He was in fact the most wedged politician in Australia until that point.

He also came up with a very catchy plan for a 'metranet' rail network scheme around Perth. This was a pretty good idea. However, his salesmanship lacked one vital part of credibility—which of course we see in Canberra regularly—his costings were all wrong. His costings were exposed for what they were: a gross understatement of the huge burden this plan would have put upon Western Australian taxpayers. The Premier, on the other hand, has been advocating a movement of the football stadium. As many people know, the West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers are a very popular part of Western Australian culture. And in the last week of the campaign a number of star football players came out and said, 'The Premier's plan is a very good one and we want to see it in reality.'

The Labor Party, in desperation, did what the Labor Party does really, really well. In the last, dying days of the campaign they came forward with personal attacks. They attacked the Premier, they attacked his ministers in a most disgraceful and personal way—and guess what? The people of Western Australia woke up to that. They could see exactly what that was: a desperate attempt to try to salvage some credibility from a campaign that they had lost because their policies were so poor and they were suffering the huge burden of trying to carry the brand damage that had flowed from what is happening in Canberra.

Our state director is a very cool, astute customer indeed. He ran a magnificent campaign; a steady-as-she-goes campaign. What did that yield? Let us talk about the state of the parties currently. The Libs have 31 seats, the Nats have seven and the Labor Party has 21, having lost eight seats.

I will now talk about some of the swings and some of the candidates. Albert Jacob in Ocean Reef received, on a primary count, a swing of 19 per cent. Albert Jacob grew up on the northern edge of Perth, where his family ran a small farm as well as a machine-tooling business. He has a wealth of diverse knowledge and is not a union hack. The winning candidate in Albany, a Labor candidate, said that there are too many union hacks in the Labor Party today. In Canberra, exactly the same applies. There are far too many union hacks. That was the seat of Ocean Reef, and I congratulate Albert Jacob—what a fantastic performance.

In Southern River, Peter Abetz—a very popular and well-known name in this part of the world—had a swing of 18 per cent to him, and on a two-party preferred basis it was 15.3 per cent. Peter Abetz is simply an outstanding candidate for the Liberal Party in the seat of Southern River, and, as we all expected, did very well.

In Morley, a really strong Labor seat, Ian Britza—a most interesting, talented and delightful person—had a swing of 14.6 per cent. Another fantastic result for the Liberal Party. Ian Britza is a tireless worker for his community. The seat has been, until he won it in 2008, a really strong Labor seat. It is in the federal electorate of Perth, which does not augur very well for the current member for Perth.

The seat that I got up out of bed early for was Belmont. Glenys Godfrey, the former mayor of Belmont, who is a simply delightful lady, had a swing of 13.3 per cent to her. It was a great pleasure to see her win that seat for the first time in 60 years by some 300 votes. I congratulate her.

In the seat of Joondalup, Jan Norberger—a really strong young candidate—had a swing to him of 12 per cent. In the seat of Perth, which we have not held for a very long time, Eleni Evangel campaigned magnificently, and she too got a swing to her of some 12 per cent. In the seat of Mount Lawley, Michael Sutherland—I believe he is the new speaker of the Legislative Assembly—who is a very capable, knowledgeable and hardworking candidate and who won the seat for the first time in 2008 had a swing of 10 per cent to him. I congratulate him for that.

In Balcatta we had Chris Hatton. Balcatta used to be Brian Burke's seat. We all know that Brian Burke was the famous premier of the eighties and WA Inc. This seat was Brian Burke's seat, and Chris Hatton had a swing of 10.8 per cent to him to win that seat and take it for the Liberal Party.

Last, but not least, in a seat we did not win, but it is a seat in Western Australia that has been a Labor stronghold for as long as I can remember, Daniel Parasiliti had a swing of 11.5 per cent in the seat of Midland. Michelle Roberts has held that seat for the Labor Party for a very long time. It went to a recount. I think we lost it, in the end, by 25 votes. A fabulous result for a young, very active and enthusiastic candidate, and I congratulate him. I congratulate all of the candidates for the Liberal Party at this state election, because, I think, without exception they had a really strong result with swings right across the board.

There was a huge cloud hanging over the Labor Party in Western Australia. A number of complaints came from candidates about the brand being damaged et cetera by Canberra. Labor hero and Olympic champion Peter Watson, who is a middle distance runner and a very nice fellow who fought off a strong Liberal Party challenge in the seat of Albany, defied the state-wide swing to retain Albany a third time, and called on the party to stop preselecting union hacks. So the one survivor of this drowning ship has offered a little bit of advice to the Labor Party: stop preselecting union hacks.

That view was broadened by former Bassendean MP Martin Whitely—a Labor man—in his blog. He warned against Labor preselecting shop union secretary Joe Bullock to replace the retiring Chris Evans in the Senate—a vacancy he is also contesting. Mr Mick Murray from the seat of Collie-Preston said that the Gillard factor was a major factor in the vote in Collie-Preston, particularly if he lost.

Most of the candidates very quietly and privately acknowledge that the Labor brand in Western Australia is severely damaged. It is damaged because Western Australia is perceived by Labor here in Canberra as a cash cow that they can just reach into and grab a fistful of dollars from with the mining tax and the carbon tax. Of course, who can forget the great promise that Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan made to us about oil and gas royalties? Then Mr Swan says, 'No, we are not doing that now.' So the Western Australian public were suckered very callously by the Labor Party in 2007, and we now know that again, like most of the constituents that have been made promises by the Labor Party, those promises will not be delivered.

Colin Barnett took over the leadership of the Western Australian Liberal Party six weeks before the 2008 election. He campaigned on integrity and honesty. That really resonated with the public in Western Australia. It resulted in forming, back in 2008, a minority government with the Nationals. He demonstrated over four years that he was a credible and reliable economic manager and that he could manage the affairs of the state notwithstanding him not having a clear majority on the floor of the chamber.

He committed Western Australia to an innovative infrastructure build: the Fiona Stanley Hospital, a new football stadium, a new Perth waterfront and a train line to the airport. WA responded to this piece of good government from a solid premier who, as I say, campaigned on integrity with an eight per cent swing. It was as high as 24 per cent in some seats, Alfred Cove in particular.

All of us on this side of the chamber congratulate Colin Barnett and State Director Morton for an absolutely superb campaign effort. He campaigned on integrity and honesty and was well rewarded. He is an example today, particularly looking at Canberra, of a very rare commodity: good government.