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WA Labor considers a marriage with the Nats -

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WA Labor considers a marriage with the Nats

The World Today - Friday, 12 September , 2008 12:14:00

Reporter: David Weber

ELEANOR HALL: Labor MPs in Western Australia are meeting today to consider their leader Alan
Carpenter's plan for an alliance with the National Party. The first Caucus meeting since the
election is scheduled for this afternoon and the caretaker premier will brief MPs on what he's
offered the Nationals.

A somewhat unlikely alliance with the National party is now Mr Carpenter's only hope of remaining
in government. But there are still question marks over whether even if a deal were agreed, he would
remain on as leader.

Our reporter, David Weber joins me now from Perth. David what is Alan Carpenter presenting to his
MPs today?

DAVID WEBER: Well Eleanor, essentially he is presenting details to them of how the Labor Party
would propose to meet the National Party's plan for 'royalties for regions'. Now that would be 20
per cent of mining royalties to be spent in the regions. He's been taking it to a Cabinet meeting
this morning and will be taking it to a Caucus meeting this afternoon.

Now it's the same kind of issue that the Liberal Party is dealing with. They are putting a similar
proposal to the National Party. This is something the National Party went to the election on and
said was non-negotiable. And that the cabinet meeting this morning is the second time the ministers
have met with the premier, the caretaker premier since the election.

Upper House MP Kim Chance said that there was no natural alliance between the Liberal and National
Party's and he hails from Meriden and the Attorney-General Jim McGinty was also, he was saying
quite a bit in favour of the National Party. A lot of Labor MP's have been talking up the National
Party since the election and this is some of what Mr McGinty had to say.

JIM MCGINTY: They set out there to recreate themselves, they did it magnificently over a period of
some years and full credit to Brendon Grylls for what he did and rebuilding the National Party
which is in decline elsewhere in Australia. So he's more than risen to the challenge. He's faced a
very hostile environment and done remarkably well.

You need to deal with the situation as you find it. Now the fact of the matter is the National
Party a lot of upper house seats, they've also won a lot of lower house seats and Brendon Grylls
before the election said he was aiming at the balance of power, he's got it.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Western Australia's caretaker Attorney-General Jim McGinty. Now the decision
by Alan Carpenter to go to the election last Saturday has proved devastating for the Labor Party.
Is his leadership under threat David?

DAVID WEBER: Well Kim Chance and also Jim McGinty both said that Alan Carpenter has the unanimous
support of Cabinet and they believed he would be likely to have the unanimous support of Caucus as
well. It's interesting that the Nationals Leader Brendan Grylls bought in to some of this
speculation yesterday by saying that he's negotiating with Mr Carpenter and the Labor Party should
respect that and he believes that those in the party room would be supportive of Alan Carpenter's
negotiations with the Nationals.

And he was asked, you know, Mr Grylls was asked, so he needs to be sending that strong message out
there doesn't he? And Mr Grylls said, 'well I'm sending that very strong message back to his
party'. Now I guess the thing is, a lot of Labor figures say the result on Saturday could be a lot
worse. Looking at the polls going into Saturday there was a feeling that Labor was facing an
absolute route. And at least they're in a negotiating position at this stage.

If Alan Carpenter can pull this off it would be a rare third term for Labor in Western Australia.
Its only happened once since the Second World War in the past. But of course, the timing of the
election raises questions about Mr Carpenter's judgment and the argument over whether it would have
been better to go earlier when Troy Buswell was leading the Liberal Party or to wait until
February. Well that debate will go on until the cows come home.

ELEANOR HALL: And of course they are negotiating now about the National Party's plan for up to
$700-million coming out of the budget. That plan is coming under increasing scrutiny now. What's
access economics been saying about it?

DAVID WEBER: Access economics is saying that it could result in wasteful spending and what they
call 'policy on the run'. This comes after the Department of Treasury, the under treasurer, putting
out a statement saying that it could put the states triple-A credit rating at risk. The Nationals
Leader Brendon Grylls has said they've got their sums wrong because they haven't included some
projects that have already been announced by the Labor and Liberal Party's for the bush.

And I guess he's sort of scaling it down a bit sort of saying it's not on top of what spending has
already been announced. And the professor of economic policy at Curtin University this week, Peter
Kenyan, said the plan is relatively sound, as long as it does incorporate commitments that have
already been made.

ELEANOR HALL: Now Alan Carpenter may find support from the Party for a deal with the Nationals. But
what's the likelihood that that will actually happen? Because of course the Liberal Party is also
putting its proposals to the National Party.

DAVID WEBER: That's right and the National's MP Terry Redman for example has been going to talk to
people in his electorate about the prospect of supporting Labor and he has said that people
certainly feel challenged by the notion that the National's would even consider talking to the
Labor Party. Labor didn't get a strong vote those seats that the National's did well in, although
the National's did go to this election with an independent position - saying they wanted to be an
independent party and to get what they could out of the government.

There didn't seem to be a natural alliance being talked about, going into the election Brendon
Grylls has been very careful to couch himself as an independent leader and there's a lot of bad
blood between the Liberals and Nationals going back some time. Although the people that voted for
Nationals may not be aware of the fact that maybe this so-called natural alliance is not as natural
as they thought it would be.

ELEANOR HALL: So David when will Western Australians finally know who's governing them?

DAVID WEBER: Well sometime over the weekend we'll have some final results from the seats that are
in the balance. Looking at the figures you would say that Labor could actually pick up a few more
seats. But the scrutineers are saying that it's unlikely. Jim McGinty said this morning it only
looked like Albony might come home for Labor. Probably by the end of tomorrow we'll have a clear
idea of the seats and Sunday is when Brendon Grylls of the National Party will announce which party
he'll support in government.

ELEANOR HALL: David Weber in Perth, thank you.