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Hell o welcome to the program I am Ashleigh Gillon. In Perth re with we are gearing up for tomorrow's AUKMIN talks. Coming up today we will look at what is likely to come out of those talks with the Defence Minister Stephen Smith. The Foreign Minister Bob Carr will also be at the talks and will be joining us too for a look at a number of international issues but also Sydney's gun crime problem and Alexander Downer potential political future in South Australia. Data out today has shown us 5,500 jobs were lost last month and we will look at the political debate rages as a result. All of that coming up. First Michael Willesee has the day's top stories for you PWe do start with some breaking news. An emergency alert has been issued for a medium fast moving bushfire in the Pakenham area.In Melbourne. Joining me live is Sky News Melbourne bureau chief Young. What can you tell us? Michael good afternoon to you. As many people head to the beach of course today, we have in the past half hour received word as you mentioned of a fast moving fire in the Pakenham area. Pakenham is about an hour south-east of Melbourne, just to give you details, saying it's a fast moving fire. Pakenham Road, Army Road and Reynolds Road issued 3:35 to 4:45 p.m.. A number of spot fires akm ahead, jurming a kill -- jumping a kilometre ahead of the fire. Pakenham is a large number of people living in the area and we understand a large number of fire crews are heading into the areaa or are in the area. I should mention another fire burning over the past couple of hours in the Bau Bau National Park, fire authorities are saying that is burning in the middle of nowhere. They have put a advice out. A number of campers have been removed from the national park and are saying the fire is moving quickly and burning through 80 hectares. They have a number of water bombing aircraft in the area as well as tankers and bulldozers and are calling for anyone in the national park to evacuate and get out. They understand it is burning east of the Thompson catchment. The fire at Pakenham, south-east of Melbourne are saying a fast moving bushfire, we are still waiting for more details they will update us of course as the afternoon goes on and we will do the same for viewers was well.Thank you. Now for the latest on the weather conditions in South Australia, Sky News Adelaide reporter Ashleigh Steele is standing by at the CFS headquarters and what is the latest on the firefighting effort?Yes, good afternoon. Very dangerous conditions for bushfires right across South Australia today. With temperatures in the 40s already right across the state and there is a fire that's causing concern for authorities at the moment. And that's at Bundaleer North in the state's mid north. A watch and act alert has been issueed for that fire and is travelling in a south-easterly direction towards Georgetown is currently 16kms north-east of that town at the moment and residents are advised to enact the bushfire survival plans to assess the situation and to relocate if necessary. Around 200 firefighters are currently tackling that blaze, and smoke has been drifting from that fire into the Clare Valley so residents in this area are also told to remain vigilant. There have been quite a number of other fires sparked up today but thankfully so far the CFS has been able to contain those. We have total fire bans in 13 of the state's 15 districts today six of those with extreme fire danger largely in the southern parts of the state so it includes the Adelaide metropolitan area also the Adelaide Hills. The lower south-east and Yorke and Eyr peninsula. Temperatures climbing to 45 degrees today and the strorng northerly winds it is proving difficult for firefighters to tackle the blazes and they are keeping an eye on 33 known fire bugs in the state. Identified high risk for lighting fires in the bushfire season. We are waiting for the cool change to finally come through later tonight, that will drop temperatures by as much as 20 degrees in the part of the state but until that point it is tense in CFS headquarters in Adelaide as we monitor the fires in extreme conditions.Thank you. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has toured fire ravaged regions in northern NSW today as crews fighting blazes near Coonabarabran brace for a return to hot and windy conditions.Sky News reporter Cameron Price filed this report from the north-west of NSW.For the second time in as many weeks the Prime Minister made her way to a community devastated by bushfires. This time Coonabarabran, in NSW west. Where more than 40 houses have been destroyed by fire. 49 in all, more than 42,000 hectares burnt out by this devastating bushfire that swept through the area. Last weekend.She spent time meeting with volunteers who have fought the fires on the fireground and with those who helped out in the incident control and the evacuation centre where many people fled when the bushfire came through.With that awesome power in the fire it is incredible that no lives have been lost.And that is an incredible tribute to everybody who has bravely fought these fires.To the firefighters, to the police, to the volunteers, to the council workers, to everybody who has been involved, they have done an amazing thing. From there out to Siding Springs to tour the observatory that was saved and to Bob Fenwick's place which was complete ly destroyed when the fire came through last Sunday. Milder conditions over the past few days have allowed authorities to put in some containment lines, but they are warning the threat isn't over yet. Higher temperatures and strong winds over the next few days will present another bushfire threat, authorities are warning locals not to become complacent.We have seen people return to their homes, particularly on Timor Road to start assessing their damage.Along way to go, people need to remain alert. They need to remain across the conditions locally and monitor the website, listen to local radio, watch TV and be ready to act on your local plan.

Further weakness for the jobs market with the unemployment rate rising to 5.4% in December, up from 5.3% in November. The weak read could give the Reserve Bank more ammunition to cut rates next month, Sky News Business reporter Andrew Wilson has the details. Australia's labour market continues to weaken in December with the unemployment rate jumping to 5.4%.While more jobs were lost last month than forecast the result is in line with economists expectations.Seems to put the labour market back on that sort of incremental soften ing track so we have the unemployment rate back to - back at 5.4%, so it is not yet above, we have had I think one month when it was 5.55% so jobs growth is there but it is ever so slow.Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the economy shed 5500 jobs in December despite expectations that total employment would remain flat.Despite our resilient economic performance our Government is conscious of the fact that there is an ongoing patchiness in some sections of our economy.And that some Australian businesses and some Australian families are under pressure.I think many Australians will be very disappointed that we haven't started 2013 on a more positive foot for the Australian economy.The number of people in full-time work dropped nearly 14,000 to just over 8 million. While those employed part-time rose 8,000 to 3.4 million.The participation rate which measures the percentage of the working aged population either employed or looking for work remained unchanged at 65.1%.Interesting that the participation rate remains the same. So still the same amount of job seekers out there but we were definitely seeing a slowing in recruit many activity at the tail end of last year.Market watchers aren't too concerned about the health of the labour market following strength in November's employment figures, with the number of jobs created revised higher to 17,000.Last month's numbers surprised us all, the employment rate went from 5.4 to 5.2%. We have seen that bounce back. Really at this stage a real indication will come from next month's numbers more than these numbers we see here.The weak employment read could add weight to a rate cut from the Reserve Bank next month, but the central bank's decision will largely depend on the all-important inflation figures due next week. At least three Americans you are among the oil field workers held by terrorists inning ajeera. A British national was killed when the Islamists attacked and took hold of the BP complex. Foreign affairs says it appears no Australians are involve the. Americans are being held with dozens of other western hos hostages with others in a remote corner of Algeria. A joint venture involving aljeer were Norway and BP was attacked early this morning by militants claiming to be members of al-Qaeda. Defense secretary Penetta learned of the attack while on a visit to Italy.By all indication s this is a terrorist act and the United States strongly condemns these kinds of terrorist acts. It is a very serious matter.When Americans are taken hostage. Under the command of a veteran terrorist who goes by an Arabic nickname meaning one eyed man the attackers are say they are retaliating for French air strikes against al-Qaeda linked terrorists across the board in Mali. With US backing the French launched strikes starting last Friday in an effort to stop hardline Islamic group s from taking over the country. In an operation expected to last into February France is sending 2500 ground troops. According to US officials the French have run into stiffer than expected resistance.Aljeer an troops have surrounded that gas complex where Americans are being held. The terrorists are quote ed as say they won't release their hostage s until France sfops operations in Mali.Bernard Tomic has claimed a 2-1 lead during the second round of the Australian Open. Now the remaining Aussie, James Duckworth has forced a fifth set against Slovac Kavcic. While Tomic has recovered from a poor start on Rod LaverRina performDaniel Brands was all that stood between Bernard Tomic and Roger Federer in a showdown. Look at the finesse here. Beautiful.He couldn't split the pair in the first set, but the German qualifier delivered when it mattered in the tie-breaker. He's got it.So the underdog takes the opening set.Tied at 5-5 in the second set, Tomic finally made his move.Sensational point!The Aussie levelling up the match.The momentum now with the Australian. He's finished the set strongly. Serena Williams was her own worst enemy, already with a sore ankle she hit herself in the mouth, it didn't effect her game, advancing in straight sets.--I thought if it gets swollen at least I have super sexy lips, right? And 7th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga danced his way into the third round. The weather, hot in the south-east a cooler change in the south. Storms in the north and the west. Back Ashleigh Gillon as PM Agenda continues..Thank you. Coming up on the program this afternoon, my interview with Bob Carr and Stephen Smith. That's next. Stay with us.

Hello welcome to PM Agenda. Two of Britain's top politicians are in Australia at the moment, the Foreign Secretary William Hague and the defence secretary Phillip Hammond will tomorrow hold talks with the local counterparts in Perth and what's been dubbed the AUKMIN summit. Ahead of the talks today, Mr Hague made it clear Syria will be on the agenda hinting he will be pushing for Australia to be ready to step up if needed. Have a listen.Like Australia we believe a peaceful political transition in Syria would be the best way forward for that country. But if the killing and violence continues and there is no diplomatic breakthrough, the international community must be ready to step up its response, including looking at ways to send life-saving help and assistance to the Syrian opposition. 2013 cannot be the year in which another 60,000 Syrian civilian s perish.Australia's position is we won't be getting involved in Syria, the least not on a military level. Earlier when I spoke with the Foreign Minister Bob Carr I started by asking him if it will come as a surprise to the Brits we are not willing to offer any military assistance, even in that is the path our allies decide to go down.Our job will be to provide humanitarian assistance, we are proud we are one of the biggest contributors of assistance to look after Syrians who have been driven over the boarders into Turkey and Lebanon and Jordan.No, I see Australia looking at more humanitarian assistance. Beyond that more non-lethal assistance to opposition forces is something we could consider but that could mean anything from office equipment, communications equipment, right through to advice on how to establish local government in areas that have been liberated from the as yard forces.-- Assad forces. One danger are pumping weapons into Syria, torn as it is by an untidy civil war, with lots of militia, lots of diverge ent forces is you couldn't guarantee where that weaponry is going to end up.So just to clarify, even if we do see other countries that are traditional allies going down the path, Australia doesn't want anything to do with it? Do you think that Australians just don't have an appetite to have troops in another arena of war at the moment?I think that's true but I think Australia being so far from the conflict, Australia not regarding the Middle East as an area where we are traditionally active, as at that level, at that level, and I think Australians valuing what they can contribute in humanitarian assistance without decisively not want -- without would desitively not want Australia to arm one of the sides in the civil war. I can quote what one Arab Foreign Minister said to me. He said provide arms for the opposition, he said I would want to see the name and address and the CV of every one who ended up with one of those rifles or one of those semi- automatic weapons and I think that's a reasonable approach. This is a shockingly violent civil war, and there is no guarantee that by us pumping weaponry into it we are going to alleviate the suffering. What about Mali, is that becoming a terrorist haven like Afghanistan? If so, would a similar military approach to Mali be necessary?Well, it is happening now. The French are committing air force assets, they are committing up to 2,500 troops. The objective is to stop extremist, Islamist forces coming from the north of to take the capital of the country.They are doing so at the request of the Government of Mali, and they are doing so in the context of two security council resolutions, that provide the context. They are supported by west African countries who will have their own force there and Australia's role in this as a member of the security council is has been to bring forward the date at which that African assistance force can be located there, taking the burden of the fighting from the French.I think one of the things that stands out about Africa in recent years is the extend to which in Somalia and here African nations themselves are accepting a peace-building nation-building role that was previously a prerogative of western countries.Now, that's a good thing. And the French are to be congratulated on doing what they are doing. That is, holding the line, keeping the Islamists at bay, not allowing Mali to become another Afghanistan until the Africans can get there and do it themselves.And Australia on the security council has been facilitating this process.On another matter, overnight we saw President Obama announce his plans for gun law reform. As a keen US observer do you hold much confidence that he can get the Republicans on side to implement significant changes in this area? A lot of analysts have been very pessimistic in their view of the situation.I think President Obama deserves to be warmly congratulated for taking this on. It is very difficult given the strength - given first of all the spread of gun ownership in America. And given the protection gun ownership enjoys in article 2 of the constitution. The right to bare arms. That's been interpreted by the courts as meaning that individuals can possess guns subject to only minimal restraint. We would like to see him get this legislation through because it fits into our goal of a world that is - has a much reduced quantity of weapons, firearms, like weapons, sloshing around.That's why we are sponsoring an arms trade treaty in the United Nations. But, it is going to be a battle. It's going to be a real battle.What about here at home. As a former premier of NSW and now a federal cabinet minister do you see a role for the Federal government on gun crime in that state, the state government there, the Newman Government in Queensland are pretty pretty furious it seems about the Prime Minister's intervention yesterday. She's tasked the home affairs minister of figger out ways to tackle the problem and the NSW Government is saying that's gross hypocrisy from Julia Gillard a pre-election stunt to win votes in Western Sydney. Is there a role here for the federal government?No the Prime Minister has been in Western Sydney talking to people and they have raised a concern they have got with community safety.It is all together legitimate for her to say this is an issue, and it is an issue in Western Sydney.I think we have got to work harder at reining in the number of guns out there and instead of making political points, attacking a very valid comment made by the Prime Minister, on the other side of politics are to be bringing forward some policies. One thing you don't see, one thing you never see from Tony Abbott's Liberals is a decent nugget of policy.Why don't they produce some policies on this? Well, the NSW state government says if Labor in Canberra wants to help kerb gun violence you should look at the boarder protection regime. Isn't that where the federal government could have an input, other than that isn't that a matter to be left to the state government to handle?Border protection, this Government in the last few months has sent back 800 asylum seekers Washington or we would say economic my -- or we would say economic migrants from Sri Lanka has sent them back. That is more than was sent back in all the years of John Howard's Government. That is a decisive stand on border protection and we can be very proud of it.In terms of more boarder control, in terms of the gun problem, the state government there is saying that's one area the federal government could look at. Apart from that, there they are essentially saying back off, this isn't the area for the federal government to be intervening inIt is all together legitimate for a prime minister to say she's been in Western Sydney, she's been talking to the people of Western Sydney and they are expressing a concern about guns in the community. I think the state government can look seriously at the range of measures that are available to it, and do the sort of things that have been done in the past to rein in the growth of guns, and the number of guns and to get out of the community some of the guns that are there.Just finally, we all know you have gone from premier to Foreign Minister, there are reporting suggesting that Alexander Downer's weighs up whether or not to go from Foreign Minister to trying to be premier in South Australia. Would you have any tips that could be handy?I would be hypocrital if I didn't encourage him to think about a return to public life. I keep in touch with him, on the foreign policy agenda as I do with most of our former foreign ministers. But it is a big step, it is a big step to take over the leadership of a party and he would hope leadership of a state. And he's got to think about what policies he would introduce that would be different from those of the state Labor Government which I think has been doing a very good job in South Australia.I am sure you like us will be watching the situation closely. We appreciate your time.Thank you.Also on the agenda at the AUKMIN talks tomorrow will be the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Coming up we will look at exactly how that is going to happen with the Defence Minister Stephen Smith. That's next.

It's coming up to half past the hour. Still Stephen Smith the Defence Minister will be joining us. First Michael Willesee has the latest on today's bushfire situation. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has toured bushfire hit areas near Coonabarabran, in the north-west of NSW.52 homes across the state have been destroy ed so far, including 49 near Coonabarabran, along with more than 110 sheds, machinery, fencing and large numbers of livestock.The Prime Minister also announced disaster relief payment fossa three areas of NSW -- for three areas of NSW. The zas ity recovery payments of $1,000 for adults and $400 will pay for the people in the areas. The heat is on against in the south-east of the country. In Victoria total fire bans are in place for parts of the state with temperatures reaching almost 40 degrees in Melbourne. Temperatures have reached beyond yond that in the state's north. In South Australia an extreme fire danger warning is in place for the west coast, lower and eastern Eyre Peninsula, Kangaroo island and mount lofty ranges. It has reached 44 degrees in many parts of the state with Adelaide reach almost 42.Australia's jobless rate has jumped 5.4% after the country's labour market struggled through December. Total employment fell 5500 to 11.539 million.With more jobs lost during the month than forecast. Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey says the data shows business has no confidence, and has accused the Government of having no strategy to deal with rising unemployment.As a result the Australian dollar has fallen and the weak report could revive talk of a rate cut in February. 41 western workers are being held hostage after al-Qaeda linked fighters stormed a gas field in North Africa. The fas illity is in Algeria near the border with Libya. The hostages are believed to be from Britain, France, Japan and the US.The attack is believed to be in retaliation for French military action against Sri Lankaists in nearby Mali US President Barack Obama has unveiled a $500 million package of gun control measure including a ban on assault weapons and increased background checks for owners.The President has acknowledged that the changes will be difficult to pass through Congress where pro gun groups are powerful. Families of the victims of last month's shooting at a school in Connecticut were invited to the White House for the President's announcement.Bernard Tomic has fought back in his second round clash against Germany's Daniel Brands at the Australian Open after losing the first set Tomic has won the next two on Rod Laver Arena. The weather:

Welcome back. The Government says Australia's transition from Afghanistan will be complete by the end of this year. But that doesn't mean we won't continue to have a presence there and beyond this year the nature of our contribution in Afghanistan is still very unclear.It is something that's likely to dominate discussions at the AUKMIN talks tomorrow. Earlier I spoke with the Defence Minister Stephen Smith. He began by outlining the focus of those talks.

The formal AUKMIN talks are tomorrow. The annual ministerial consultations, it's the fourth be a be a -- AUKMIN I have been involved in. The first in Perth. That's good news for our capital city and shows the Indian Ocean focus. But we will traverse the range of strategic issues of mutual interest between Australia and the UK. The strategic weight to our part of the world, transition out of Afghanistan, some of the modern threats, cyber security in particular but also some of current threats to international security, whether that's Iran, North Korea, Syria. And some of the emerging developments in Africa for example and in particular Mali. Let's look at Afghanistan first. You announced this week the transition will be complete by the end of this year. Does that mean the next ADF adviser task force about to under go predeemployment training will that be the last substantive force element we will send to Afghanistan?We are taking it step-by-step. I have made it clear as has the Prime Minister and the chief of the defence force we are on track for transition. We have been saying until the end of last year we thought that we will be able to effect the transition in Oruzgan prove yins either by the end of this year or the first quarter of next year and our end of year and early year assessment is that we are now very confident that transition in Oruzgan itself will occur by the end of this year.So we are now going through a phase of continuing the advisery role, the four Afghan Kandaks became capable of independent operation by the end of last year and that saw us withdraw from the forward operating bases and now establishing the adviser task force in our multi-national base at Tarin Kowt. The logistical exercise is now the challenge so how we continue that advisory role, how we look forward to what we do in 2014 and then what presence if any we have post 2014 after the formal end of the international security assistance force mission in Afghanistan.They are now the key logistical issues we are working through and as I say we will take that step-by-step and make appropriate announcements as we go.Throughout the transition and afterwards will Australia special forces continue to assist in training those Afghan special forces and is that going to require a relocation from Oruzgan to Kabul?Two things, firstly the special forces continue to operate. There has been no change in their operational arrangements, they do operational work in Oruzgan and in surrounding provinces and that will continue. There has been no change to that.One of the things we have to work through is if there is going to be a post 2014 transition, special forces presence, and we have made it clear that under an appropriate mandate and in the right circumstances we would make a contribution to that. We have to work through what's the transition if you like for special forces from now through 2014 and post 2014. So that's an issue, one of the issue as we are discussing with with we are discussing with NATO, with the international security assistance force and with the United States. And those sort of logistic arrangements will also be part of our conversation with our UK ministerial colleagues in AUKMIN tomorrow.It sounds like there is still a lot to be worked out. Quite a bit up in the air still.Absolutely that's why I'm not being coy about those matters there, is a very big logistical task now which covers the swathe from transition in Oruzgan by the end of this year, what then is our mode of operation during the course of 2014, where there will be transition completed in Oruzgan, but transition still occurring in Afghanistan per se, and then what will be, if any, the post 2014 contribution by Australia and international community.At this point it's too early you are saying to really tell us how many Australians are really still going to be on the ground?That's right. It is too early to get into that fine detail. Whether the Prime Minister and I and the chief of the defence force are in a position to do that we will obviously be open and transparent about that. But I expect that at various stages in the course of this year we will be able to make those arrangements clear, but we don't want to be speculative, we don't want to anticipate and very much of this transition from our perspective has been done in an orderly way, letting the Australian public know precisely what has or is about to occur rather than being speculative about it. And it's been as we all know in Afghanistan a difficult and dangerous process but as transition exercises is going -- go this is a much more mature and orderly transition than the last transition we had, which was out of Vietnam, after the indo China wars.You eluded earlier to the situation in Mali which is rapidly deteriorate ing. With withdrawal from Afghanistan see any new appetite within Government to engage in any of those other conflicts run the world?Certainly not in a military sense in Mali for Australia. The Foreign Minister Bob Carr and I have made that clear. We strongly support the French intervention done at the request of the transitional authorities in Mali, there is already a United Nations Security Council resolution calling upon the African Union to send a mission to Mali, as a member of security council we have made it clear we strongly support the French intervention, we strongly support the early arrival of the African peacekeeping and stabilisation mission. Whether at some stage becomes appropriate for us to provide some humanitarian assistance or disaster relief time will tell and whether at some stage in the future it becomes appropriate for us to make some form of contribution to the resourcing of the African Union mission. Again time will tell and that resourcing could be a financial contribution or some material in kind but certainly are we contemplating a military contribution per se to Mali, no absolutely not. Just as in the case for example of Libya and Syria we made it clear that whilst we were prepared to contribute humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, it is really out of our operational orbit and there are other countries on the ground with the primary responsibility. And Mali's case it is the African Union and its constituent members and in Libya for example it was NATO Europe and the Mediterranean.There there are also report s you will agree with the British counterparts to cooperate closely on cyber attacks. Mr Hague has said Government and businesses in the UK are attacked over hour. We know the losses can be huge. Is it a similar case in Australia and specifically what are you looking to tackle that?Cyber security is not just a challenge for governments or defence or national security, it for every day individuals in Australia and throughout the world. For companies, for intellectual property and the like. This is a key challenge. And that will be one of the focuses of our cooperation. But across the board we cooperate historically very well with the UK, whether it is the defence science, whether it is emerging challenges, whether it is intervention in peacekeeping or stabilisation missions, whether it is working together in the UN, and we have a range of agreements with them. All of these things will continue. I just, my own expectation is into the future it will be in a more focused way and enhanced way and that reflects the fact Australia is part of the indo Pacific part of the Asia-Pacific and Britain, the UK like Europe sees the world moving in our direction.When it comes to the cyber attacks are you willing to acknowledge an enemy per se, are you willing to point to certain country s housing the main culprit?We never isolate or identify a particular country or country. It is mainly China and Russia though the focus has been on?Well some people draw attention to that. What I draw attention to is this is just not an issue for nation states and individual countries this is also an area where non-state and individuals are highly active. This is not just a security threat or a commerce and industry threat, which comes from nation states, it comes from individuals and criminal organisations, it comes from terrorist groups and non-state actors, the key in my view is to make sure that people take all of the necessary pre cautions, because the risk is there not just from particular or individual countries but from individuals and organisations. With criminal or adverse intent.We appreciate your time.Thank you. Coming up next we will look at the political debate over job losses, with news today 5,500 jobs were lost last month. Plus does WA Labor from any chance of winning Government in March? We will look at the political landscape in the west ahead of the state's election. That's coming up next.

Welcome back. The WA election is coming up in early March and if you believe the latest polls, well Labor's Mark McGowan won't provide too much competition for Colin Barnett's Liberal Government. Earlier I spoke with two of the states political commentator s for a look how this election is likely to play out. Thank you for joining us. Page let's start with you. There was a Newspoll out earlier this week what did it tell us about Mark McGowan's chances in this election?It told us between October and December Barnett and the WA Liberals had a crushing lead. They were looking untouchable in that period. I know the premier thinks the election on 9 March is going to be a lot closer than that and that the race will tighten but what we are seeing over that three month period is that they are way in front. I think the two party preferred result was 58-42.So a huge up hill battle for Labor here?It is if the polling is to be believed.I think we all like to see some more recent poll ing so hopefully that emerges over the next few weeks.

few weeks. All Liberals I speak to expect it to tighten. Mark McGowan is expected to arrest the terminal numbers that Ripper had although it will an uphill battle. Although not much needs to go wrong for the Liberals to find themselves in a very close race just because of the nature of the minority parliament, the point Liberals will try to hammer home with the electorate to reinforce this idea they are not as far in front on the electoral mathematics what people might think.

What is depressing for Labor and McGowan he was not able to regain or maintain the bounce he got when he was first leader. Two polls in a row now he's not maintained the boost he first got in the middle last year.The negotiating that happened at the state election Last state election with Brendan Grylls? There has been some wrangling between the parties, the Nationals have been playing a little bit hard to get but I think they have now conceded they will form Government with the Liberals after the election no matter what.And in fact Labor have come out flatly and refused to - they have said they will refuse to form a Government with the Nationals which could be interesting if they do pick up a few unusual seats that they weren't expecting. But the Nationals key political strategy here has to try and paint them several as an independent third force. They have been very successful doing that under the leader Brendan Grylls, that's how they have got into the position where they have been able to create a program like Royalties for Region which is has allowed them to spend an extraordinary amount of money in the bush.Got Brendan Grylls publicity along the way and given him a high profile in WA.His push for the Pilbara by some people within Labor initially seen as ambitious but it is looking incred of creasingly less -- increasingly less so. He is extremely popular in that region.What is this election going to be all about? What issues will it be fought on?I think if Barnett wants to draw in some fed practical issues he will talk about the carbon tax. And he will rely heavily on the fact that Labor federally is deeply unpopular in the west. Do you agree with that? I think that is probably the biggest hurdle that Mark McGowan and Labor are going to have to over come is the brand Labor. It is terrible here. A senior Liberal told me Julia Gillard? Western Australia is Gough Whitlam unpopular, so I think this it is the biggest hurdle is to overcome that Labor brand. I don't detect a big mood for change here, I don't necessarily think that means that people think that Colin Barnett is wonderful, or that the Liberal Party is doing a sterling job over here, but things are generally pretty good. I think that where they will, where the Labor will try to make hay is on some of the challenges that have come with the extraordinary growth that Western Australia has seen. Cost of living issues they have been hammer away at it for the best part of two years now and they will continue to do that as the poll draws nearer. I think what you are also seeing from the Labor Party is that they are starting to focus on some of the issues in Perth that are, I guess the downside to Perth's extraordinary growth. Things like congestion, transport, public transport are some areas they see as fertile ground.Very high rents.Cost of living issues.And in Western Australia the Government does set, state governments do set electricity tariffs and water tariffs have gone up an extraordinary amount under Colin Barnett. More than 50% and closer to #0i6%.So -- 60% so those I guess are the sort of hip pocket issues that Labor will be trying to target and also to say that the Government has wrong priorities. That it is spending too much money in the environment where rev nears are pretty tight -- revenues are pretty -- revenues are pretty tight on what Labor has characterised as CBD amenity projects, the waterfront and stadiums where they say they should be spending the money out in the suburbs suburb s snoop Elizabeth Keys are another big issues --People annoyed about the traffic congestion but I am not convinced they are annoyed enough to kick the Government out.I know a lot of Labor insiders are saying late last year they were desperately hoping for an early federal election so it can get Labor at a fed practical level out of the way to get that attach -- federal level out of the way to get the attachment out of Julia Gillard. I don't think we will see Julia Gillard or Mark McGowan campaigning side-by-side in the next few months.The last time she was in Perth Mark McGowan happened to be on a family hol day in Bali.Tell us about the leaders. They are quite different. Colin Barnett versus Mark McGowan. They have different backgrounds what are the characteristics and styles?I think you would agree Barnett has eye quite an autocratic leadership style. He is not colleagual and some people would say that's good when you consider that there is not a lot of depth in his cabinet.I don't think we know a lot about Mark McGowan yet. He's very careful with his words. He seems to be a very thoughtful person and no fool but he hasn't managed to capture people's imaginations. Mark McGowan has a long way to go personally in terms of people just knowing who he is, he has a pretty low profile.I think that's right. He took over the leadership exactly 12 months ago and I think he has been working pretty hard to get his profile out there. But I'm not sure people understand yet what Mark McGowan stands for. They know he is ambitious, he's young, he's a point of difference to Colin Barnett, in that he's in his 40s, and he has a very young family. Mr Barnett's been on the political stage in Western Australia for a very long time, and as Page says is very as endant. I he's dominant of his party, what he says goes and I think that people are left under no illusions as to what the premier's views is on issues. Can Mr McGowa inference sketch a vision of where -- sketch a vision of where he wants to see Western Australia go, that's the point for him.What are you expecting?Based on what we have seen so far, it is going to be a Liberal-Nationals Government.Would you agree with that and what key seats are you looking at if? If the poll were to be held today I would agree with Page. It will not be held today. We have two months of a campaign to go. Because of the mathematics the Liberal Party holds 24 seats in a 59 member parliament, the Labor Party holds 26 and Nationals hold five. There are four independents. Those four independents are actually the only reason that Colin Barnett has been able to govern. Now, you would suggest that those seats, three will go to the conservative, one will go to Labor but not a lot needs to go wrong. It's a very skinny margin for error, who knows what the campaign can bring up. You know, Mr Barnett is famous for a big campaign blunder, in 2005 with the canal. So not suggesting he's going to do this time as the premier but that's why we have the campaign, you just never know what can happen.Never say never in politics. We appreciate your insights and analysis. Thanks for your time.Thank you Thank you.Of course we will be following that campaign here in WA closely here on Sky News.Finally today we have seen the Coalition go on the attack after the latest jobs figures showed 5,500 jobs were lost last month. Just this week we have seen hundreds more go at Boral and BlueScope Steel. Here is how the politicians on both sides reacted to the news today.The Government has no economic strategy. It has no budget strategy. It has no taxation strategy.And we now know that the Government is refusing to release further information on exactly how much their hand crafted mining tax is meant to raise. We know they have plans to pull the rug out from under the car industry, which would result in more job losses across Australia.By contrast, we have an economic plan for our future.We are investing in infrastructure. Like building the NBN. We are supporting industries like the auto industry, like the steel industry. Sky News political reporter Laura Jays has been following the debate today from Canberra. It seems like our politicians have finally come back to life after the summer break. And today they got fired up off these numbers. It is a ish issue we will hear more about in the election year.Of course we are at the beginning of this election year, we don't even know when the election will be yet but as always you can expect the economy will be front and centre and it's really the Gillard Government that made it this way. They really push for the economy to be one of the key battleground area s. But perhaps that was before it broke the budget surplus promise. Now Tony Abbott today came back from being a volunteer firefighter and had a short break, and he came back, did his first media conference for 2013, and didn't rely on his arguments of old. The carbon tax or the mining tax. He went separate to this budget measures -- straight to the budget measures and how the Gillard Government has handled the budget and this so called broken promise. For me that was a sign of things to come. He left the attack on carbon tax and the mining tax to Joe Hockey. Joe Hockey blamed these job figures on the carbon tax. But also you heard in that piece there that he was calling on Government to release its figures on the mining tax. As we know there has been those rrts that so far -- reports so far in the first two quarters the mining tax has failed to raise any revenue for the government. Now, looking at these jobs figures today, they are not really bad but they are not good news for the government, Kate Ellis there concentrate ing on the blue collar workers saying the Gillard Government will support the construction and manufacturing sectors going forward. And that's what they will do. We know that the Government is under budget constraints, so there won't be any more or is very unlikely to be any more cash handouts or further subsidies for the car industry or the steel industry, but looking at the manufacturing task force and the recommendations that were handed down last year, the Gillard Government is getting poised to really encourage big miners to buy locally to help prop up these industries. So there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing today. Julia Gillard didn't comment on jogs figures she was up in Coonabarabran visiting some of the victims of the fires. Kate Ellis standing for the Workplace Relations Minister. In an election year you can already see the ads come in. We haven't seen a lot or heard a lot since the budget surplus was dropped but in the weeks and months ahead the indication from Tony Abbott there is that he's really not going to let that one go.And there is still a couple of weeksing in parliament resumes. -- weeks until parliament resumes for 2013. Thanks for the analysis. That's all we have time Buffalo Forrest this edition of PM Agenda. -- for this edition of PM Agenda. Please join David Lipson in the morning he will along at 8:30 eastern daylight time for ''AM Agenda'' David Speers will be back in the chair with you on PM Agenda next week. Thanks for your company today and I will see you next time. Live Captioning by Ai-Media ai-media.tv