News National WA election: Labor’s popularity could spell a total wipeout for the Liberals

WA election: Labor’s popularity could spell a total wipeout for the Liberals

Liberal Opposition leader Zak Kirkup is worried about WA Premier Mark McGowan's popularity. Photo: Getty/TND
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Labor is expected to sweep Saturday’s Western Australian election, in a wipeout so overwhelming it could reduce the Liberals to just a handful of seats.

The projected outcome has state Liberal leader Zak Kirkup crying out fears of ‘undermined democracy’.

For months, Western Australians have been cheering on Premier Mark McGowan for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, rewarding him with back-to-back, record-breaking approval ratings.

Polls are predicting this to be reflected at ballot boxes on March 13.

Even Mr Kirkup, 34, has conceded his opponent is simply too popular to beat.

“I have to be real with the people of Western Australia, and they are telling me that they expect Mark McGowan will still be Premier,” Mr Kirkup said last month.

“That doesn’t mean we stop fighting, that doesn’t mean we stop working to get as many Liberals over the line as possible.

“A Liberal party reduced to single digits, that is a significant concern. If there was no effective opposition in WA, how would we stop them when they go too far?”

More than half a million West Australians have already cast their votes.

In the final days of the campaign, Labor is focusing its energy on tapping into regional voters.

On Wednesday, Mr McGowan set off on a two-day mission to win over conservative voters in Kalbarri, Geraldton and Kalgoorlie in WA’s Mid West and Goldfields.

Geraldton is held by the Nationals by just 1.3 per cent, Kalbarri is lwithin the safe Nationals seat of North West Central and Kalgoorlie is Liberal-held.

The Premier’s last-ditch tour of the regions has rattled Mr Kirkup, who claims Labor’s bold ambitions pose a risk to democracy.

Kalgoorlie is one of at least half a dozen Liberal electorates at risk of swinging to Labor, potentially reducing the opposition to a handful of seats.

Kalgoorlie is the biggest city in the Australian outback, known for mining and its gold rush history. Photo: Getty

“This is exactly what’s at risk… they’re getting out there and trying to do everything they can to seize total control of the West Australian parliament,” Mr Kirkup told reporters in Fremantle.

“That’s why it’s important people vote Liberal locally to hold Labor to account and make sure they keep their promises.”

Mr Kirkup’s centrepiece policy promise is an ambitious clean energy plan, which includes a target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2030 and shutting down coal-fired power stations by 2025.

The plan has been criticised by state Liberal MPs and federal colleague Andrew Hastie.

On a more localised front, Mr Kirkup has been campaigning to save Fremantle Port, which has led to an unusual allegiance with the maritime union.

The union is normally pro-Labor, but changed sides this election over the incumbent government’s plan to build a $4.7 billion outer harbour in Kwinana.

Mr Kirkup has promised a Liberal government would recommit to building the Roe 8 and 9 highway extension to ease freight traffic congestion.

The Greens and the Nationals have plans of their own, and are promising some big-ticket items.

Mr McGowan, meanwhile, has announced plans to release state-owned land for development of new workers’ accommodation in Kalbarri.

He has also promised a $50 million industrial land development fund, allowing the state to offer reduced lease rates for strategically important projects.

“Regional WA is incredibly important and does so many great things for all of us,” he said.

“So much of the wealth of the state is generated there, so much of the life of the state, the whole ethos of the state is generated in regional WA.”

Mr Kirkup’s razor-thin marginal seat of Dawesville has led the way in early voting, with more than 10,000 votes received in the electorate.

He holds Dawesville by just 0.8 per cent, leaving him vulnerable to a predicted Labor swing which could also eliminate several of his colleagues.

Speaking on ABC’s 7.30 program on Tuesday, the Liberal leader said if he isn’t re-elected, he will consider it “his time” to leave.

“If I am not returned to Dawesville, I don’t think that I would return to politics,” he said.

“This is my home, and this is the community that I love and have a privilege of representing. If I’m not returned here … I’m not going to continue in the political arena. I think that’s my time.”

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