Western Australians will soon decide whether to throw out Colin Barnett’s Liberal-National government after more than eight years – in an election that appears poised to deliver another blow to Malcolm Turnbull.
A Labor win on Saturday, widely predicted by the polls, would propel Mark McGowan to the top job, leaving the Liberals with only two state governments across the country.
Still, the opposition needs a uniform swing of 10 per cent to gain an extra 10 seats and win back government after eight years in the wilderness.
The popularity of Pauline Hanson in the West also threatens to complicate matters with One Nation a chance win enough seats to hold the balance of power.
As the politicians mull the consequences of Saturday’s poll, voters have plenty to consider as well. With this in mind, The New Daily has compiled an election primer to help guide you through the day.
Here’s what you need to know
Who are the leaders?
Colin Barnett, 66, has been Premier since he led the Liberals to election success in 2008. The member for Cottesloe since 1990, Mr Barnett previously worked as an economist.
Mark McGowan, 49, has led Labor since 2012 and is the member for Rockingham. He is a former Navy lawyer and was a city councillor before his election to the WA Parliament in 1996.
The inclusion of One Nation into the mix in 2017 has brought its fair share of scandal. The Liberals enraged the National Party by entering into a preference deal with Ms Hanson’s party, a topic that has dominated the campaign.
The party has also come under fire over its colourful array of candidates, including David Archibald, who has described single mothers as “ugly and lazy”, and Michelle Myers, who claimed that gay marriage advocates were using mind control to sway Christians.
What are the main issues?
THE ECONOMY … is always a key election issue. In WA, which has gone from the country’s most prosperous state to topping the nation’s unemployment rate, it will be front of voters’ minds on Saturday. The deficit is at record levels, having ballooned out to $3 billion-plus, and the state’s debt is expected to exceed $40 billion.
THE GST … has been blamed for the state of WA’s finances. The Barnett government says the state would have a $1 billion surplus if it wasn’t being ripped off by about $3.5 billion in GST revenue. The state Liberals also feel let down by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for failing to act on WA’s GST share.
THE PRIVATISATION … of Western Power, proposed by the Barnett government, has also animated voters. The sale of the state’s poles and wires is expected to recoup $11 billion, but Mr McGowan has launched an effective scare campaign, claiming it will be sold to a foreign buyer. That’s despite Premier Barnett vowing to restrict the sale to an Australian buyer.
What do the experts say?
Political analyst William Bowe told The New Daily he thought the polls were probably correct. That is, he’s tipping a Labor win.
“The big story of the election will be the plunge in the Liberal vote,” he said.
Frustration with the major parties will also be a factor, according to Murdoch University Western Australian political expert Ian Cook.
One Nation may win at least three Upper House seats, meaning it could “end up holding the balance of power in the Upper House”, he said.
Meanwhile, with the federal Coalition sagging in the polls and facing claims of party room division, a landslide Labor victory would be another hit to Mr Turnbull, one analyst said.
“Enemies within the Liberal Party will try to seize any negative story. They will say, ‘This happened on Malcolm Turnbull’s watch’,” Monash University political expert Dr Zareh Ghazarian told The New Daily.