Western Australia has witnessed one of the most crushing election victories in all of Australia’s history, with the government of Labor Premier Mark McGowan reducing the Liberal and Nationals to what could be as few as five seats between them in the state’s lower house.
Perth-based political commentator Peter Kennedy told the ABC voters arriving at polling places throughout the day were asking how they could specifically vote for Mark McGowan.
“His name’s not on the ballot paper. But people were saying well, how do I how vote him?” Mr Kennedy said.
“He’s dominated the campaign and Labor has exploited it.”
The swing to Labor was so overwhelming the ABC’s elections guru Antony Green called the contest for Labor with less than one per cent of the vote counted.
As of midnight on Saturday, Labor had confirmed wins in 46 seats, with the Liberals securing two and the Nationals on three and another eight seats yet to be decided.
Polling and focus groups leading up the election day reported McGowan was awarded kudos for keeping Western Australia safe from the COVID-19, which has seen him at odds with Canberra over border closures.
Western Australia has not seen a case of community transmission since April 2020.
In what had long been the Liberals’ blue-ribbon seat of South Perth, the swing was a staggering 17.5 per cent.
With under 10 per cent of the vote counted, the ABC’s computer predicted the Liberals could be down to as few as two seats, meaning the remnants of a the parliamentary party could ride to work on a motorcycle.
Before Saturday’s vote the Liberals held 13 seats.
If the Nationals are counted, the state’s entire non-Labor parties would only need a five-seat subcompact.
A jubilant Police Minister Michelle Roberts told reporters she had “never seen anything like this. I’m incredulous.”
“It’s shaping to be an incredible result and clearly if this continues, it will be the largest majority in West Australian history that any party’s had,” Ms Roberts marvelled.
With 99.9 per cent of the vote tallied as of late on Saturday night, Liberal losses were so sweeping that they could lose their official opposition status to the Nationals.
“This is a disaster, let’s be honest about it,” retiring former Liberal leader Mike Nahan told the ABC.
Liberal leader Zak Kirkup is poised to become the first WA Liberal leader to lose their seat since the 1930s. The 34-year-old has vowed to quit politics if he is rolled in the seat of Dawesville.
Cheers rang out across Labor’s election-night function as results flashed up predicting gains in Kalgoorlie, Darling Range and Hillarys.
Deputy Premier Roger Cook said voters had rejected the Liberals’ campaign against handing Labor too much control.
“People are recognising that Labor’s a good government,” he said.
“Mark McGowan is a great Premier and has led a good government that takes responsible and careful decisions and doesn’t act out of temper.”
This is your periodic reminder that it's possible to eliminate COVID-19.
This was filmed today at a community event in Perth, Western Australia, which has had no community transmission since April 2020.
— Dr Zoë Hyde (@DrZoeHyde) March 6, 2021
Liberal MP David Honey’s safe seat of Cottesloe is one of the very few the party will have some confidence of retaining.
“There are going to be some really excellent people who will possibly lose their seats,” Mr Honey said.
“The whole electoral cycle just turned to a vote on COVID or how well the government had handled COVID and that’s what we’ve seen coming through to this election.”
Federal Liberal senator Ben Small earlier told Seven News that anywhere between five and 10 seats being held by the party “will be celebrated”.
Mr Kirkup voted alongside his father Rob in his electorate on Saturday, saying he had no regrets about the Liberals’ campaign.
Asked if he ever thought it was possible for the Liberals to win the election, Mr Kirkup – who took over the leadership in November – replied “probably not”.
“The reality is, history would be going against us in any case – 1974 was the last time that a first-term government was voted out of office in Western Australia,” he said.
Mr McGowan visited a polling place in the district of Hillarys, the Liberals’ most marginal seat and one that is certain capture for Labor.
The Premier said COVID-19 had presented “one of the biggest crises the country and world has seen since the Second World War”.
“It’s been an affirmation for me of the great spirit of our state and we want to have the opportunity to make sure Western Australia stays on its current pathway,” he said.