The Liberals have been all but wiped out in Western Australia’s state election as the Labor party claimed a fast and emphatic victory that has consigned the opposition to a generational defeat.
Labor is predicted to claim up to 53 out of 59 lower house seats on the back of a stunning 13 per cent swing in Saturday’s election, leaving the Liberals with a predicted three seats.
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese hailed Mr McGowan’s landslide victory as “quite extraordinary”, quipping that surviving Liberals can “fit in a Mini”
“This is primarily about Western Australia but it has to be good new for federal Labor as well.”
It is a nightmare scenario, however, for the Liberals, who are set to lose their opposition status to the National party, which the ABC predicts will hold four seats.
“This is ground zero for the Liberal party,” said Liberal Churchlands MP Sean L’Estrange whose blue-ribbon seat is on a knife-edge, but the ABC predicts will fall to Labor.
“The nuclear bomb has gone off. The day of reckoning has come.”
“There is still a pulse in the Liberal Party. We need to stay united.”
Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup called Mr McGowan within two hours of polls closing to formally concede, having lost his own marginal seat of Dawesville.
Mr Kirkup, who conceded defeat two weeks before the election, said the loss was “difficult to bear”.
“What has happened with respect to Dawesville is devastating,” he said.
“I will no longer seek office for the Liberal Party. We must do all we can to help rebuild this party.
“It is a result that guts me.
“This is a very difficult loss. It is one that I take full responsibility for.
“The next four years will be the most difficult for the Liberal Party than we have ever experienced. It is a task that will be difficult, but not impossible.”
Mr Kirkup is the first WA major party leader to lose his seat and first WA Liberal leader since the 1930s.
The huge win vindicates Mr McGowan’s tough response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with voters ignoring a Liberal campaign against handing Labor “total control”.
“To have the support and faith of so many Western Australians in one of the most important elections, is a great honour,” Mr McGowan said.
“Can I also thank the people who voted Labor for the first time in their lives.
“I promise to work for everyone over the next four years.
“The magnitude of what happened today is not lost on me. With it comes great responsibility.
“We must govern for all people in Western Australia.
“We will now implement our positive plans for the future – bringing back manufacturing, keeping TAFE and training affordable, building the new women’s and babies hospital.
“To my opponent Zak Kirkup and to the Liberal party – Opposition leader is a very difficult and thankless job that I know well.
“I thank you for your contribution to the state and the Parliament of Western Australia.”
Deputy Liberal leader Libby Mettam and David Honey have retained their safe seats of Vasse and Cottesloe respectively.
But Labor was ahead late on Saturday in the blue-ribbon Liberal seats of Nedlands, Churchlands and Carine.
Retiring former Liberal leader Mike Nahan was one of several party members to immediately call for party reform, labelling the defeat a “disaster”.
“This will be a cleansing for the Liberal party and it will be up to us to get our act into gear,” Dr Nahan told the ABC.
Then-leader Liza Harvey’s call to open WA borders early in the pandemic had done “immense” political damage, he added.
Nationals leader Mia Davies is on track to become WA’s opposition leader, with her party predicted to hold five lower house seats.
Her colleague Vince Catania, a former Labor MP who defected to the Nationals in 2009, has not ruled out challenging for the leadership.
But his vast seat of North West Central remains too close to call and is at risk of falling to Labor.