how labor won big in western australia

Western Australia’s promise to be the kingmaker on federal election night has finally been delivered.

During the count, the rest of the country saw a slow but steady accumulation of Labor gains despite a drop in its primary vote. There was also a solid but unspectacular swing on a bipartisan preferential measure (2PP). But WA decisively and dramatically entered the labor camp. This can be seen in both the votes and the seats.

Labor won four seats from the Liberals: Swan, Pearce, Hasluck and Tangney. He therefore now holds nine of WA’s 15 seats in the House of Representatives – the first time he has held a majority of WA’s federal seats since 1990. The Liberals also look very likely to lose Curtin’s prized seat to a teal independent. That would leave them with just five seats, in a state where they won 11 of the 16 available in 2019.

Read more: State of the States: Six policy experts take us on a tour of Australia in the final week of the campaign

Massive swings for Labor primary and 2PP votes

These Labor seat gains were due to massive swings in votes in the primaries and the 2PP. Labor’s first preference vote in WA has fallen from 29.8% in 2019 to around 37.3% this time around.

In 2019, Labor’s primary vote in WA was 3.5 percentage points lower than its national share of 33.3%. Now it’s 4.5 percentage points above – a turnaround of 8 percentage points.

According to the ABC on Sunday evening, Labor in WA holds around 55.3% of 2PP, compared to around 52.2% nationally. In 2019, Labor won just 44.4% of the 2PP in WA, compared to 48.5% nationally. The workforce in WA has gone from the second lowest to the highest 2PP share of any state.

These results reflect massive fluctuations across the state and in individual seats.

In the Liberals’ two most marginal seats, Pearce and Swan, the swings to Labor on a 2PP basis are 14.9% and 13.1% respectively. Pearce’s electoral boundaries were redrawn after the last election, favoring Labor and reducing the total number of WA seats to 15. In Hasluck, the other Labor target seat, there was a shift of 11.5%, meaning outgoing Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt lost his seat.

A few months ago Prime Minister Mark McGowan spoke of Tangney as a possibility before Labor expectations were watered down. Now a 12.1% swing has seen Ben Morton, a close colleague of Scott Morrison, defeated. Meanwhile, Labour’s most fringe seat, Cowan, previously on a 0.9% margin, now has a 10% buffer.

Labor also looks set to clinch a third Senate seat for the first time in a half-Senate election, with the Greens also winning a seat. This could tip the balance of power in the Senate.

The final blow to the Liberal Party is the probable loss of Curtin, held by Celia Hammond. Despite a margin of 13.9%, it seems to have fallen on the independent Kate Chaney.

Four Steps to Success in the West

We can view the election result in WA as the result of four distinct stages along the electoral map.

First, WA Labor has been a serial underachievers in federal politics, so simply moving to the national average Labor vote share was still likely to land it at least one seat, possibly two. The absence of contentious issues in the campaign relating to taxation or the resource industry, as well as increased attention given to WA by the Federal Labor Party, have helped turn the dial in the Labor leadership.

Second, McGowan’s continued popularity has refuted the idea that state politics doesn’t translate to the federal level. Obviously, in 2022, they did. Federal Labor was able to capitalize on Labour’s strong brand in the suburbs of Perth where it performed so well in the 2021 state elections. primary.

Read more: Meet Mark McGowan: The leader of WA with a staggering 88% personal approval rating

Coalition Errors

Third, the Coalition Federal Government shot itself in the foot in 2020 when Morrison criticized the WA government’s border closures, and more so when he backed the High Court case of Clive Palmer against them.

This was a major contributor to the decimation of the Liberal Party in the March 2021 state ballot, leaving it with just two lower house MPs and starving it of staff and resources, and therefore not well placed to resist the strong Labor Party campaign this time around. Furthermore, the WA Liberal Party’s inability to resolve internal organizational and factional issues left it open to a successful challenge in its Curtin heartland.

Fourth, WA’s relatively benign experience of the pandemic, along with Palmer’s unpopularity, meant that most disgruntled Liberal voters went straight to Labor rather than other right-wing parties. The United Australia Party and One Nation appear to have won just 6.2% of the vote in WA, compared to 9.2% nationally.

Only one WA-based Labor MP, Madeleine King, is seen as a certainty for a ministerial portfolio. But with so much federal work ahead of WA, meeting the ambitions and expectations of his WA MPs, and the wider WA community, will be an early challenge for Anthony Albanese.

Author: John Phillimore – Executive Director, John Curtin Institute of Public Policy, Curtin University The conversation

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