Federal election 2022: How Western Australia could decide who wins poll
At least three crucial marginal seats in Western Australia could hold the key to determining the next Prime Minister, and it appears both major parties still have a shot.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese spent a significant amount of time campaigning in WA — both alongside hugely popular Labor Premier Mark McGowan, clearly hoping to ride on his coat tails.
Labor even launched their campaign in WA, while Mr Morrison has repeatedly talked up his GST win for the state.
But just how much of their political spin is white noise for the general public?
Election analyst William Bowe told NCA NewsWire that while Mr Morrison had endured backlash over cost of living pressures facing many people, Mr Albanese had not done himself any favours by making gaffes on the campaign trail.
“Mr Albanese has made his gaffes. I think that that probably limits the extent to which there’s going to be a kind of cost of living backlash against the government,” Mr Bowe said.
The most significant gaffe was on day one of the campaign when Mr Albanese failed to recall the cash and unemployment rates.
“I think that people always tend to think that the Liberals are probably going to manage the economy better than Labor and it was unhelpful that he seemed to reinforce that point,” Mr Bowe said.
“I think the gaffe got enough coverage … gaffes are a big deal because you don’t need to be a policy expert to see that Anthony Albanese couldn’t name something pretty fundamental.
“It didn’t make that much difference in the polls but I think people are aware that it happened.”
Three marginal seats held by the Liberals — and potentially even a fourth — in WA are vital for both major parties and whoever picks them up is likely to become the next Prime Minister.
“There will be a swing to Labor and every seat in WA, I’m quite sure,” Mr Bowe said.
Here is what you need to know about each of the crucial seats.
Covering 151 sqkm of Perth’s inner southern suburbs, Swan is currently held by retiring Liberal MP Steve Irons, who has retained the seat since 2007.
It has a range of constituents, including affluent people living along the Swan River and people in low-priced flats.
The Liberal Party’s candidate for the seat is Kristy McSweeney, who has worked as a journalist and media commentator. She has also worked for cabinet ministers and premiers.
Labor’s candidate is mother-of-two Zaneta Mascarenhas, who has worked as an engineer for 15 years.
Mr Bowe and politics Professor Martin Drum agreed that despite other candidates vying for the seat, it was effectively a two-horse race.
“I think the Liberals have got quite a good candidate but I don’t think that matters in the broader scheme of things,” Mr Bowe said.
“It’s the seat that’s going to be decided on the broader trend … if the Liberals hold onto that it would have to be in the context of a result that’s surprising across the board.”
Mr Bowe said the margin was “not as strong as it looks” in Swan.
“What matters in Swan is not so much the candidates — it’s the fact that the Liberal member’s retiring,” he said.
“So all of the community work he’s been doing in his 15 years as a member, that personal connection that he has been building up with voters over that time is going now — and that’s another reason that Labor has a bit of an edge.”
Dr Drum told NCA NewsWire that Swan was a priority seat for Labor.
“It makes it harder for the Liberals to retain because they don’t have that sense of incumbency and feasibility that a local member will have after serving a number of terms,” he said.
“He was quite an active local member, so I think that’s a bit of a blow for them and it’s not great timing either because you’ve got a government in for a number of terms and then you’ve got a potential swing to Labor.”
Ms McSweeney said Swan was an “industrial heavy” electorate.
“A lot of people are interested in the security around their economic position. That is a big thing,” she recently told 6PR radio.
“The second one is crime … every second or third person wants to talk about crime.”
Ms Mascarenhas said she had knocked on 40,000 doors in her electorate and the number one issue was cost of living.
“Households are doing it really tough and the truth is everything‘s going up but your wages,” she said.
“That’s been a design of the Coalition’s economic policy and people are doing it really tough.
“What Federal Labor wants to do is look at the way that we can grow our economy, make it more productive, and work in partnership with businesses and with unions to increase profits and increase wages.”
This seat, which has been held by outgoing Liberal MP Christian Porter since 2013, covers 783 sqkm of outer Perth and the Avon Valley.
City of Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts, who has been a councillor since 2003, is Labor’s candidate.
In 2020, she was appointed by the state government to the State Recovery Advisory Group to drive economic recovery from the pandemic.
Clinical nurse specialist and fellow Wanneroo councillor Linda Aitken is the new Liberal candidate for Pearce.
She is a mother-of-four and grandmother-of-two.
“Pearce has got a bigger margin than Swan, so it’s foreseeable that Labor could succeed in Swan, but fail in Pearce,” Mr Bowe said.
“But Pearce is really the growth area of Perth and that sort of means that the margin might be a bit unreliable.
“You’ll have a lot of new people in the electorate, particularly young families … rising interest rates are a problem (and) that’s a seat where that’s going to be felt.”
Dr Drum said there were some “special circumstances” in the seat.
“One is that everyone knows the sitting member was Christian Porter and he had all sorts of public problems during his final term, and has decided not to stand and the seat’s vacant, which again means that the Coalition doesn’t have incumbency,” he said.
“But there’s an extra element here and that’s that the seat has undergone a very substantive redistribution.
“It used to have a lot of rural and regional hinterland. Now it’s almost solely based around the Wanneroo area.”
Dr Drum said Labor’s candidate was “really well known and quite visible in that area already”, while the Liberals’ candidate did not quite have the same profile.
“Where it differs from Swan is that the candidates will be better known … particularly the mayor,” he said.
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has held the seat, covering 1323 sqkm in northeastern Perth, since 2010 and currently has a margin of 5.9 per cent.
Labor’s candidate is Tania Lawrence, who has held senior positions in both the private sector and government, and now has her own small business.
Mr Bowe noted Mr Wyatt was generally popular and had built up connections in the community over a long time.
“I think Ken Wyatt seems to be a popular member, I think he’s got a margin that’s probably better than the natural margin in that seat,” Mr Bowe said.
“So for that reason, I think Hasluck will be a lot harder for Labor to win.”
But Mr Bowe also observed that Labor had previously won the seat.
“Hasluck is not a super wealthy electorate. It’s middle class. It’s the classic marginal seat,” he said.
“So if the Liberals have a bad election, Labor will win the seat.
“I think the view is that Ken Wyatt probably will win but he’ll have to fight for it.”
Dr Drum said Hasluck was the least likely seat out of the three for Labor to snap up.
“I think if Labor wins Hasluck, it’ll be curtains for the government,” he said.
“There has been, across all of the seats here in WA, a fairly substantial redistribution and that’s affected Hasluck, but not as much as Pearce.”
This 102 sqkm seat covering some of Perth’s affluent southern suburbs is currently held by Minister for the Public Service and Special Minister of State Ben Morton by a margin of 9.5 per cent.
There has been some indications Labor could steal the seat, but Mr Bowe believes it is unlikely that Labor will get a swing that significant.
“There will be a swing to Labor in Tangney,” he said.
“It might be a pretty big swing — it’d be pretty amazing if it was 10 per cent though and that’s what Labor will need.”
Dr Drum agreed it would be extraordinary if Labor won the seat but he too believed there would be a swing to Labor.
“The question is how far? It’s a massive margin … so it has to be considered a bit of an outside chance for Labor to win it,” he said.
Malaysian-born former police officer and dolphin trainer Sam Lim is Labor’s candidate for Tangney.
The father-of-three was awarded police officer of the year in 2020 for his work with multicultural communities during the pandemic.
Mr Morton is a father-of-two, who was previously the state director of the Liberal Party of WA and an adviser in the Howard government.
Other seats potentially up for grabs:
The blue-ribbon seat of Curtin, held by the Liberals’ Celia Hammond since 2019 with a 13.9 per cent swing, could go to independent Kate Chaney, according to a recent poll.
Ms Hammond took over the electorate that was held by former foreign minister Julie Bishop for almost 21 years.
Ms Chaney, who has been the director of innovation and strategy at Anglicare WA, has strong connections to WA’s business and political elites. Her father is Wesfarmers chairman Michael Chaney.
But Labor has its own marginal seats that the Liberals could steal.
The main one is Cowan, which has been held by Anne Aly since 2016 with a 0.9 per cent swing.
Cowan will be contested by the Liberals’ Vince Connelly, who held the seat of Stirling before it was abolished in 2019, with parts being absorbed by Cowan.
Before she won the seat, Ms Aly was a professor at Edith Cowan University and adjunct professor at Curtin University, specialising in terrorism studies.
Mr Connelly began his career in the army and later worked on Ms Bishop’s staff.
Swan — Liberals hold by a margin of 3.2 per cent;
Pearce — Liberals hold by a margin of 5.2 per cent;
Hasluck — Liberals hold by a margin of 5.9 per cent;
Tangney — Liberals hold by a margin of 9.5 per cent;
Curtin — Liberals hold by a margin of 13.9 per cent; and
Cowan — Labor holds by a margin of 0.9 per cent.