The Guardian 9 March, 2005

Labor back in WA

Vic Williams

The West Australian electors saw no need to change a government that was riding high on royalties from iron ore, gas and oil. It is a prosperous state with expanding resources development, prepared to pay higher wages and with the lowest rate of unemployment in Australia.

The newspapers and the TV built up a presidential style election, making it dramatic with sudden changes of support, prepared to blame opposition leader Barnett for the lost elections because of the bungle in proposing bringing Fitzroy River water south in a canal. But many people ignored the circus and remained unmoved.

The total vote in the Legislative Council showed Labor 40,000 votes ahead of the Liberals. It appears that the percentage of votes directed away from the main parties remained about the same.

Greens WA maintained the seven per cent it got at the 2001 elections. They are the only party in Parliament to oppose the invasion of Iraq and in Parliament they have been the best fighters for trade union and workers' rights. They were ignored and sidelined by the newspapers and the TV.

Because of the good work by the Green MLCs in Agricultural and Pastoral electorates, they substantially increased their primary vote. Unfortunately, because of the manipulation of preferences by other parties, they are not expected to make the gains they deserve. The most positive result coming out of the elections is the consolidation of the Greens. They have increased their membership and are involved in many local campaigns.

It is a different story for other minor parties. The One Nation Party, that had three seats in the last Upper House from 10% of the total vote, melted away to under 10,000 votes in the Upper House vote. They will lose those seats. The Democrats, who in 2001 were close on the heels of the Greens, and re-elected a Senator, withered away in the Upper House with only 5000 votes.

The newcomers, the Family Friendly Party and the Christian Democratic Party WA took some of the floating votes. In the Assembly seats they each averaged between two per cent and three per cent. The attempt to harness the floating vote into a right-wing force was not a success.

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