In the Western Australian state election held on March 9 the Liberal Party achieved an 8.7% swing. They won 31 seats, 8 more than at the last election. Their coalition partners the National Party won 7 seats with a swing to them of 1.2%. The Labor opposition suffered a 2.7% swing against them and lost 8 seats.
By Sean Moore, Socialist Party Perth
The re-election of a conservative government was largely due to the weaknesses of the Labor Party. Not only are people fed up with the federal Labor government but at a state level they are similarly seen as weak and ineffectual.
Undoubtedly the resources boom has impacted on this election result. Unemployment is generally lower than in the rest of Australia at 3.5%. Nevertheless, people are concerned about rising cost of living pressures, housing affordability and the increasing gap between rich and poor.
The problem is that people generally have no confidence in the alternatives on offer and on this occasion decided to go with the devil they know.
The Greens, who in the past have been seen as some sort of alternative, saw their vote slump – with the exception of the Kimberley. In the main the Greens are a purely parliamentary party and no longer a campaigning organisation. An anomaly is at James Price Point where they are involved in the ‘anti gas hub’ campaign. Here they polled 23.7%. Their candidate in the area was a known leader of the campaign and this boosted their vote.
This shows that people want to vote for fighters and activists who are involved in local issues. Such results point to the potential of a new party based on real struggles winning of significant support.
WA Labor leader Mark McGowan looks set to hold on to his position despite the big losses. Many Labor MPs have said that he ran a good campaign and instead blame federal Labor for the heavy defeat. While it is true that many people have a low opinion of Julia Gillard’s Federal Labor government, the state based party also has a lot to answer for.
Ordinary people do not see them as defending their interests or fighting for progressive reforms. On the contrary they support the same general program as the Liberals. Labor is really the second party of big business.
In this election the only major policy McGowan promoted was Metronet – modest public transport expansion to tackle growing traffic congestion. McGowan did not expose the Liberals privatisation programme, he did not offer any solutions to the housing crisis, the crisis in healthcare or the possible dismantling and privatisation of the TAFE sector.
Far from demanding any real alternative policies from Labor the trade unions instead gave them unconditional support. They spent over $700,000 on TV and radio advertisements and mobilised their members to work on their campaign.
It is clear that had Labor won, they would have done nothing to defend the interests of working people. Either way the unions will need to develop an industrial strategy based on defending jobs as the resources boom looks to have peaked and more job losses will be on the cards in the months to come.
The high growth rates that Western Australia has experienced recently will not last forever – especially as mining exports slow in line with the slowing of China’s economic growth. With this being the case the Liberal-National government led by Barnett will be forced to slash services and reduce investment in public services even further.
As this process pans out more and more people will see the need to reject both of the major parties and build a new workers party that will fight for the state’s vast amounts of wealth to be used to improve the lives of the majority – as opposed to the mining magnates alone.