The Liberal Party has been swept from power in Western Australia, with Labor securing a thumping majority in the parliament following an election that has shown there is nothing inevitable about the rise of conservative populism.
It looks like Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (PHON) could receive less than 5% of the primary vote — a dismal result considering it has been receiving 10% in some national polls recently and at one point was showing 13% support in WA.
While nationally PHON has been building an anti-establishment brand that hopes to ride the wave of global conservative populism, for the WA election the party struck a preference deal with the Liberal Party, whose vote was obliterated after more than eight years in office.
Hanson has described the preference deal as “a mistake”. It neutered PHON’s appeal as a party of protest.
“It’s been the biggest topic, people ask me about preferences and they don’t understand the voting system, the preference system, the preferences. I’d like it to be introduced into the educational system,” Hanson said in comments reported by the ABC.
“I think that’s where most of the damage has come from.”
Labor, led by Mark McGowan, needed to take 10 seats to oust premier Colin Barnett and the Liberal-National coalition. McGowan has been elected in a landslide, and may secure around 40 of the 59 seats in the lower house.
Western Australia’s economy has been struggling after the end of the China-led mining boom in the state, which saw incomes and property prices in Perth soar to record levels. State unemployment has been creeping up over recent years, and now sits on at just over 6.5%.
The swing against the Liberals will be a concern to Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition at a federal level. A repeat of the shift in votes towards Labor would see the Coalition crushed at the polls.
Conceding defeat last night, Barnett said his best effort had not been good enough. “When we won the election in 2008 and I became the state’s 29th premier, I made some commitments, some to myself and some I made publicly,” he said.
“The one I made to myself is that I would give it my best shot, maybe that wasn’t good enough but I assure you, I have given it my best shot.”
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