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McGowan sees the positive
Opposition Leader Mark McGowan and wife, Sarah, and children Alex, left, Amelia and Samuel. Picture: Lee Griffith/The West Australian

A year after his ascension to the Labor leadership and with just six weeks until West Australians go to the polls, Mark McGowan insists voters know who he is and what he stands for.

Despite opinion polls that give him little chance, the 16-year parliamentary veteran says he gets positive feedback wherever he goes, whether that is his Rockingham electorate or the suburbs and towns across WA that he says will receive the attention of a Labor government if he prevails on March 9.

"In terms of what I stand for, I've been very clear: making life easier for families, making sure the government's priorities reflect the people's priorities, having a comprehensive and cohesive set of policies so people actually can see policies rather than rhetoric," he said.

Over a flat white in a takeaway cup with one teaspoon of artificial sweetener, he spoke proudly in defence of the Labor brand, the record of the former Labor government and his own record of reform in 3½ years as a minister.

He pointed to the creation of small bars as liquor minister, his sign-off of approvals for Chevron's Gorgon project and FMG's Cloudbreak iron ore mine as environment minister, the reinstatement of a syllabus and traditional report cards in schools as education minister and the successful bid for the Red Bull air race as tourism minister as evidence he has a track record of achievement from the government benches.

But now he wants to be premier.

"I want to do good things for the State. Ever since I was young, I've always had the idea that doing things beyond yourself and making sure that your life has meaning for others has to be something that you do," he said.

"At the end of my life I don't want to be someone who amassed a fortune or lived a life without having done or achieved something. That sense of community obligation or making life better for others is something that's core to me."

He insists the Labor brand is not an impediment to electoral success in WA and says he is proud to be a member of the party he joined as a 17-year-old.

"Labor has the greatest history of any political party in this State, in this country. We are the party of John Curtin and Bob Hawke and people like Kim Beazley and Geoff Gallop," he said. "The conservatives don't have anyone to put alongside those people. I'm very proud of our history."

Mr McGowan doesn't have a mentor but considers Mr Beazley and Dr Gallop role models.

He said he relies on his staff and wife Sarah for advice.

"My wife is an excellent adviser - she does watch it pretty closely," he said. "She's got her feet on the ground and she does go to playgroups, the gym, the supermarket.

"She is a great person for understanding what people are thinking in the general community."

Rarely has a politician made himself so available to the media.

Of juggling the commitments of his job with the demands of being a father to three children under 10, he says "it's not unusual".

"I was on a plane yesterday down from Karratha and it was full of fly-in, fly-out workers who have been away for three weeks," he said. "So my life is not that hard, comparatively.

"On the other hand, when I'm home - and I'm home a lot more often than they are - you often have your phone going off constantly and correspondence to deal with, papers to read, debates to prepare for."

He claims to be unfazed by Statewide polls that show a commanding lead for his conservative opponents.

"I'm confident that we'll give it a good shake," he said. "Mr Barnett's said he's going to win and he's very arrogant about it. I'm obviously not arrogant about it. But I'm going to give it my best - and West Australians often surprise you.

"They don't like arrogance and if they think about how things have gone over the past 4½ years, there's a massive increase in State debt, the worst congestion crisis in our city's history, a massive increase in cost of living pressures on families and low standards in government.

"If they think of all those things, I think there's a lot of reasons not to vote for Mr Barnett."