Federal Labor’s sinking popularity and ailing image has dragged down the party’s West Australian leader Mark McGowan, who was heading for a massive defeat in one of the State’s most swiftly called elections.
Moments after counting began, ABC commentators said the polls that had pointed to a crushing victory to Premier Colin Barnett and his the Liberal/Nationals coalition were proving correct and called the result about an hour into the tallying.
A brutally frank Defence Minister Stephen Smith said Federal Labor had not helped Mr McGowan, who, despite a strong campaign, could not achieve an extremely rare defeat of a first term government.
Mr Smith said Saturday’s result in the west proved the Labor party had many issues to work on before the Federal election on September 14.
“We’ve had a tough time federally - you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work that out - and there’s no doubt we have been a drag on Mark and there’s no doubt that we haven’t been helpful,” Mr Smith said.
“We have a range of tough political issues to work through between now and September.
“It will go down to the wire.”
With 56.7 per cent of the vote counted, the coalition had 58 per cent of the vote on a two party preferred basis, with Labor taking 42 per cent, accounting for a swing of 6.6 per cent to the Government.
Deputy Federal Opposition leader Julie Bishop said the WA election results - which very early in counting pointed to a Liberal/National coalition securing an overwhelming majority in the WA parliament - reflected poorly on Labor’s brand.
Independent Liz Constable, who is retiring from the seat of Churchlands, said: “I don’t think anyone anticipated such a landslide”.
And WA Labor must have known it, with a very small contingent turning out for the party’s gathering in Mr McGowan’s home of Rockingham, where the atmosphere was decidedly sombre.
“It looks terrible. What a bloodbath,” one Labor supporter lamented at the function.
Deputy leader of the Opposition Roger Cook admitted there had been some damage to the Labor brand from the Federal Government.
“To what extent it had a role to play in the state election is very difficult to say,” he said.
Treasurer Troy Buswell, who had been attacked by the Labor party in the last week of the campaign, said the tactic had backfired.
“It’s pretty un-Australian to play the man - I don’t think West Australians have taken too kindly to that,” Mr Buswell said.