PM positive local issues wont hurt Senate vote
Back to the ballot box: Colin Barnett, Peter Collier and Malcolm McCusker. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian

Tony Abbott has acknowledged Colin Barnett is in a "rough patch" but says he is confident the Premier's political woes will not affect the Liberal Party's vote in the unprecedented April 5 repeat WA Senate election.

In an interview with The Weekend West, the Prime Minister said yesterday he would continue where he left off in September, campaigning on border protection and the abolition of the carbon and mining taxes.

But Labor leader Bill Shorten, aided by the union movement, has vowed to make the Senate poll a referendum on jobs and cuts to health and education.

WA Governor Malcolm McCusker confirmed the April 5 poll yesterday after meeting Mr Barnett and Electoral Affairs Minister Peter Collier.

The High Court declared the September 2013 result void when 1370 ballot papers were lost.

The repeat election will cost taxpayers $23 million, with the coalition and Labor both expected to spend between $1 million and $2 million on campaigns to combat another multimillion-dollar assault by Clive Palmer.

The Greens aim to use people power to secure Senator Scott Ludlum's future, with plans for mass doorknocking and hopes for 2500 volunteers to ensure all 750 booths are attended on the day.

Mr Abbott said the more difficult economic times made it vital that WA elected senators who would "do the right thing" by the State and vote against "anti-West Australian" taxes.

"Now, yes, we've had some disappointing news on the jobs front," Mr Abbott said. "All the more important that they vote for candidates who understand the economy, who understand small business and who don't believe in chequebook government.

"And that's the thing about Senate candidates: sure, they're members of the coalition but they stand up for WA, not just union ciphers."

Labor believes the Premier's troubles, including the backtrack on the solar feed-in tariff, WA losing its AAA credit rating, controversy over the shark cull and the State's education cuts may translate to an anti-Liberal swing.

"West Australians are already suffering from Colin Barnett's cruel cuts to education - $183 million ripped from the education budget this year alone," Mr Shorten said.

"West Australians cannot afford a Barnett-style government in Canberra without a strong Senate."

But Mr Abbott defended Mr Barnett, saying he had done a "really good job as Premier".

"All governments hit some rough patches occasionally, it's just par for the course," he said.

Mr Palmer, whose lead candidate Dio Wang won a spot in the original Senate count last year, confirmed his man would lead the Palmer United Party's ticket.

His running mates include former Fremantle Docker Des Headland and Chamonix Terblanche.

The West Australian

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