Spotlight on WA as Morrison, Shorten set to battle for marginal seats

With a debate between the two leaders set for Monday night, WA is proving to be one of the biggest make-or-break players in the election.

Week three of the election campaign has kicked off in Perth and Western Australia is set to play a major role in deciding the election.

Monday night’s debate between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will be the first of this election campaign and the first ever in Perth.

Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten will go head-to-head in a debate in Perth on April 29.
Source: SBS

The government holds eleven of WA’s 16 federal electorates, but the challenge now is keeping them.

As many as six seats across the state are viewed as marginal and could change at the May 18 election. 

“WA may play a role in delivering (Labor) a very big win,” Murdoch University’s Dr Ian Cook said.

“For the Liberals … if they (win the election), it'll be a very close result, so WA will be crucial. If they don't win seats in WA, they won't get back in government.”

Murdoch University's Dr Ian Cook says WA seats are crucial to the overall election results.
Source: SBS News


The outcomes of marginal WA seats could decide not only the election, but the careers of some of Australia’s emerging political leaders.

North of Perth, the Liberals are going on the offensive in the Labor-held seat of Cowan.

In 2016, the ALP’s Anne Aly won Cowan by only 0.68 per cent, relying on preferences and a -5.2 per cent swing against the government to secure a narrow victory.

The Morrison government hopes to win the seat back.

Hitting the trail early on a Tuesday morning, Dr Aly said she was focused on her campaign.

“I don't really concern myself with what the other side is doing. My job is to keep doing what I'm doing,” she said.

“My first time around was such a different experience for me, because I'd never campaigned before and was really coming from outside the political establishment.”

Dr Anne Aly is seeking re-election in the WA seat of Cowan.
Source: SBS News

Dr Aly left a career as a counter-terrorism expert and became the first Muslim woman elected to the Australian parliament.

In WA, as in the rest of the country, the cost of living, wages and job security promise to be major election issues. 

“We did have quite a few people employed in the mining sector. Those people now, are really feeling the impact of the end of the mining boom,” Dr Aly said.

“We have a lot of financial stress on families who have lost jobs and, particularly in the northern part of Cowan, youth unemployment is a huge issue.”

She now faces a contest with Liberal candidate Isaac Stewart, a community development manager with the West Australian Football Commission.

“I think I've made something in the vicinity of around 20,000 phone calls and 4,000 doors knocked,” Dr Aly said.

“I've still got things to do. I think it's important to contribute where you can, whether it's by voting or by playing an active role in politics … there's a lot more I'd like to do for Cowan.”


In the seat of Pearce, Australia’s Attorney-General Christian Porter is fighting for his political career.

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Mr Porter held on to the seat at the 2016 election, despite a swing of -5.68 per cent against him.

He currently holds the seat by only 3.63 per cent, not the position that many would have predicted the high-profile Liberal to be in.

“It’s no doubt that things are narrowing. We are underdogs and there’s no doubt about that,” Mr Porter said.

“I’m staring down a very monied campaign from the unions and from GetUp. So I’m only claiming underdog status because I am an underdog.  But I’m a confident underdog”.

Mr Porter has been touted as one of the Liberal party’s emerging stars, a possible future leader and potential prime minister.

He became Attorney-General during a cabinet reshuffle in 2017, first running in the federal seat of Pearce after a glistening career in WA state politics.  

“Pearce is a particularly interesting (electorate), given it's Christian Porter's seat,” Dr Cook said.

“He was at some stage, or still is, a very much, up-and-coming Liberal who had real promise, and we were wondering what his future would hold.

“He may well be in trouble, and may lose his seat this time around.”


The Member for Pearce, Christian Porter, campaigns in his electorate.
Source: SBS News

Mr Porter said the race in Pearce is not about him, or Canberra.

“If the seat is important, it’s because of the people that live in the seat. It’s not important because of me,” he said. 

“When I get off the plane from Canberra, at the airport, I drive back into my electorate. Its where I live, it's where my kids are growing up. It’s a place that we love.”

Mr Porter attributed the swing against him at the last election to changing demographics in the electorate.

“When it was first created in 2003, my electorate was 70 per cent regional places, rural places like York, Beverly, now it's 70 per cent outer urban. So the demographics have completely changed over time,” he said.

“My electorate probably has more infrastructure on roads and rail than any other electorate in Australia and that’s a record that I’m happy to stand on.”

Mr Porter’s political opponent is Labor candidate Kim Travers, a former superintendent with WA Police.

Like many in the Coalition, he’s hoping for a close election result, where WA seats come into play.

“This is going to be a very tight and narrow election, and whether you live in the seat of Pearce or Hasluck or Swan, it may well be that you end up deciding who (Australia) gets as a government.”

Hasluck, Canning, Stirling and Swan 

In the west, it’s not just Cowan and Pearce that are in play.

With a margin of just over 2 per cent, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt faces the toughest battle of any WA Liberal.

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt, whose seat of Hasluck is under threat.
Source: AAP

His seat of Hasluck is joined by Canning, Stirling and Swan on the list of marginal, government-held seats.

“I think Hasluck is going to be very hard to hold, the Liberals hold it with a just over 2 per cent margin and I'm expecting bigger swings than that in WA,” Dr Cook said.

“(But) Stirling at a 6 per cent, that's the one that I've got my eye on, because if we're talking 6 per cent swings, then we're talking big swings to Labor."

They are contests that could decide more than the election.

“I think that if either or both the members for Pearce or Cowan weren't returned, that would be significant blows to their parties,” Dr Cook said.

“(Political) parties need new faces, different possibilities and ideas. It's very damaging to lose their star performers”.

Published 27 April 2019 at 7:46am, updated 29 April 2019 at 11:25am
By Aaron Fernandes
Source: SBS News