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Federal Election 2022: On the Western Front

Federal elections mean enticing voters with big promises and big spending.

Our Pandemic Election will be no different in that sense, but vastly different in others. While we currently have no polling date, and the Federal Budget being handed down on 29 March, unofficial campaigning has begun for both parties. Policies regarding emission reduction targets, healthcare promises and, of course, the roadmap out of this never-ending pandemic have already been outlined.

Every State and Territory have seats crucial to each party, and WA is absolutely no exception. Yet the West will play a unique role in this election, either assisting the Coalition in retaining a majority or shifting valuable numbers to the Labor Party. The Liberal party will be desperate to hold onto the 10 (out of 15) WA seats it currently holds having already lost Stirling due to its abolishment via redistribution.

So, with this in mind, what campaigning and big cash splashes can the major parties offer to engage WA voters? The short answer – not an awful lot.

Getting WA’s attention

The 2019 Federal Election saw Morrison and Shorten rain promise after promise on Western Australians like confetti as they vied for key seats. The State had billions of dollars set to flow West in infrastructure, transport, border protection and (controversially) the GST.

Early into 2019 campaigning, both parties offered a guarantee of a minimum GST redistribution, which both parties in WA had been pushing for – for some time. Previously our GST had been something for Federal parties to compete over, however when both parties agreed to resolve the situation, with the same method, it quickly negated that as an issue all together.

As a result, WA now gets its fair share of GST due to the reforms that stemmed from those promises. While the floor is not a unique WA floor and it’s applicable to any state falling below 70c GST relativity, the majority of other states were/are furious.

This year, WA’s GST redistribution was adjusted from 42 cents to align with either Victoria’s 92 cents or New South Wales 96 cents. This adjustment meant more than $70 billion worth of GST revenue flowed to WA, leaving one of the biggest desires of Western Australians sorted and dealt with.

Building on promises

Hundreds of millions of dollars were promised for WA infrastructure in 2019.

Labor splashed $850 million for transport construction, specifically covering the majority of the anticipated cost of the Ellenbrook rail line. Similarly, the Liberal Party introduced an infrastructure package worth a total of $1.6 billion that would provide support in a range of areas, including Roe 8. A large amount of this package was put aside to develop our rail lines – particularly Ellenbrook.

With roads and train lines being news from the last election, Morrison has gotten creative, joining forces with the State Government on a 50:50 basis to fund a multibillion-dollar Perth City Deal to go towards the inner-city campus of Edith Cowan University (ECU) and to deliver the new Swan River Bridge. Morrison promised an additional $49 million for the ECU campus and an additional $25 million for the Swan River Bridge, taking the total City Deal to a value of $1.69 billion.

With the GST arrow loosed and the infrastructure arrow seeming less lethal, the 2022 WA election quiver is looking a bit empty.

Putting their mouth where their money is

Since there is a lot on the line in WA, the possibility parties will adopt the method of pork-barrelling is highly probable.

Pork-barrelling, put simply, is the practice of distributing money for political advantage and is a common concept utilised in the world of politics and elections. Specific seats that may be exposed to this tactic by both parties include the WA marginal seats; Burt, Cowan, Hasluck, Perth and Swan.

Swan, in particular, will be of interest to Morrison and Albanese, as its current Liberal member, veteran Hon. Steve Irons, is retiring and both parties have put forth female candidates.

Labor will not be the only party that smells blood in the seat of Pearce and has already made it public it will be a target. The resignation of controversial politician Christian Porter now means Pearce is in reach for Labor for the first time since its establishment, and they will want to take advantage of the situation as much as possible.

The seat of Curtin is a prize conservative seat, with former foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, holding it for some twenty years. However, the running of an independent in the blue-ribbon seat could create the perfect pork-barrelling situation. While the Coalition won’t wish to show any unease, they may lean towards spending big in the electorate they would have largely ignored in past elections due to it being so safe.

To add to the difficulty, campaigning in WA has had its challenges for both Morrison and Albanese since plans to arrive in Perth, were halted and delayed by McGowan. There was, without a doubt, questions raised over the timing and political motive behind the border push back; with McGowan temporarily finding himself in the prime situation to campaign locally for Labor.

Now however, both leaders have paid Perth rather low-key visits in the bid to secure support and votes.

The key to success

GST has been taken care of, with no changes on the horizon. Train lines have had big cash splashes. We already have the gas infrastructure the east coast is now being promised and one of the strongest economies in the nation (evident by a low unemployment rate and strong State Budget surplus).

That leaves the hospital system, WA’s largest area of need without a doubt, in need to attention. But health is a State responsibility, meaning the likelihood of any big promises to appease the gaping holes is extremely doubtful.

The importance of WA to an election victory will not go unnoticed by either party. But to win votes and gain support, they will need to think outside the standard political box to appease the needs of the State and its people.

About the author

Bree is Cannings Purple’s Government Relations Associate Consultant. 

With a broad range of working knowledge and experience writing for local members and government, Bree is perfectly placed to assist clients in navigating government processes, policy and approvals. Contact Bree.

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