Massive swing threatens “safe” Liberal seat

A massive swing in the previously safe Liberal seat of Darling Range is threatening the political future of Local Government Minister Tony Simpson.

A ReachTEL poll of 617 voters on Monday night recorded a swing of 13.1 per cent, putting WA Labor level with the Liberal Party at 50:50 in two party preferred terms.

The poll was commissioned by the WA branches of the Electrical Trades Union (ETUWA) and the Australian Services Union (ASUWA), who have been campaigning heavily in the area in recent months in opposition to the proposed privatisation of Western Power by the Barnett Government.

The poll found strong opposition to the privatisation of Western Power, with 67 per cent of respondents opposed and only 19 per cent in favour. The poll also identified the issue as a major vote changer, with 36.3 per cent of respondents saying privatisation would make them less likely to vote Liberal, including 21 per cent of Liberal voters.

ETUWA Secretary Les McLaughlan said the Barnett Government’s proposal to privatise Western Power would have serious political consequences.

“We have consistently said that privatising Western Power would be a case of all pain, and no gain to Western Australia,” Mr McLaughlan said.

“The Liberal Party will experience political pain, because concerns over privatising Western Power extend well beyond the nine metropolitan seats Labor needs to win to take government at the March state election.”

“Communities all around the state understand that the number one priority of Western Power’s new private owner would be to maximise profit. Our poll found 67 per cent of voters agreeing privatising Western Power would lead to higher power prices, with only 11 per cent disagreeing.

“Voters also understand that privatisation would lead to cutbacks, with 58 per cent of respondents in our poll agreeing that privatisation would see the loss of jobs and apprenticeships, as well as cuts in preventative maintenance. Only 16 per cent disagreed.

“We’ve already seen Western Power cut 215 jobs in preparation for privatisation, with many of these jobs coming from maintenance. This will be of particular concern to communities in Perth’s hills and the south west of WA, who live with the very real threat of interrupted power supplies, as well as growing bushfire danger during our increasingly dry summers.”

ASUWA Secretary Wayne Wood said privatisation would cause political pain for whoever led the Liberal Party to the state election.

“Our poll found Mark McGowan was preferred Premier by a country mile over Colin Barnett, and we were very pleased to see this, given the strong stance Mr McGowan has taken against privatisation,” Mr Wood said.

“It was also interesting to note that, while more than 60 per cent of voters didn’t see Colin Barnett as the best person to lead the Liberal Party to the state election, the leadership alternative who attracted the least support was Mike Nahan, the state government Minister who is out there pushing privatisation the hardest.

“The strength of community opposition to privatising Western Power we have picked up through this poll tells us that, irrespective of who the salesperson is, privatising Western Power to help pay off the excesses of the Barnett years is highly unlikely to be acceptable to WA voters.”

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