07/08/2008 - 15:38

Carpenter surprises with Sept 6 election

07/08/2008 - 15:38


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Western Australia will head to the polls on September 6 after Premier Alan Carpenter called a snap election, drawing surprise from the state opposition and predictions it will be a close-fought race.

Carpenter surprises with Sept 6 election

Western Australia will head to the polls on September 6 after Premier Alan Carpenter called a snap election, drawing surprise from the state opposition and predictions it will be a close-fought race.

This afternoon Mr Carpenter pitched the election as a choice between his strong and stable leadership or the Liberal Party's "chaos and disunity".

"It's a choice between a government with a strong record and plans for the future or a man who has spent the last few years planning his retirement," Mr Carpenter said.

The premier's election call comes one day after Colin Barnett was endorsed as the Liberal Party's fifth leader in less than four years and on the heels of renewed production from Varanus Island after a pipeline rupture cut the state's gas supply by a third in June.

The opposition has accused the government of being spooked and using the Olympics, which starts tomorrow, as a shield.

Deputy opposition leader Kim Hames said the Liberal Party was more than ready to go to the polls in September.

"I must say I'm surprised because ... he (Carpenter) was once the champion of fixed four-year terms and he's certainly served well short of his four years," Dr Hames said today.

"And secondly, Colin Barnett made the point yesterday that there is a CCC (Corruption and Crime Commission) report coming out in the future on relationships with government and I believe he should have waited until that was out.

"But having said that I'm excited ... I'm very pleased we can get in there and that we've got a timed date."

Mr Carpenter has yet to win an election in his own right after he took over from Dr Geoff Gallop, who resigned as premier in early 2006.

While Labor remains the favourite to win the election, judging by recent opinion polls, the replacement of Troy Buswell with Mr Barnett may prove to be a masterstroke, says Edith Cowan University political analyst Peter van Onselen.

Dr van Onselen says the result is already guaranteed to be closer than it would have been if Mr Buswell had remained at the helm.

Mr Barnett is already well known to the electorate after taking the Liberals to defeat in the 2005 election, largely on the back of his plan to build a water canal from the Kimberley to Perth, which he has not ruled out revisiting as part of the election campaign.

But Liberal Party polling has shown he is a much safer leadership bet than Mr Buswell.

While Mr Buswell was polling between 12 and 14 per cent as preferred premier in recent Westpolls and Newspolls, Mr Carpenter has been scoring at 58 per cent and better.

But in two-party preferred counts in the same polls, the opposition has lagged only four to six points behind Labor.

Dr van Onselen says Mr Barnett has "bucketloads of credibility", despite his 2005 election gaffe, and that the Carpenter government may have stepped into troubled waters by moving now.

"I think it's a cheap political move to try and take advantage of the leadership change in the Liberal Party, there's no doubt about that," Dr van Onselen said.

"But I think it's one that may backfire, because the Liberal party, their biggest problem was their leader.

"Their policy construction was going along perfectly fine, so Colin Barnett has now taken over a united team and he's also got bucketloads of credibility himself.

"So I think the Labor party are in for the fight of their lives at this election and they're bringing it on sooner than they should have."

Dr van Onselen said the government obviously did not want Mr Barnett to develop traction with the electorate.

"The mistake they're making here is that at the moment Colin Barnett has got a bit of the messiah about him and he's going to benefit from a honeymoon period that overlaps with the election campaign," he said.

"They would have been better off for him to spend more time, not less, in the leadership to remind voters why they didn't vote for him three years ago."

Sportingbet says the ALP is the short-priced favourite to win the election at $1.18, while the Liberals are returning $4.40.


Below is the election announcement by Premier Alan Carpenter.

"It's time to clear the air.

"A short time ago, I visited the Governor and advised him that I would be calling an election for Saturday, September 6.

"We need to move forward in Western Australia - and move forward with confidence.

"We need certainty, we need stability, we need leadership.

"For weeks now, there has been continuous speculation about an election.

"Everything we've done, everything I've said, has been discounted as only happening because of an election timetable.

"That's not good for Government, business or the general community.

"Well, now the uncertainty and the speculation can stop.

"The Liberal leadership issue is settled and now there is a clear choice:

"It's a choice between the future and the past.

"It's a choice between strong and stable leadership or chaos and disunity.

"It's a choice between a Government with a strong record and plans for the future or a man who has spent the last few years planning his retirement.

"Western Australia deserves a leader who is committed to staying the distance.

"The greatest risk we face now is a change of Government.

"Mr Barnett is still talking about his canal - a project which would have bankrupted the State.

"In the meantime, we've built one desalination plant and have another one on the way.

"Mr Barnett is still talking about privatisation. He sold Alinta and the gas pipeline.

"Our Government has a record of managing the State's finances responsibly without privatisation.

"We have transformed WA's economy. It's now the powerhouse of the nation.

"Yes, we've got big challenges to face and there's always more to be done.

"But WA cannot afford to gamble its future with Mr Barnett and a dysfunctional
Liberal Party.

"Since becoming Premier, I have been focussing on Labor's core priorities - health, education, community safety and building better infrastructure for our State.

"New facilities like schools, hospitals, rail lines and desalination plants that will meet our needs for decades to come.

"As leader, I've also had to make decisions about the sort of people that I want to lead.

"In recent months, the Labor Party has gathered together a team of talented and enthusiastic candidates to take to this election.

"It's a team I am proud to lead.

"I'd like them in Parliament so they can start working for the community. So they can start building a better future for our State.

"As I said, it's important to end the speculation and get on with the job.

"This is my first election as Premier.

"And over the next 31 days, I will be outlining my priorities for the next four years.

"Better health services when and where you need them.

"Better schools and training opportunities for our kids.

"Safer communities and a strong economy.

"Meeting the challenges of climate change and protecting our precious environment.

"Helping people who are doing it tough.

"And working with - not against - the Federal Government in Canberra.

"My vision is to build a better future for WA and give everyone an opportunity to succeed.

"My responsibility is to provide the leadership this State needs to make that vision a reality.

"Vision. Leadership. Stability. That's what Labor is offering on Saturday,
September 6."


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