Election day truth coming

BY FEBRUARY 11 John Halden should know whether his campaign to make Geoff Gallop WA’s next Premier has been successful.

Mr Halden has been Labor State Secretary for little more than a year.

The former social worker and Member of the Legislative Council has managed to clear the party’s $750,000 debt through targetting the corporate sector, raising a levy on members and running functions.

Mr Halden admits the 11 seats Labor needs to capture to win Government is a significant hurdle but not an insurmountable one.

“It’s a campaign where we can’t afford to make any mistakes,” he said.

“We need to win 11 seats and capture a uniform swing of five and a quarter per cent.

“We could get 53 per cent plus of the vote and still lose because of the gerrymander.

“Labor faces the prospect of winning the campaign and popular vote but still losing the election.”

The branch stacking allegations surrounding Labor member Kim Wilkie, coming right at the beginning of the election campaign proper, certainly put the party on the back foot.

But Mr Halden dismisses the issue as a one-day wonder that is now forgotten.

He is now looking for opportunities to turn the tables, such as the Federal Government’s move to raise excises by nearly 4 per cent and the problems caused by its GST. Both will soon become ammunition in the WA political struggle.

“We’ll be plugging the effect to business of the rises in excise on fuel, tobacco and alcohol and the BAS. We’re going to attack Richard Court’s links to the Federal Government,” Mr Halden said.

He believes the Coalition’s plan to campaign on a platform of financial responsibility is flawed.

“Of the past eight budgets they’ve handed down, five have been in deficit. They’ve spent $1 billion in the past seven or eight months,” Mr Halden said.

“They’re facing a third term in office without a firm social or environmental agenda, their financial reputation is going down hill and they’re squabbling among themselves.

“I don’t think the Coalition’s advertising campaign is working.

“Our polling is telling us that people see their campaign as being in disarray.

“They are clearly going for a third term and we feel the people want a change. We’re fuelling that fire.”

Labor believes the Coalition’s attempts to link the unions with Labor – including a prominent billboard of Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Workers Union chief Kevin Reynolds – backfired because it has helped raise the amount of union funds used to campaign against them.

But there also are internal differences between Labor powerbrokers which prompted Mr Reynolds to run his own campaign against the Liberal Party, rather than throw his organisation’s money into Labor Party coffers.

Mr Halden said the CFMEU campaign was not a management problem for him.

“What the union has produced has been of good quality. It’s stayed on issues rather than personality,” he said.

“I would have liked to have had that money but the funny thing is, I don’t think Kevin Reynolds would have given that much money to Labor. He would have probably given us $10,000 but now he’s probably spending $100,000.”

Even with the CFMEU doing its own thing, the links between Labor and unions are still a big issue among the small business community.

Despite unions 60 per cent of the vote at Labor’s State conference, Mr Halden finds the perception of Labor “being in bed with the unions” mystifying.

“The unions within the Labor Party are rarely unified. They tend to fall under the various party factions,” he said.

“The number of people with union backgrounds going into Parliament is fairly small.”

Mr Halden said he had tried to broaden the party’s base by bringing in as many business people as he could.

Candidates for this election include former Small Business Person of the Year and Lamac Plumbing and Drainage co-owner Margaret Lane as well as Bayswater chemist and Mayor John D’Orazio. Mr Halden also argues the small business case for lawyer John Quigley.

“We have more small business people representing us because we’ve gone out there and recruited them,” he said.

“We have to have people with various skills, background and knowledge.

“We’ve also gone out to get people from big business but the big problem there is the huge disparity between what those people are earning now and what they will earn on an MP’s salary.

“In one case, our member for North Metropolitan will be taking a 50 per cent pay cut.”

Mr Halden said being a Labor Party secretary was similar to running a small business.

“You’re always worrying about the bottom line and cashflows,” he said.

“You have to develop advertising plans and service your membership or client base.

“It’s not just business, its Members of Parliament and the media.”

Mr Halden said the beauty of being Labor secretary was shorter hours to those he faced during his 28 years as an MP.

“But while the hours are shorter, the work is more intense,” he said.

Ironically, Mr Halden beat his Liberal counterpart Peter Wells to win his seat in the North East Metropolitan region and enter Parliament.

* Next week: Liberal Party State director Peter Wells tells his story.

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