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Joe Poprzeczny - State Scene: Choosing the lesser evil

GROWING numbers of Labor and Greens activists are concerned that the Gallop Government is the weakest link in Labor’s current hegemony over all States and Territories.

And thus they’re getting anxious that it may fail to fall over the line at next February’s election.

A telling feature of Gallop-led Labor is that, despite facing a weakly led and disunited Liberal opposition, Labor has failed to surge in the polls as you’d expect, and as Labor teams elsewhere have done.

Liberal leader Colin Barnett has been Labor’s main asset.

Yet voter response to Labor is akin to that of a government confronting a popular opposition with an imaginative, vibrant and appealing leader.

Clearly, Gallop-led Labor has failed to appeal to a broad cross-section of middle ranking or swinging voters, suggesting its support is primarily among long-time and committed Laborites.

My guess as to why – and it can be no more than a guess, since in-depth research findings haven’t been released by either party’s pollsters – is that Labor’s widely seen as pandering to the Greens and as a ‘do little’ government that has boosted taxes, especially stamp duties, to exorbitant levels.

Many still recall Dr Gallop’s 2001 campaign claim that there would be no tax increases and WA would retain its triple-A credit rating.

The former undertaking was dishonored and the only reason the latter has happened so far is because of that dishonoring, not the control of expenditure.

This is hardly behaviour that enhances electoral trust in government.

And then there’s the premium property tax (PPT), which has had an impact despite Dr Gallop’s belated decision to drop it.

Many still swear they’ll never forget it.

It’s worth recalling that Dr Gallop, when quizzed last October about his overall performance, admitted his government wasn’t in tune with community hopes and expectations.

Such candidness is welcome.

What’s unwelcome is a failure to accurately analyse the reasons for Labor’s malaise.

For instance, when highlighting the PPT, he said: “Our ill-fated property tax . . . we got a bit caught up in economic rationalism on that one and we ignored the realities there”.

It needs to be reiterated the PPT had nothing whatsoever to do with rational economics.

Quite the contrary. Its prime motivation was envy, pure and simple, or more specifically, socialist envy of families with nice houses, generally with river or ocean views – the exact opposite of rational economics.

If Dr Gallop doubts this he should recall the day the PPT was unveiled in Labor’s caucus room.

State Scene’s best Labor contact said spontaneous

 

cheering and thunderous applause came from all present.

Unless and until Dr Gallop accurately analyses Labor’s underlying problems, he faces defeat.

Furthermore, substantial numbers of voters aren’t convinced of the haste, wisdom and route of the costly (now $1.5 billion) proposed Perth-Mandurah railway, which has so severely hamstrung expenditures in other essential areas.

Several ministers have shown either an inability to perform or as lacking judgement by being attracted to harebrained schemes, such as selectively limiting tenderers perceived to be pro-Liberal.

There’s also Dr Gallop’s constant pandering to the Greens by blocking first-class projects such as the Mauds Landing resort.

And, as State Scene recently highlighted, there’s been too much allocating of cushy qango jobs to mates, pals and even spouses.

Surveying Australia one sees Labor controlling all State and Territorial governments.

Federally, new Labor leader Mark Latham, even with his blemished, loutish past, seems to be emerging as a credible alternative, meaning if he dislodges Prime Minister John Howard Labor would find itself where the conservatives were during 1969 and 1970 – holding power in all States plus Canberra.

But with the Federal election likely in November 2004 and WA’s in February 2005, an entirely Labor-controlled Australia would last only three months if Dr Gallop was ousted.

But look at Labor’s other premiers.

In 1995 Bob Carr-led Labor narrowly won government in NSW. Four years later he pulled-off a landslide, and repeated it in 2003.

In 1998, Tasmania’s Jim Bacon-led Labor team won a modest victory, and in 2002 substantially improved upon it.

In the same year, 1998, Queensland’s Peter Beattie just gained power.

Then, in 2001, and early last month, Mr Beattie followed up with two landslides, meaning his record now even betters Mr Howard’s, since the prime minister’s second, or 1998, victory, was narrow.

Victorian Labor Premier Steve Bracks only just gained government in 1999 but produced a landslide in 2002.

South Australia’s Mike Rann Labor Government also only narrowly won in 2002 but all the signs suggest he’s headed for another term.

Only Dr Gallop, who, although coming in with a large majority of seats in 2001 but only attracted 37 per cent of primary votes, doesn’t look a certainty for his first re-contest.

Polling shows that by no stretch of the imagination can he expect to repeat a Carr, Bacon, Beattie or Bracks landslide.

One’s therefore compelled to say that WA Labor has so far simply failed to show it has what it takes to produce a landslide, even when facing a pitifully weak Barnett-led opposition.

That’s why some believe that, if Labor doesn’t lift its game during 2004, it could lose in February.

That, pure and simple, is an indictment of Dr Gallop, showing he’s failed, after 36 months, to build himself into a potential long-term premier, something all other Labor premiers have convincingly done.

At this stage, therefore, so many Western Australian electors face having to vote for the side they least dislike, or least distrust, rather than the one they believe will govern most efficiently, effectively and democratically.

 

At this stage, therefore, so many Western Australian electors face having to vote for the side they least dislike, or least distrust.

 

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