26/08/2003 - 22:00

Joe Poprzeczny - State Scene: Polls may point to ballot

26/08/2003 - 22:00

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LITTLE has improved for the Gallop Government since it passed the half-way mark of its term in office six months ago.

LITTLE has improved for the Gallop Government since it passed the half-way mark of its term in office six months ago.

Labor holds only a narrow lead over the conservatives in two-party preferred (TPP) polling.

This has, understandably, caused considerable consternation within Labor’s senior ranks, who fear they may be headed the way of the single term (1971-74) Tonkin Labor Government.

Such an outcome would be doubly shameful because both the Burke Labor Government – which most Labor MPs privately criticise – and the Court-led conservatives actually boosted their leads at their first re-election contests.

Although Premier Geoff Gallop shows up as holding a handy lead over Liberal counterpart Colin Barnett as preferred premier, Labor powerbrokers remain concerned that this single edge isn’t enough to pull them over the line.

Moreover, even some of the Government’s natural backers, including senior unionists, see the Gallop Government as being, at best, only average.

Such people understandably remain baffled at the Government’s job-killing proclivities due to its ongoing pandering to the Greens.

Rich middle and upper middle class Labor and Green backers no doubt feel good about decisions such as the banning of the construction of a $200 million North West Rottnest Island-style town at Maud’s Landing on the edge of Ningaloo Reef.

But construction workers, contractors and those seeking well-paid and challenging tourism-oriented jobs and careers see Greens-inspired decisions quite differently.

Moreover, the much-vaunted Perth-to-Mandurah railway line is the cause of growing concern over its impact on public debt.

And WA is still without any assured big projects on the horizon.

Understandably, even Dr Gallop is uneasy.

Not even his recent cabinet reshuffle, conducted by powerbrokers Attorney-General Jim McGinty and Police Minister Michelle Roberts, managed to lift morale as initially expected.

The statistical facts are that last January/March quarter’s TPP Morgan Poll showed Labor five-plus percentage points ahead of the conservatives.

However, the succeeding quarter showed that lead trimmed to just two points.

A three-plus percentage point fall-off between quarters is enough to prompt any poll watching MP to wait for the next and subsequent ones to see if this was perhaps just a fluke or the beginning of a trend.

If it’s the latter, drastic steps will be taken.

Never underestimate what a McGinty-Roberts duo is likely to do to boost their chances of retaining power. Both know if they lose the presently scheduled February 2005 election it’s the end of their careers as political movers and shakers, something neither wants. Even a single term Barnett-Trenorden Government would mean Labor in the wilderness until 2009.

 

Two terms, so until early 2013, for them would be equivalent to infinity.

It’s little wonder then that Mr Barnett discretely highlighted the polls during his keynote address at last month’s Liberal conference.

“The State election is now just 18 months away,” he said.

“If the polls are any guide the result will be determined by two or three seats either way.

“Labor has failed to establish an election-winning lead.”

Indeed it has, despite all its pandering to the Greens.

But what drastic step is open to Dr Gallop and his McGinty/Roberts duo?

It’s been suggested to State Scene that they’ve begun considering one that would be designed to catch the conservatives on the back foot.

The scenario as set out goes as follows.

The three plan to sit tight and watch the polls for the next three quarters.

That gets them to soon after March 2004, about 10 full months out from when the conservatives would normally expect an election.

If those three polls showed the conservatives still trimming back Labor’s TPP lead, meaning Labor votes plus Greens preferences, or with the conservatives holding their current position, Dr Gallop would be constitutionally permitted to call an election for July 2004, eight months ahead of what’s expected.

Interestingly, there’s a precedent to this, though nowhere near as extreme.

In mid-1996 most pundits expected then Premier Richard Court to call an election for February 1997.

To everyone’s amazement he called it for December 1996, three months early.

He reasoned that he was rating well so why wait and risk slipping in the polls.

There’s nothing stopping Dr Gallop doing likewise.

Except he’d want to get his election out of the way much earlier than Mr Court did.

However, in the case of Dr Gallop and the McGinty/Roberts duo there’s a further complication that’s also a trigger.

This month their one-vote-one-value case was heard before the Australian High Court in Canberra.

A decision is expected during February/March.

If the High Court gives Labor the thumbs down they’ll be forced to fight the Barnett/Trendorden team on boundaries that don’t favor Labor.

So if the TPP poll for the coming January/March quarter – which would be released in early April – doesn’t show a dramatic improvement for Labor or even further deterioration, expect to be casting your next vote in mid-2004, not early 2005.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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