10/09/2008 - 22:00

Pundits see federal parallels in WA poll

10/09/2008 - 22:00

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THE election in Western Australia may have been too close to call earlier this week, but that didn't stop the behind-the-scenes strategists predicting how the surprise conservative polling could influence the federal sphere.

Pundits see federal parallels in WA poll

THE election in Western Australia may have been too close to call earlier this week, but that didn't stop the behind-the-scenes strategists predicting how the surprise conservative polling could influence the federal sphere.

Although Kevin Rudd has more than two years remaining in his term as Labor prime minister, many local pundits see huge implications from the WA vote sweeping across the country.

The most obvious is the potential resurgence of the Nationals, with the WA success of Brendon Grylls' strategy providing a blueprint for the regional party to revitalise its flagging fortunes.

"Because Grylls' strategy has been quite successful, the next story is about the implications for the future of the National Party," one political insider told WA Business News.

"It might have given the federal Nats a view on how to make themselves relevant."

Curtin University political analyst Professor David Black agreed that federal Nationals leader Warren Truss would be paying close attention to the result, though he believed the real impact from WA would be increased nervousness among state Labor governments, with Queensland next in line to go to the polls.

"It seems that Labor governments are fighting for survival everywhere," Professor Black said.

Another even more telling result, depending on how the election finally pans out, could be the loss of the so-called wall-to-wall Labor governments across the federal and state spectrum. That would be a blow to Mr Rudd's plans to use Labor unity to achieve reforms and may leave him ruing his own government's sloth in introducing legislation, as well as WA premier Alan Carpenter's decision to hold an election as much as six months earlier than necessary.

Perhaps a less obvious example of spin-offs from WA's vote is the unexpected triumph of Colin Barnett.

Sitting on the backbench and eking out the days until retirement, in just a month Mr Barnett has emerged as a saviour of the party. Across the continent, some political observers note, former federal treasurer and prime ministerial aspirant Peter Costello may well paying more than usual attention to the WA election.

While Professor Black said the parallels were limited because current federal Liberal leader Brendan Nelson had real challengers, unlike Mr Barnett had, other observers saw it differently.

"Barnett is a metaphor for Costello," one political watcher said.

Finally, there is also the impact of Liberal electorate success on the fortunes of local power brokers.

One pundit pointed to the conservatives' success in Ocean Reef and Wanneroo, areas where 38-year-old WA federal senator Michaelia Cash has influence as a former president of the Moore and Whitfords divisions.

"She's youthful...someone to watch in the future," the observer said.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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