Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has defended West Australian Premier Alan Carpenter’s judgment in the face of attacks on his state election campaign.
Labor has lost its notional 17-seat majority under the state’s electoral redistribution and is almost certain to lose government if the National party sides with the Liberals, its traditional ally.
Several of the premier’s hand-picked candidates have either lost, or are under threat, and at least a dozen seats have recorded big swings to the Liberals.
Former state secretary John Halden, who led the Labor campaign in the 2001 election triumph, said the Carpenter government failed to sell its achievements properly to the public.
In an opinion piece in The West Australian newspaper, he says the ALP was not ready when the election was called.
Advisers were caught short on policy, substance and campaign ability, and local campaigns were often amateurish and misguided.
Issues such as uranium mining, GM crops, AWAs and privatisation, were “straight out of an outdated left-wing handbook,” Halden said, instead of its vision for the next term.
Smith said Carpenter was fully aware that it was more than just a protest vote threatening Labor’s hold.
“It certainly wasn’t realised too late by Mr Carpenter or by the ALP campaign or by me,” the Foreign Minister said.
“You might recall my only intervention in the campaign was … where I tried very hard to make the point that the election outcome was going to be very close and that Labor was in grave difficulty of losing the election,” Smith said.
Labor selectively leaked internal party polling results several times during the campaign showing they were in danger of losing.
“And that wasn’t done … just to try and get the Labor party underdog status, it was to make the point that Barnett’s return to the leadership had changed the dynamic and we were heading down the road of a very, very close outcome,” Smith said.
The extent of Labor’s apparent loss has surprised many.
The ABC’s election website shows a dozen seats recorded a greater-than seven per cent swing to the Liberals, more than Labor’s internal polling indicated.
In Kwinana, a new seat deemed to be a Labor stronghold with a predicted 19 per cent margin, there was a 7.4 per cent swing to the Liberals.
The inner-city suburb of Mt Lawley saw a nine per cent swing to the Liberals.
And the Labor heartland seat of Girawheen, held by Labor with a 19 per cent margin, suffered an 8.6 per cent swing to the Liberals, but was retained in ALP hands.
Halden wrote on Monday that if Carpenter wanted to continue as leader, he needed to become more inclusive and less combative.
But the leader has acknowledged himself that there were some perceptions of arrogance and he was working hard to address them, Smith said.
“If Alan Carpenter is able to form a minority government … he’s made the point pretty clear that there’s a big message out there, he’s got the message and if he’s re-elected as a minority premier he’ll do more and he’ll do better.”