The other day we had a look at the three-way contest in regional Queensland with the rise of the Katter’s Australian Party with the use of a scatter plot. Today we will turn out attention to the other side of the country and look at the next election in Western Australia and the three-way battleground in the non-metropolitan areas of the state.
In rural and regional Western Australia, another three-way contest in is in play with Labor and Liberal competing with the WA Nationals in most seats outside of Perth. The WA Nationals have historically been the governing coalition partners of the urban conservative party in Western Australia. However during the leadership of the current WA Nationals leader Brendon Grylls the party has taken steps to act more independently with a looser coalition with the Liberals and a an expansion in the rural and regional seats it contests. Historically the WA Nationals have primarily contested and held seats in the Western Australian Wheatbelt region. Under Grylls the party has returned to contesting seats in the vast mining and pastoral region of the state.
Unlike in other states there is no deal with the Liberals in avoiding contesting each others seats. Every seat the WA nationals contest is a three cornered contest and thus where the Nationals run in Rural and Regional WA a three way-electoral contest is in play.
To give a one look chart at the electoral prospects in these seats, we have set out a scatter plot containing 12 of the 17 non-metropolitan state seats in WA where the Nationals ran a candidate in 2008. The Nationals have preselected candidates for the March election for each of these seats except Murray – Wellington. Each seat is plotted by the Labor Two Party Preferred percentage and the Nationals primary vote percentage.
The figures used for the chart have been obtained from Antony Green’s estimation of the effects of the 2011 redistribution of WA state seats which will come into effect at the March election. The chart is below.
The above chart requires a bit of explanation:
- Each data point is coloured by the party that currently holds the seat, blue for Liberal, red for Labor, Green for National and Grey for Independent.
- Each data label is shaded by electoral region, lime green for Agricultural, orange for Mining and Pastoral and light Blue for South-West. A map outlining these non-metropolitan electoral regions can be found here.
- Kalgoorlie is noted in italics as it has an incumbent independent MP John Bowler. Therefore the 2008 figures are not comparable to the other seats as Mr Fowler won a primary vote of 34% on redistributed figures depressing the votes of the other parties. However the Nationals 19% lower house primary vote is similar to the upper house vote in the same seat.
- The horizontal axis is crossed at 50% ALP TPP, any seat to the left of the vertical axis is a Labor seat, any seat to the right of the axis is not held by Labor.
- The vertical axis is crossed at 30% National PV. This is an arbitrary threshold for where in any give seat the Nationals would come into contention for taking the seat. If the Nationals outpoll Labor, they should be able to threaten victory on Labor preferences. If the Nationals out poll the Liberals , unless the Labor vote is very high, a competitive final count is in the offing. However the 30% threshold is not hard and fast rule in determining Nationals seat chances. Nevertheless the National held seats below the horizontal axis are held due to extenuating circumstances, Warren-Blackwood has undergone significant boundary changes while North-West Central is the National fold due to incumbent crossing the floor from Labor.
Like our Queensland exercise earlier in the week. The above chart lends itself to grouping the seats by virtue of their vulnerability or safety for any given party. In the above chart 4 such groups come to the fore. We will go through each below
Safe National (Wagin & Central Wheatbelt)
These seats are in the Nationals historical Wheatbelt heartland and form the floor of the National seat tally.
Nationals Marginals (Moore, Eyre, Warren-Blackwood, North-West Central)
These seats are vulnerable to switching parties and can be considered the marginal battleground for the Nationals where Labor is unlikely to be a threat if the state wide swing is on against Labor as the polls indicate at this time. Moore and Eyre both had tight National vs Liberal TCP contests, with the Nationals winning the former and the Liberals winning the latter. Warren-Blackwood’s Nationals redistributed vote is much smaller than the vote won by the Nationals in the predecessor seat of Blackwood-Stirling in 2008 (27.8 vs 44.9) while incumbent MP Vince Catania’s party hop to the Nationals means he has a margin to make up from third place as the Nationals candidate in 2013.
Provincial Centers (Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Albany)
In these seats the Nationals vote is substantial but a larger jump is needed for the Nationals to win the seats where such a win would be ground breaking. These seats are definitely expansion territory for the Nationals.
Labor Marginals (Pilbara & Kimberley)
These seats are open contests between all three parties given the expected swing against Labor and the comparative positions of the Liberals and Nationals. However the Nationals chances in Pilbara are boosted by the candidacy for the party of the leader, Brendon Grylls who is vacating his safe Central Wheatbelt seat to spread the party’s gospel. These seats are also expansion territory for the Nationals
This seat is not in any group as it has the smallest National vote share of the 12 at the last election and the Nationals have not yet nominated a candidate.
It will be interesting to see how the Nationals will do in the face of the current high voter support for the Barnett Government , if the later lasts until election day. Will rural and regional voters deliver their thanks to the local Nationals or the leading Liberals?
Postscript: Independent MP for Kalgoorlie John Bowler will not contest the next election. This has led to suggestions that Mr Bowler may endorse the Nationals at the election as he has given Nationals political support in the current parliament.
This may play to the Nationals advantage however Mr Bowler’s candidacy did not drag down the National vote in the lower house compared to the upper house in 2008 (Nat LH: 19.0, Nat UH 19.4). It was the majors, especially Labor, that lost votes to Bowler’s independent candidacy in 2008, (Lab LH: 17.6, Lab UH 33.2) (Lib LH: 24.9, Lib UH 33.7).