West Australian Premier Colin Barnett has urged voters to re-elect him and his “bold and brave” plans, while Mark McGowan says Labor’s in it for the long haul and should replace an out-of-touch government.
The two major parties launched their election campaigns simultaneously in Perth on Sunday, with Labor’s mantra of “put WA jobs first” and the Liberals’ of “getting the job done” roundly embraced by their faithful.
With the opposition having dominated the polls for more than a year, a new ReachTEL survey released the day before declared the election a 50-50 proposition on a two-party preferred basis.
The spirits of many Liberals who thought they were destined to lose were lifted by the result, with WA Federal Minister Christian Porter declaring the contest “game on”.
“As the election goes on my sense is it is getting closer and closer now people are focused on the parties’ policies and candidates,” Mr Barnett said.
The Liberals got another boost when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said ahead of arriving in Perth that Canberra wouldn’t allow a McGowan government to axe the $1.9 billion Perth Freight Link project and then divert federal funds for its own $2.54 billion Metronet train system.
Mr Barnett, seeking a third term after eight-and-half years, walked out to the Daft Punk song One More Time and told voters “don’t settle for mediocrity” ahead of the March 11 vote.
“We’ve got three weeks ahead of us, it’s going to be fought out on the ground seat-by-seat but we’re in this and we can win this election and we will,” he said.
Mr McGowan entered Perth Arena to AC/DC’s TNT and said WA could not afford another four years of the Barnett government, which had let the state “drift onto the sharp rocks of an economic recession”.
He said he would not be bullied or intimidated by Mr Turnbull threatening to take away Commonwealth funding.
“Colin Barnett and (deputy premier) Liza Harvey just don’t understand how hard they’ve made it for working families … an arrogant and out of touch government,” he said.
“Western Australia needs a premier who is energised and in it for the long haul.” Mr Barnett says he will step down during the next term of government if he wins.
There is pressure on Mr Turnbull while he is in Perth this week to keep his promise to set a “floor” in GST revenue, which has fallen to about 30 cents in the dollar in WA.
The lack of GST revenue WA gets was described as the “one major financial” issue by Mr Barnett behind its record deficit and debt woes.
There was a personal element at the Liberals’ launch, with footage of Mr McGowan sweating at a press conference.
“On Starship WA, we need the real McCoy, not a slimy, sweaty McGowan,” Mr Porter quipped.