(Transcript from World News Radio)
West Australians are being bombarded with politicians and their messages in the build-up to the historic re-run of the Senate election on Saturday.
The re-run was prompted by the loss of more than 13-hundred votes during a recount after the September federal election.
The Coalition’s campaigning on what it says is damage caused to the West Australian economy by Labor’s carbon and mining taxes.
And Labor’s raising fears the May federal budget will impose harmful cuts on vital public services and undermine job security.
Amanda Cavill reports.
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Saturday’s election is only the second time in Australian history that a Senate re-election has had to be held, and it is the first to involve the full re-run of a half-Senate election.
Missing ballot papers also led to the last Senate re-election, in South Australia in 1908, but that involved filling only a single vacancy.
The re-election for six West Australian senators could change the make-up of the crossbench votes the Abbott Government might need to pass key parts of its legislative agenda.
It marks the fourth time West Australians are going to the polls in just over a year, and some observers are questioning if the political messages are getting through.
Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party is making plenty of noise, the micro-parties are threatening an upset, and Greens senator Scott Ludlam is battling hard for his political future.
Mr Palmer wants to retain the seat his party won in September last year and to possibly add one more.
He is telling voters the best result would be if his party holds the balance of power in the Senate.
“If we put Western Australia into the balance of power in the Senate, we can use that power for the benefit of nobody else but West Australians. A vote for Labor or a vote for the Liberals will achieve nothing. It won’t change a thing. But a vote for Palmer United will put Western Australia in the balance of power. For too long has the balance of scales in this country been weighted against Western Australia.”
Initial counting after last September’s election gave the fifth and sixth West Australian Senate positions to the Palmer United Party’s Zhenya Wang and Labor’s Louise Pratt.
However, a recount left the seats awarded to the Sports Party’s Wayne Dropulich and the Greens’ Senator Ludlam.
Under the existing state result — three Liberals, one Labor, one Sports Party and one Green — the Government could have expected four votes for most of its legislative proposals.
But if the new election brings a more conventional result — three Liberals, two Labor and one Green — it would leave the Government with three votes for most of its proposals.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has urged West Australians not to vote for minor parties and to back Liberal policies on the mining and carbon taxes.
He says Labor is voting for the retention of the carbon tax and the mining tax in the Senate.
“Labor and the Greens are in coalition in the Senate in Canberra, and Labor and the Greens are the reason why we are still stuck with these taxes, which are anti-West Australian taxes because, in the case of the mining tax, it hurts the iron-ore capital of the country (and,) in the case of the carbon tax, it hurts the energy capital of the country.”
The latest Newspoll shows Labor is losing support in the West to both the Greens and the Liberals.
Primary support for the Coalition has risen to 46 per cent, up from 41 three months ago.
Labor’s support in Western Australia has dropped from 36 per cent three months ago to 29.
The Greens have received a 5 per cent jump in support up to 15 per cent.
Greens leader Christine Milne says the West Australian Senate election provides a chance for voters to take control of the political agenda.
“Don’t give up, don’t despair. Instead, as German poet Bertolt Brecht has said, ‘Don’t start with the good old things, but start with the bad new things.’ Get active. Let’s bring home the vibe to the heart of the Parliament, to the Senate. Make Western Australia this election the turning of the tide. Make it the defining moment when Tony Abbott’s extreme agenda is stopped. Make it the moment when we take our country back.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says voting for the Coalition will just end in more cuts to school funding.
He warns there have been school-funding cuts under Liberal Premier Colin Barnett and says Mr Abbott is planning more.
“We are concerned that education cuts are occurring in Western Australia and that, if Tony Abbott gets a rubber stamp* in his Senate, then we’ll see further cuts to West Australian schools. Tony Abbott’s the one who introduced state issues by saying he models himself on Colin Barnett. Colin Barnett has got rid of 350 teachers, 350 school assistants, $183 million taken out of schools.”
The Sports Party, whose candidate Wayne Dropulich won a seat before the recount was ordered, is facing late criticism for a Facebook posting as it tries again.
The party has been criticised for posting a picture of a topless woman as part of the campaign.
The image, accompanied by a joke involving a weight-loss program that encouraged an overweight man to chase naked women, appeared on the party’s Facebook page last week.
Regardless how people vote on Saturday, though, it will probably be at least a week before the result is known because of the complex Senate voting system.