WA election: Defining moments of the campaign.

The WA election race has been run and won, with Labor ending eight-and-a-half years of Liberal-National alliance Government by claiming a landslide victory.

As Premier-elect Mark McGowan prepares to form government, here’s a look at some of the decisive moments of the election campaign.

Preference deal

Outgoing Premier Colin Barnett repeatedly defended it as a “mathematical exercise” designed to boost the Liberals’ chances of winning, but his party’s preference deal with One Nation caused plenty of headaches too.

Just under a month until election day, it was revealed the Liberals would direct Upper House preferences to One Nation ahead of the Nationals, in return for a favourable Lower House arrangement with Pauline Hanson’s party.

That broke long-standing Liberal policy to preference One Nation last.

Mr Barnett was adamant the deal was not an endorsement of One Nation’s policies, but for the best part of a month he still faced questions every time Senator Hanson or one of the party’s candidates said or did something controversial.

Mr Barnett lamented late in the campaign the media was “getting spooked by Pauline Hanson” but the questions — and the association — continued to dog the Liberals right up until polling day.

A fractured relationship

The relationship between the Liberals and Nationals, the alliance partners in Government, reached perhaps its lowest point just 48 hours from election day.

After the Liberals proposed substantial changes to the Royalties for Regions program so that essential spending would come from that pool of money, the Nationals went ballistic.

Treasurer Mike Nahan described it as an essential saving worth $800 million, but for the Nationals it was an act of betrayal and the biggest fracture in the eight-and-a-half years of their alliance.


Their relationship had already been in a difficult place following the Nationals’ proposed mining tax and the Liberals’ staunch opposition to it, but the Royalties for Regions dispute took matters to another level.

The falling out raised obvious questions for voters about how the two parties would be able to come back together to form a workable government if they combined to win enough seats.

One Nation’s yo-yo campaign

The apparent surge in One Nation’s popularity was the talk of WA’s political scene early in the campaign, with suggestions the party could win Lower House seats and end up with the balance of power in the Upper House.

Senator Hanson first visited WA during the campaign in late January, receiving what supporters described as a “rock star” reception, and it appeared One Nation’s momentum was growing.

But later in the campaign things started to unravel, with polling showing One Nation’s primary vote support had dropped from a high of 13 per cent to as low as 6.5 per cent on the eve of the election.

Another visit from Senator Hanson later in the campaign was partially overshadowed by her controversial comments about vaccinations and the party’s final result fell far short of previous expectations.

While its vote was just a fraction of what polling had suggested it could be, One Nation is still in the mix to win one or more Upper House seats – however that is likely to remain up in the air for several days.

Turnbull’s visit

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s pledge to implement a minimum level for state GST share offered WA great hope in August 2016, suggesting its ongoing miniscule share of revenue from the tax would permanently improve.


But when Mr Turnbull came back to WA for the next time six months later, in the midst of the campaign, those hopes were all but dashed.

Much to the disappointment of many of the Prime Minister’s WA Liberal colleagues, Mr Turnbull said nothing could be done until the state’s GST share improved under the current system, meaning any change was years away at best.

WA Liberals privately viewed Mr Turnbull’s visit as unhelpful and it was decided he would not return to the state during the campaign.

‘Sweaty’ campaign launch

Major political party election campaign launches are highly professional productions, highlighted by the leader making a widely-broadcast pitch to voters a few weeks before polling day.

The Liberal campaign launch was no exception, as Mr Barnett sought to rally party faithful by insisting its deficit in the polls could still be reversed.

But that message was overshadowed, in part because senior Federal Minister Christian Porter viciously attacked Mr McGowan as a “junior, sweaty Navy lawyer” earlier in the launch.

Then, after Mr Barnett’s speech, dozens of Liberal MPs danced on stage to Daft Punk’s One More Time — with the awkward vision seen much more widely than any of the Premier’s remarks.

Other Liberal distractions

One Liberal candidate lied about his identity on local radio, another handed out free alcohol in an apparent bid to win votes and more than one made promises not actually endorsed by the party.


But it was not just candidates providing unhelpful distractions for the Liberals, as the party attempted to get its election message out.

A week before the election, Mr Barnett admitted a health scare last year was behind significant weight loss — something he repeatedly denied at the time and contradicted his claim it was down to increased exercise and healthier eating.

Instead of the attention being on the Liberals’ promises or their attacks on Labor, the admission meant all news outlets that day were focusing on Mr Barnett’s health.

At one point, Mr Barnett also strongly criticised the media, with his declaration to reporters to “lift your game” overshadowing the Liberal election commitments of the day.

While not one of these moments could fairly be considered defining in isolation, together they formed a pattern of unnecessary and unhelpful distractions as the party tried to get its message out.

Timid debate

The lone televised pre-election leaders’ debate was highly anticipated in political circles but did not deliver a clear race-changing moment.

Opponents sought to seize on answers from both leaders in the days following the half-hour debate, but commentators widely agreed neither Mr Barnett or Mr McGowan had slipped up significantly.

That suited Mr McGowan just fine, at a time where the polls were strongly pointing to a Labor win on election day.

Mr Barnett needed a clear win to turn around the campaign at that point and did not get it.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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