Gareth Parker: Swan shows us why Labor lost it

Gareth ParkerThe West Australian
It was Labor’s top target, with its candidate, Hannah Beazley, whose dad Kim held the seat between 1980 and 1996.
Camera IconIt was Labor’s top target, with its candidate, Hannah Beazley, whose dad Kim held the seat between 1980 and 1996.

If you want to know what happened in the election last Saturday, you could do worse than study the map above.

It’s the WA Federal seat of Swan, whose southern, western and northern boundaries trace the banks of the Swan and Canning rivers, stretching to the working-class suburbs east and south of Perth Airport.

It features riverside mansions and penthouses in deep-blue South Perth and comfortable leafy streets of Como and Kensington, suburbs in transition such as Belmont with its sprouting of high-rise apartments along Great Eastern Highway, and battler suburbs, including pockets of socio-economic disadvantage, such as Queens Park and High Wycombe.

As such, it’s as representative as any single WA seat can be about the bigger national story, something of a science lab in which to test your pet political theories.

Going into the election, Swan was held by the Liberals’ Steve Irons by 3.6 per cent.

It was Labor’s top target, with its candidate, Hannah Beazley, whose dad Kim held the seat between 1980 and 1996.

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Beazley could only win a 1.1 per cent swing towards her.

On the surface it looks like Swan voters were unmoved and stuck with the status quo.

But dive into the booth-by-booth results and a more interesting picture emerges. In fact there were large swings within different parts of the electorate that largely cancelled each other out.

But you can get pretty strong clues about how the campaign played out.

In terms of shifting the vote from 2016, Beazley performed best in wealthy South Perth (+8.8 per cent), Kensington (+5.7 per cent) and along the Albany Highway latte belt of East Victoria Park (+8.4 per cent).

Irons' best swings were in places like blue-collar High Wycombe South (+6.9 per cent), Belmont East (+5.9 per cent) and heavily immigrant Queens Park (+4.4 per cent).

In essence, the richer, whiter areas of the electorate swung to Labor, while the poorer, more immigrant, more working-class areas swung to the Liberals.

The booth results underline election post mortems that have criticised Labor’s messaging and policies, and that of its unions and GetUp! too.

The figures underscore how badly disconnected Labor has come from its traditional support base.

But consider this, too.

Further south, the seat of Canning sprawls from the Perth Hills of Kalamunda and Roleystone south through the first-homebuyer subdivisions of Byford and on beyond Mandurah to Waroona and east to Boddington.

Liberal member and SAS veteran Andrew Hastie was targeted by the Left on cultural issues because of his social conservatism and Christian faith.

He agitated for Turnbull’s removal and was one of Peter Dutton’s allies in the leadership spill. But he also fought for local infrastructure spending and stood alongside striking workers at Alcoa’s alumina refinery, backing Shorten’s old union, the AWU, in the process.

Canning was marginal, it is now safe on an 11.5 per cent margin. Hastie won the biggest swing towards him in any WA Liberal seat on Saturday.

And of course, the modern Labor Party no longer has room for a social conservative like Joe Bullock.

Winners punted

One One thing we’ll miss when the TAB is privatised is the ability for MPs to question its bosses before estimates.

To wit, this exchange between South Perth Liberal MLA and racing enthusiast John McGrath, and Richard Burt, the CEO of Racing and Wagering WA at estimates, in which the latter essentially confirms the industry’s dirty little secret: If you’re a winning punter, you’ll get cut off, and fast.

McGrath asked why a local greyhound trainer often cannot place bets with TabTouch, the TAB’s online offering, but can get on at a TAB agency. Why the anomaly?

“It is very easy to answer. When a customer has an account with us, we can see their betting history and we can work out whether they are a customer we want or, potentially, are a customer we are less likely to want,” Burt said.

“Without naming the customer — I know whom the member is talking about — he is regarded as a tough customer for betting on greyhounds. Being a greyhound trainer, he has inside information.

“In a digital environment, when we know who the customer is, we manage that client so that we can generate a profit and fund racing in WA; otherwise, we would make a loss and could not fund it.”

McGrath asked: “Would it be uncommon in the wagering world for operators to decline bets?”

Said Burt: “It is highly common.”

And it is, especially with the corporates.

Mug punters only need apply.


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