WA election: The 'PH' factor and how the West was lost

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People have had a gutful of widespread rorting of the public purse and sneaky backroom deals – like the WA Liberal/Hanson preference deal – and this dissatisfaction manifests in the unceremonious dumping of governments, says contributing editor at large, Tess Lawrence.

CONTAGIOUS VENAL DISEASE has spread from Victoria's parliamentary speaker's chair to the Wild West and Saturday's State election.

In what may yet prove to be history's biggest swing away from a sitting government in WA politics, Labor's Mark McGowan, who has loitered for years in opposition, led his team to a victory so decisive that the ABC called the results about 90 minutes after polling booths closed.

The expedient alliance between Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party and Premier Colin Barnett's Liberals was disastrous to both.

That is good news for democracy and Coalition partners the Nationals, who were betrayed by the Liberals.

Deputy Prime Minister and National Party Leader Barnaby Joyce conceded the preference deal was a mistake and that the "Libs" had had a "bad day in the office". The deal sorely injured the Libs.


It also injured Hanson's One Nation. Why? Because it signalled that One Nation is not the honest independent broker it laughingly professes to be, but instead is just as opportunist as the rest.

Little wonder that voters defected and deflected their vote in droves.

Ms Hanson's bleatings and blaming on the Liberals are meaningless and disingenuous.


As Hanson often likes to proclaim, it's her party and her rules. She led her fellow lemmings to the abyss. She has only herself to blame.

Hanson's imploding herd and constant petulance were a noxious contaminant in the race and the "PH" factor was not the vote catcher that myopic Liberal strategists anticipated.

Early in February, polls forecast One Nation would snatch 13 per cent of the vote, but at last count, it was nudging a mere 4.7 per cent of votes in the lower house.

Hanson greatly contributed to her own demise, realising too late that her dangerous and disturbingly silly anti-vaccination comments alienated the electorate, proving that little had changed intellectually, despite her protestations she was now wiser and more mature.


She later apologised for the anti-vax comments, but that did not immunise Hanson from a sickly demise in the election.

How ironic, then, that WA One Nation Senator Peter Georgiou should be struck down with measles (yes, he was vaccinated as a child).

Wearing a mask, presumably so Georgiou would not catch any bugs from her, Hanson posed in the hospital with the brother-in-law of the disgraced, now defrocked One Nation Senator Rod Culleton, whose mantle he now inherits.

The inane statements, candidature eligibility and in-fighting of her team, coupled with her autocratic rule of what is essentially a vanity party that pivots on her self-importance rather than any political and philosophical demeanour, has rendered it an unstable stable-mate.

The spooked Liberals caused self-harm and irritation amongst the electorate, who saw the preference-trading as an insult to intelligence.

The deal left voters disenchanted with Barnett's tired eight-and-a-half years of government, who might otherwise have voted for One Nation, but left with nowhere else to go, opted for Labor and change.

Barnett led a lacklustre campaign that lacked energy and vigour, and the fact that he allowed himself to be dragooned into the preference deal with Hanson is proof of his lack of authority and political autonomy.

Nonsensical denials that Federal politics have any influence on the outcome of State elections are an intolerable insult to the intelligence of voters.

At the time of writing, McGowan's Labor Party had secured 36 seats and is expected to glean another four, while the Liberals have bagged 11 seats and are predicted to secure another two.

So far, the Nationals have five seats confirmed. One Nation has no confirmations thus far.


If the Liberal campaign was dull; the Labor campaign was pedestrian.

WA might seem a long way off as the crow flies, but the national electorate shares with all states and territories the growing disaffection and palpable contempt for the body politic.

It's not just the horsetrading in votes and preferences that stick in our craw, but the almost daily revelations of widespread rorting among politicians who seek to greatly benefit from the public's rapidly emptying purse.

While cruelly extorting welfare payments, benefits and pensions from those who justly deserve them, there is a horrid sense of entitlement among some politicians that every parliamentary allowance available is due and payable to them in full — regardless.

If the allowance doesn't fit; they make it fit. It may even be a legal fit, even though at the least, it is immoral and unethical conduct, and against the spirit of the law and legislation.

While the lead up to the WA election was riddled with sneaky backroom deals and betrayals, in Victoria, the speaker's chair was found to have industrial strength traces of venal disease.


First the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and member for Tarneit Telmo Languiller resigned on 25 February after The Age, days earlier, exposed he'd claimed close to $40,000 as a second home allowance in the beautiful seaside village of Queenscliff, to which he may not have been entitled.


And then, my oh my, hours later on the same day, the Deputy Speaker Don Nardella, member for Melton, resigned for the same reason and is said to have claimed more than $100,000 for his second home, believed to be a caravan, in the beautiful seaside village of Ocean Grove on the Bellarine Peninsula.

Clearly, a beautiful seaside village is the place du jour with at least that batch of house speakers.

Their so-called "resignations" came on the eve of a forensic audit of their claimed monies. What a co-incidence.

Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed to the media that he spoke to both men telling them their position was untenable and that he'd asked for their resignations.


Ironically, both men represent Western suburbs electorates, home to thousands of battling voters doing it tough on a number of fronts. To say such behaviour doesn't pass the "pub test" is an anachronism. It doesn't pass the dole test. It doesn't pass the Centrelink test, surely.

While Languiller has apologised and says he will pay back the money owed to the Victorian taxpayer, Nardella is unrepentant and says he has no intention of paying back any money. He has now resigned from the Parliamentary Labor Party — jumping before he was expunged.

Nardella has been unceremoniously kicked out of the Labor Caucus.

We people have had a gutful of all of this muck and manipulation of the system, but time and again our politicians continue to take us for fools and treat us with contempt.

While we get walloped with threats of public exposure of our private lives if we criticise the government, those within the government who defraud the public of its monies so often escape punishment and/or serious reprimand and, as in Nardella's case, refuse to make restitution.

The antidote may well be found in the anti-vote.

Rarely is our vote a choice between two or more equals but rather a vote for the least of lesser evils.

Keep tabs on the ABC's excellent election coverage for updates by clicking here.

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