Federal Election 2016 : State By State key Issues - West Australia

Premier Colin Barnett has acknowledged it will be a "tough ask" for the Coalition to retain all its West Australian seats at the federal election, after Tony Abbott's punishing 2013 election victory made the state a Liberal stronghold.

Three years ago, the chaos of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments, accompanied by a deep antipathy in WA toward the mining and carbon taxes, combined to reduce Labor to a rump of just three seats and three senators.

How the west will be won


Antony Green looks at the lie of the land in Western Australia as we head to a 2016 federal election.

But with the state deep in the shadow of the end of the mining construction boom, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull now faces a very different political climate in WA.

Mr Barnett today sought to play down that change, insisting the WA economy was in "good shape" and had come through the worst of the economic downturn.

The Premier also rejected any suggestion his State Government's standing, after two terms in office, would bring down the Coalition vote.

He said while he thought the Turnbull Government would be re-elected, it would be hard to replicate the result of the last election.

"I think that will be a tough ask," Mr Barnett told reporters.

"At the moment, the Coalition's basically got 12 out of 15. There'll now be 16 seats. But they'll certainly maintain a strong majority of seats."

Unlike 2013, there are no clear defining national policy inflection points upon which large slabs of West Australian voters will decide their vote.

People in WA are adjusting to life after the boom, with tens of thousands of fly-in, fly-out jobs disappearing from the resources sector.

The decline in mining and resources employment has been driven by the completion of huge projects like the Gorgon and Wheatstone gas projects and the Roy Hill iron ore mine.

It has been amplified by the precipitous drop in commodity prices, with iron ore plunging from record highs of $180 tonne to as low as $39 a tonne.

In that climate, West Australians appear to be looking for political stability, economic growth and job security.

Barnett unpopularity may harm Turnbull

Like his predecessor, Mr Turnbull enjoys relatively strong voter support in the West compared to Bill Shorten, and the Liberals' vote is holding up better in the West than many other states.

But the standing of the Federal Government may well be clouded by the declining fortunes of the long-serving and increasingly unpopular Barnett government.

Elected in 2008, the Premier Colin Barnett will next year seek a third term in office, but his Government is struggling with spiralling state debt, huge budget deficits, and a sluggish state economy.

Colin Barnett talks to reporters.   Colin Barnett's Government is struggling in the wake of the mining boom. (ABC News: Andrew O'Connor)

A recent CommSec state of the state reports saw WA slip to sixth position, ahead of only Tasmania and South Australia.

The state that likes to characterise itself as the economic powerhouse of the nation was at the top of that table just two years earlier.

The Barnett Government has repeatedly pointed to WA's declining GST revenues, which were reduced in the wake of record mining royalties during the boom years, as the cause of his Government's economic woes.

Mr Abbott, the then prime minister, tried to neutralise the impact of Mr Barnett's Canberra GST-bashing by handing over a $499 million one-off compensation payment to WA last year.

Mr Turnbull matched the gesture again last month, committing $490 million to offset WA's low GST revenue.

He also tipped in $260 million to help build a tunnel as part of WA's largest road project, the $1.6 billion Perth Freight Link.

How many votes he will secure with that contribution is unclear.

The project has been highly controversial and remains deeply divisive.

WA gets extra seat

Meanwhile, a redistribution of electoral boundaries has seen the number of House of Representatives seats in WA increase from 15 to 16, with the creation of the new seat of Burt in Perth's east.

Although notionally a Liberal seat with a 6 per cent margin, Labor is hoping to pick up the seat and is also targeting the seat of Cowan, in Perth's north, which is held by Liberal Luke Simpkin.

Political analysts suggest there will be a swing to Labor, but it's unlikely to deliver more than one or two seats at best.

Source: ABC News

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