Western Australia held its leaders election debate last night, roughly 24-hours after the West Australian newspaper previewed a front page on which the opposition leader, Zak Kirkup, preemptively conceded defeat.
It was always clear that the Liberal party would be lucky to just hold on to the 13 (plus nine National) seats that they have in the lower house, and also clear that Kirkup — who turned 34 this week, hasn’t he been busy — was in danger of losing his own seat of Dawesville, which is held on a margin of just 300 votes.
But declaring that on the front page of the state newspaper 16 days out from an election is certainly an interesting strategy.
The first 10 minutes of last night’s debate were taken up by premier Mark McGowan berating Kirkup for this choice. He said:
“If the Liberal party don’t believe in themselves and the policies they put forward … if they’re going to give in before election day, why should anyone support them?”
McGowan then contrasted this with his own record, which he characterised as a series of fights won against the federal government in defence of WA: over GST distribution, over the state border issue, and over blocking cruise ships with Covid-positive passengers.
Kirkup says that he is now lobbying for the ability of the Liberal party to retain enough seats to still be able to hold the government to account, which conveniently would mean saving his own seat. He also raised the spectre of WA Inc, saying that was what happened last time a Labor premier had too much power. Which is a fairly sternly abridged history of that scandal: Brian Burke was not the only figure with too much power in that scenario.
His only real dig at the premier was criticism of McGowan’s reliance on notes, which has been a feature of his public delivery for a while and especially this year, where he has been reading slowly off a piece of paper at every press conference since the pandemic began. It’s an interesting quirk but one the voting public is well aware of. And if his 88% approval rating is anything to go by, they don’t seem to mind.
The election is on 13 March.
On Q&A last night, Labor’s aged care services spokeswoman, Clare O’Neil, criticised the 100,000-strong waitlist for home care packages to prevent older Australians entering residential facilities.
Notably, Liberal MP Katie Allen broke down when emotionally recounting her late father’s battle with dementia. She called for a conversation on voluntary assisted dying:
Actually having watched my father descend into dementia, he was a doctor himself and he knew what was ahead, and he couldn’t speak for the last year of his life, he couldn’t walk, his only words that were left were ‘thank you’.
It’s a terrible disease, it’s a terrible disease. To be able to have the choice and the control, and I think the voluntary assisted dying laws in Victoria have been, I have to say, well handled, and I think we need to have this sort of conversation, particularly for dementia.