With either May 14 or 21 tipped as the likely date for the looming federal election, key marginal seats in Western Australia will be a strong focus for both major parties.
The Morrison government’s hold over the House of Representatives is a single seat in the 151 seat chamber.
University of Sydney senior lecturer in politics Stewart Jackson says WA is where the Liberals could potentially lose their foothold.
“[The Liberal Party] will be very concerned nationally about what’s going on in WA.”Stewart Jackson, politics lecturer at the University of Sydney.
Dr Jackson says last year’s Labor landslide win at the state election will have some bearing on how West Australians vote this year but the margin will not be as pronounced.
“I do think there will be a shift in the votes but it is much more aligned to federal politics. Of course, the Liberal Party is in government and is not trailling quite so badly as the Liberal Party at the state level was, you know, at the state election. There will be changes but it won’t be as dramatic.”
There are a number of seats in Western Australia potentially due for a strong challenge and many of them are in traditional Liberal strongholds.
Curtin is a seat covering much of the western suburbs of Perth and for almost its entire history has been held by the Liberals.
Incumbent Liberal MP Celia Hammond won the last election with 64.3 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, but recent polling suggests the seat could be in danger.
A recent poll by The West Australian gives Ms Hammond 51 per cent of the two-candidate preferred vote with the other 49 per cent going to independent candidate Kate Chaney.
Ms Chaney says she’s confident voters in Curtin are looking for a change.
“People are so relieved and hopeful that there is actually a different direction that our federal politics could take. I’m speaking to a lot of people who are deeply disillusioned and think that independents have a role to play in holding the major parties to account.”
She says she has found there is significant frustration with the two-party system in Curtin, and her status as an independent will put her ahead of Ms Hammond.
“I am sick to death of the two party system. I see this reflected far and wide. In person. We’re just not, you know, we’re just not seeing the long-term thinking and leadership that we need in this country. And people have had enough of that.”
She says both major parties could be in real danger at this election.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there are other people across the country … who are also feeling deeply disillusioned with with the major parties.”
Ms Chaney is running on the platforms of “real climate action, bringing integrity back to politics, a forward looking economy and inclusive communities.”
Stewart Jackson says despite Curtin’s blue-ribbon history, Ms Chaney has a strong chance of winning.
“An independent could certainly worry the Liberal Party quite deeply in that seat – they may need to spend some time on it.”
Controversial Liberal MP Christian Porter is retiring from his seat of Pearce in Perth’s north at this election, after a series of allegations made against him last year.
In his place, the Liberal Party has pre-selected clinical nurse specialist and Wanneroo councillor Linda Aitken.
Ms Aitken will be opposed by her colleague at the City of Wanneroo mayor Tracey Robertson campaigning for the ALP in Pearce.
Ms Robertson has been the mayor of the City of Wanneroo since 2011, and says her in-depth knowledge of the community will give her the advantage in the upcoming election.
“I know this community, like the back of my hand. I know the service groups, I know the sports and all the schools. And I know what facilities need upgrading, I need to know what new facilities we need in the area, and what infrastructure we need, local jobs and what the pressures are, because I’ve been living it and breathing it with them for the best part of 20 years.”
Pearce has been held by a Liberal for the past three decades but Ms Robertson is looking to change that.
Ms Robertson says she is building her campaign by looking at what the community needs, including bolstering the healthcare sector and providing free TAFE programs.
Stewart Jackson says people aren’t going to forget the allegations against Mr Porter, making success in Pearce difficult for the Liberal Party.
“It’s probably one of the most likely to go simply because of the history of having Christian Porter there, and the baggage that he carried.”
Another retiring Liberal MP has paved the way for further contest in Perth.
Steve Irons has held the seat of Swan since the 2007 election, and won the last election with a fairly slim majority, contesting 52.7 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.
At this election, the seat will largely be contested between the major parties with former journalist Kristy McSweeney representing the Liberal party and mining engineer Zaneta Mascarenhas campaigning for Labor.
Stewart Jackson say Ms Mascarenhas and the ALP will be looking very closely at the possibility of gaining the seat of Swan.
“They will expect to pick up the seat in any form of swing. It’s a good seat for them to target – it will definitely be on the hit list. And that’s the seat that I would actually expect to fall.”
There has been some significant redistribution in some divisions this election and Cowan is one of the divisions most affected.
The seat of Cowan is currently held by the ALP’s Dr Anne Aly but the new redistribution means a large section of the now-dissolved division of Stirling will become part of Cowan.
As a result, Dr Aly will be campaigning against the current MP for Stirling Vince Connolly.
Dr Aly only holds the seat with a current margin of 0.9 per cent, so it is possible the Liberal party could gain a seat, especially with those who voted for Mr Connolly at the last election now within Cowan’s boundaries.
With a margin of 5.9 per cent, Indigenous Affairs minister Ken Wyatt may be fairly comfortable in his seat.
Stewart Jackson says Mr Wyatt is a fairly popular politician.
“Ken Wyatt at the same time has been a relatively good performer, certainly in his portfolios, which haven’t always been easy portfolios.”
However, redistributions in the division of Hasluck could swing the vote towards Labor.
Dr Jackson says the inclusion of the traditional Labor stronghold of Midland could mean Mr Wyatt would lose his seat to the Labor candidate, local business owner Tania Lawrence.
“While there might be some residual sympathy for him, I think in a generalised swing, he would be unlikely to hold Hasluck and that will certainly be a target seat for the Labor Party.”