WA election: What would state politics look like if the Opposition lost its official status? – ABC News

Posted: March 5, 2021 at 5:22 am

The West Australian Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup has already raised the white flag to concede he does not expect to win this month's state election.

At his campaign launch, Mr Kirkup warned the Liberal party was bracing for what it expected "could be a Labor landslide".

It prompted a question could the Liberals take such a hit at this month's poll that its role as State Opposition could be under threat?

Notably, political analysts say that scenario would be a "catastrophic" outcome for the Liberals and is "extremely unlikely".

But there has been a lot of rhetoric and speculation around the predicted "landslide", so it is worth exploring the issue.

The State Opposition is formed in the Lower House of the WA Parliament and is comprised of the largest party that is not in government.

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Currently, that is the Liberal Party, which holds 13 seats.

If a swing predicted by a recent Newspoll was replicated on polling day across the state, the Liberals could be reduced to just two seats in the Lower House, with the WA Nationals holding on to four.

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In that scenario, the Nationals would officially take over the State Opposition reins.

Notre Dame University's politics and international relations associate professor Martin Drum said that was "highly unlikely" to happen on March 13.

"But if the result was catastrophic and [the Liberals] lost an enormous number of seats and the Nationals were able to hang on to more seats because they are safer, the Nationals could technically finish with more seats than the Liberals," Associate Professor Drum said.

"It's a highly unlikely scenario, but it's a possible one."

WA Nationals leader Mia Davies said if her team was required to step up to the plate, she was confident her party had "the right people to do that".

In the event of this "highly unlikely" scenario, there would be consequences.

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Under WA's Public Sector Management Act, if the Liberals were to lose Opposition status and did not manage to hold onto at least five Lower House seats, it would not qualify for important Parliamentary resources.

"They would (lose) something in the vicinity of up to a dozen people that could work for them as the main leader of the Opposition," Associate Professor Drum said.

"Which would be a real blow to the Liberal leader in trying to hold the government to account."

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Associate Professor Drum said Parliamentary rules would effectively need to be rewritten in this scenario to give the Liberals resources to "support their work".

"That would be the healthy thing for democracy," he added.

Another political analyst described that reality as the Liberals effectively having to go "cap in hand" to the Premier's office.

Associate Professor Drum said a more realistic scenario would see the Liberals losing about five seats in the Lower House.

"It could be a little worse than that having 13 and they could lose as many as six or seven. It's difficult to predict exactly," he said.

But he said the fact a scenario like this was even being contemplated showed the daunting situation the Liberals faced in less than two weeks' time.

Read the ABC's election expert Antony Green's analysis of the WA election.

Mr Kirkup would not be drawn on whether his party's Opposition status was at risk.

"We have to see what happens after the 13th of March I'm sure we can all wait 11 days to see what that looks like," he said on Tuesday.

"We're saying to the people of Western Australia, very honestly and very forthrightly, that the future of our democracy is at risk."

Mr Kirkup said Labor's decision to campaign in the blue ribbon seat of Nedlands earlier this week showed just how much control the government wanted to seize, which he said would lead to a lack of "checks and balances" when passing legislation.

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WA election: What would state politics look like if the Opposition lost its official status? - ABC News

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