Discontent and political volatility dominate Western Australian election

 

Discontent and political volatility dominate Western Australian election

By
Mike Head

4 March 2017

A state election in Western Australia (WA) on March 11 could become a political disaster for the federal Liberal-National government, with media polls predicting likely defeat for the ruling Liberal Party of Premier Colin Barnett.

Conditions in the former mining boom state illustrate the economic and social reversal faced by many workers across the country since the boom started to unravel in 2012. In some suburbs of Perth, the state capital, official jobless rates exceed 20 percent and many more workers have been pushed into low-paid and casualised employment.

Over the past five years, WA has gone from being the fastest growing state to the most recessionary. The economy has shrunk almost 11 percent, led by a near-40 percent drop in business investment. Once heavily-dependent on iron ore royalties, the state budget has a $3 billion annual deficit and, according to the state treasury, is heading for debt of $41 billion.

The opposition Labor Party is committed to slashing spending to reduce the deficit and has failed to gain much ground. Bitter memories also remain of the last Labor government, from 2001 to 2008, which starved basic services of funds while using enormous mining royalties to cut taxes for the wealthy.

More fundamentally, the Labor Party at every level of Australian politics has functioned for decades as a ruthless instrument of big business, working with the unions to impose sweeping corporate restructuring and austerity measures.

Under these conditions, the WA election has become a testing ground for the aspirations of Senator Pauline Hanson’s anti-immigrant One Nation party, assisted by prominent media promotion, to exploit the social discontent and…

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