Labor Leader Bill Shorten has made six visits to WA in the past nine months. (ABC News: Eliza Laschon)
Few things in politics present a clearer picture of how elections are likely to transpire — and the location of the key battleground seats — than where the big names are spending their time.
Federal leaders have limited time and, with six states, two mainland territories and 150 House of Representatives seats to cover, they inevitably have to prioritise their time and effort on the places they think will decide the contest.
With an election drawing closer — Malcolm Turnbull is expected to call it early next year — Bill Shorten’s busy diary in WA tells a lot about what Labor is expecting from the next poll.
Malcolm Turnbull used a visit to Broome last year to discuss the Kimberley’s issues with youth suicide. (ABC News: Cecile O’Connor)
Firstly, the West is clearly a state the party has its eyes on, with Mr Shorten having made six visits in the past nine months.
That should come as no surprise, given there are a host of marginal Liberal seats that Labor strategists view as possible gains.
Seats held by Government ministers Christian Porter, Ken Wyatt and Michael Keenan are among their targets.
Beyond that is a very clear pattern about the territory Labor thinks will be the battleground in WA for the next campaign.
Perth’s fringe holds key to Labor victory
The series of announcements Mr Shorten has made have had a very clear target — outer-suburban Perth.
|Shorten media events||Announcement / topic||Seat of event|
|18/5/18 – Fremantle Hospital, Fremantle||Corporate tax cuts/general hospital funding||Fremantle|
|17/5/18 – North Metro Tafe, East Perth||Reannouncement of national TAFE fee pledge||Perth|
|12/4/18 – Train Cannington to Armadale, press conference Armadale||Armadale line extension to Byford funding pledge||Burt|
|11/4/18 – Nowergup Rail Depot||Mitchell Freeway extension funding pledge||Pearce|
|10/4/18 – Stirling Civic Gardens||Funding pledge for Mitchell Freeway extension||Stirling|
|9/4/18 – Midland Railway Station||Funding pledge for Midland train line extension||Hasluck|
|5/3/18 – Robertson Park Reserve, Perth||General campaigning||Perth|
|5/3/18 – Joondalup Health Campus||JHC Mental Health Unit funding pledge||Moore|
|10/11/17 – RCR Tomlinson Welshpool||Nothing besides citizenship comments||Swan|
|13/10/17 – Perth Train Station||Funding pledge for Morley/Ellenbrook line||Perth|
|26/8/17 – Labor State Conference, Crown Perth, Burswood||“Fair Share Fund” pledge||Swan|
Money for the Ellenbrook train line, funding for the Midland and Byford rail extensions, and cash to extend the Mitchell Freeway and expand Joondalup Hospital are a sample of the promises Mr Shorten has been selling on those visits.
That has meant visits to Nowergup, Joondalup, Midland, Armadale and Welshpool, with Perth and Fremantle a more recent focus given upcoming by-elections in those seats.
For the most part, Mr Shorten’s announcements have centred around the marginal Liberal seats of Pearce, Stirling, Hasluck and Swan, held by Mr Porter, Mr Keenan, Mr Wyatt and Steve Irons respectively.
Mr Shorten (centre) has used his visits to focus on Liberal held seats on the outskirts of Perth. (ABC News: Eliza Laschon)
There has also been a focus on the Labor-held marginal seat of Cowan, but the targeting of Swan, Pearce, Stirling and Hasluck by Mr Shorten leaves little doubt about the party’s strategy.
Labor sees those seats as potentially being there for the taking, and crucial to Mr Shorten’s chances of moving into The Lodge next year.
In other words, if you head to a shopping centre in Midland, Ellenbrook or Balga in the next year, you might well bump into Mr Shorten and his team.
But don’t hold your breath for some federal leader action if you live in Claremont, Applecross, or the Wheatbelt — all extremely safe Liberal seats from which the Labor leader has been shying away.
Turnbull eyes off the regions
Malcolm Turnbull has made four trips to WA since the middle of last year. (ABC News: Jacob Kagi)
The diary of the WA visits by Malcolm Turnbull paints a slightly different picture, one inevitably altered by the official duties of being Prime Minister.
Mr Turnbull has headed west four times in the past nine months and, rather than staying in Perth as Mr Shorten has, he has made something of a presence in regional WA.
|Turnbull media events||Announcement / topic||Seats of event|
|27/4/18 – Lakelands Shopping Centre||Lakelands Train Station funding pledge||Canning|
|27/4/18 – Yagan Square, Perth||$3.2b WA infrastructure funding pledge||Perth|
|4/11/17 – Crown Perth, Burswood||Speech to Asia Pacific Regional Conference||Swan|
|3/11/17 – Crown Perth, Burswood||Press conference with German President||Swan|
|3/11/17 – HMAS Perth, Henderson||Missile defence upgrade for Navy warships||Fremantle|
|2/9/17 – Rendezvous Hotel, Scarborough||Speech to WA Liberal State Conference||Stirling|
|1/9/17 – Kalgoorlie||Cashless Welfare Card||O’Connor|
|4/8/17 – Broome||Listening tour||Durack|
|3/8/17 – Neerabup Road, Clarkson||Mark completion of Kwinana Freeway extension||Pearce|
|2/8/17 – Busselton Jetty||Announce funding for Busselton Jetty||Forrest|
|2/8/17 – Albany Senior High School||Tour of high school and National Anzac Centre||O’Connor|
|1/8/17 – Aloft Hotel, Rivervale||Visit Aloft Hotel||Swan|
|31/7/17 – Swan View High School, Swan View||Touting funding boost for Indigenous students||Hasluck|
Visits to Albany, Busselton, Kalgoorlie and Broome have been incorporated, but a focus on infrastructure for suburban Perth has also been clear.
Funding pledges for rail, road and other essential infrastructure were at the heart of Mr Turnbull’s most recent WA visit, while the Prime Minister has made stops in Hasluck, Swan, Pearce, and Canning — the latter held by Liberal Andrew Hastie by just under 7 per cent.
It forms a pattern indicating the Liberals, perhaps unsurprisingly, are looking to consolidate the seats they have rather than aggressively targeting Labor-held seats.
The Prime Minister visited a school in Broome, as part of a focus on regional Western Australia. (ABC News: Cecile O’Connor)
Reinforcing that pattern was also the controversial decision by the Liberals to not field candidates in the Perth and Fremantle by-elections, after ruling them a lost cause.
“It is never a good idea to just waste money on a contest that you are unlikely to win, in fact that is nigh on impossible to win,” Finance Minister and WA Senator Mathias Cormann said by way of explanation.
One thing that does seem likely is that, with several seats in the balance and the political futures of some big names on the line, both leaders will be making their way to WA plenty more times between now and polling day.
But just how much you will see them might depend on where in WA you actually live.