Commentary By Dr Ian Cook, Senior Lecturer In Global Politics & Policies At Murdoch University.
Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was in WA late last week trying to shore up support for the Coalition ahead of this year’s federal election.
He has a very tough job when it comes to persuading voters to give his (minority) government the extra seat it needs to hold onto government, while Labor targets five Liberal-held Western Australian seats that its strategists think the Party can win: Swan, Pearce, Hasluck, Stirling and Canning.
Morrison, of course, was upbeat. He claimed that the Liberals would hold all five seats and win Anne Aly’s seat of Cowan.
It make sense for the Liberals to target Cowan, she holds the seat by a margin of only 0.7 of a percent.
So it looks winnable for the Liberals. (It’s not, as the swings in WA are going to be to Labor and not the Coalition parties). But going for that seat is interesting because Aly is a Muslim women and targeting her seat might not be a great idea when it comes to younger, more progressive, votes.
The first problem is that targeting a seat held by a woman is not a good look for the Liberals and younger voters are more likely to be sensitive to the gender issues at work here.
And the Liberals have already gotten into trouble in Stirling where a man (Vince Connelly) beat four women including Joanne Quinn, legal counsel at Edith Cowan University and Michelle Sutherland, high school teacher and Bayswater Councillor, to be Liberal Candidate.
This might have been a problem for many younger WA voters, who are sensitive to gender issues.
It is definitely a problem in 2019, though, given that it comes when the memory of the disrespect shown to Julie Bishop during the last Liberal leadership struggle is still fresh in the minds of Western Australian voters.
The Liberals are announcing Bishop’s replacement for Curtin today. It will be a woman. Nobody in the Liberal Party would want to get Julie Bishop angry. And she will be if they don’t pre-select a woman.
A 4 million pledge for a Perth women’s shelter makes a lot of sense given the problems the Liberals are facing with respect to the public’s perception of the treatment of women within the Party.
As I have noted, focusing their energies on Cowan makes sense for the Liberals. And targeting a seat held by a Muslim won’t bother most Australians.
But if it does bother voters it is likely to be younger voters who are generally less racist than older voters. The Liberals will need to be careful with respect to how they target Aly’s seat.
Otherwise Morrison’s visit to this part of the world was very much for older voters: A visit to Christmas Island as an attempt to reinforce the message that the Liberals are tougher on asylum seekers than Labor.
A claim that he had fixed the GST and $100 million in funding for upgrades to Perth’s transport infrastructure. And a rebuke for Labor Premier for asking for money before he’d spent previously allocated funds, in an attempt to remind voters of the federal Liberals support for WA and to reinforce the claim that the Liberals are the better economic managers.