“I understand what the people’s priorities are,” the new ALP premier of West Australia, Mark McGowan, told reporters after winning government on Saturday with a 15 per cent swing, the largest swing to Labor in state election history

“Their priorities are creating jobs, making sure our health system is effective and affordable, creating high quality education for all students, making sure our community is safe and dealing with important issues in transport and regions.”

This is a classic progressive Labour set of priorities. He’s in a position to implement them because of the rest of his agenda.

He will oppose a state renewable energy target. He will kill off a proposed mining tax.

He will stop the outgoing right wing government’s plans to privatise the state electricity network and port.

The privatisations were unpopular. The outgoing Liberal party argued they are needed because the state economy is struggling following the end of the mining boom and the collapse of a housing bubble. 

McGowan’s alternative to privatising public assets is to reduce debt more slowly, target government spending by cutting pay for top public servants, cutting the number of government agencies by 20 per cent, and reducing government advertising by $20 million a year. 

The value of setting out priorities is that he has shown he can take hard choices and isn’t being pushed around by special interests. It'll alienate some on the left who want to see a mining tax now, for example. But if people are telling Labor its priorities are jobs, health, education, then McGowan is taking a principled position and responding to that. He's being clear that he has heard, and he's not going to grow government spending on low priority purposes like advertising campaigns to tell people what to do. 

Responding to the progressive priorities that people tell you are the most important, isn't a compromise. It's the point of a political party whose mission is to implement progressive policies, which it can only do by getting into government. 

And notice the detail of the health and education pledges – not just ‘health care’ but ‘affordable and effective’ care. Not just ‘education’ but 'quality education' – for everyone.

The outgoing Liberals tried to campaign tactically, effectively pledging a ‘right bloc’ by swiping preferences with Paul Hanson’s One Nation. This alienated moderate Liberal voters and blurred the Liberals’ own identity.

Labor’s agenda is the opposite of a left-bloc strategy. Its policy platform is specific, relevant and credible. And it comprehensively demolishes the arguments of those who say that modern Labour Parties can’t get a majority of votes on their own. 

Comments (6)

by Tim Watkin on March 13, 2017
Tim Watkin

Josie, I take it you're implying this would be a better strategy for NZ Labour than having an understanding with the Greens. I guess the main counter-argument is the practical 'horses for courses' one.

WA Labor were close enough to the Liberals to fight directly. Whereas NZ Labour is so far behind it has to come up with a different strategy, based on the reality of its numbers and MMP. As you say, it's all about winning so you can do what you want to do. So you have to adapt to the conditions.

I imagine you'll say that siding with the Greens only entrenches NZ Labour at those low numbers. But does it? Anyway, what say you?

by Dennis Horne on March 14, 2017
Dennis Horne

<blockquote>He will oppose a state renewable energy target. He will kill off a proposed mining tax.</blockquote>

Death by democracy.

by Chris Morris on March 14, 2017
Chris Morris

No Dennis, they dropped the energy policy because they made the decision that were unelectable with it. The renewable energy target has caused major power cuts in neighbouring South Australia.


The mining tax was the National  party's proposal, not Labor. Mining is still the major employer in the state, and there has been a lot of job retrenchment with the downturn. Many of those mines are working way under capacity, and with the world surplus, the tax would make their mines uneconomic and there would be more unemployment. 

The general consensus wasn't so much that Labor didn't win because they ran a better campaign, but the Coalition government lost it by making themselves so unpopular



by Chris Morris on March 14, 2017
Chris Morris

Sorry the first link was to the wrong article. It should have been


by Tom Gould on March 15, 2017
Tom Gould

Curious how the landslide Labor win over the tired eight and a half year Liberal National government in WA went completely unreported in New Zealand, as far as I can tell.

by Daniel Laird on March 18, 2017
Daniel Laird

"And it comprehensively demolishes the arguments of those who say that modern Labour Parties can’t get a majority of votes on their own"


The Labour Party got 42.2% of the primary vote, and the last time I checked that doesn't qualify as a 'majority of votes' - but the WA electoral system of preferences translates that into 69.5% of the seats in the legislative assembly. The WA Greens meanwhile got 8.9% of the primary vote for exactly 0% representation in the assembly.


It's very easy to reject 'left-bloc strategy' when the electoral system systematically denies representation to minor parties.

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