How the West was won

“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.