Pundit puts Watson in box seat

Gareth ThomasAlbany Advertiser

It is highly unlikely Albany MLA Peter Watson will lose his seat on Saturday, with all polling and research suggesting Labor will record a large swing across the State, adding to Watson’s margin, a leading WA political expert says.

Dr Ian Cook, a senior lecturer in global politics and policy at Murdoch University and co-author and editor of four books on Australian politics, said Statewide most research pointed to swings away from the Liberals to Labor.

“So from that perspective, it is hard to see Albany going against that trend and there being a 2 or more per cent swing against Peter Watson,” he said.

“So for the most part, I’m treating Albany as a seat the Labor party should win.” In the 2013 election, Mr Watson bucked the Statewide trend of a swing away from Labor when he and party leader Mark McGowan were the only two sitting Labor MPs to record a swing towards them.

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Dr Cook said Albany was an interesting seat given it went “the wrong way” last time, which indicated Mr Watson had captured support that might have drifted away from him.

He said the last boundary redistribution, which added Jerramungup to the eastern end of the electorate, had not done Mr Watson any favours, with his 2 per cent margin being whittled down to about 1.1 per cent, or even less.

Dr Cook said the addition of Jerramungup to the electorate should bring in some extra Liberal votes in a boost for candidate Greg Stocks.

“He (Stocks) has the problem that it’s a Liberal Government and he can’t put himself forward as the one to defend this area and your interests against the Govern-ment, which is what Peter Wat-son could do,” he said. “Greg Stocks shouldn’t be thinking he’s no chance.”

The Nationals’ candidate Robbie Sutton has been confident throughout the campaign that he will be competitive come the March 11 polling day.

Dr Cook said there were serious questions being raised as to why the Nationals were not performing better across all of regional WA.

He said the changing demographics of regional centres like Albany, Plantagenet and Esperance, and the emerging threat of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation taking votes away from the Nationals were creating tough conditions for the regional party.

“However, it has not been a great couple of weeks for One Nation, with attacks on Barnett despite their preference deal, vaccinations and Putin,” Dr Cook said.

“So it will be interesting to see if the threat of One Nation taking seats away from the Nationals in the legislative council actually plays out or not.”

When the Albany Advertiser ran a poll on its Facebook page last week, Labor’s Mr Watson emerged as a clear frontrunner, claiming a 51 per cent stake of almost 900 votes.

It would be very unlikely that result would transfer to election night on Saturday, but it does show Mr Watson has a strong and motivated base of supporters.

In contradiction to Dr Cook’s assessment, the Advertiser poll placed the Nationals’ Mr Sutton in second and Liberal candidate Mr Stocks in third place.

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