Labor leader Bill Shorten has promised to be a prime minister for WA as he pledges millions of dollars in rail and infrastructure funding to kickstart the State’s post-boom renaissance.
The pledge comes as the Government and Labor brawl over several swing seats in WA that could determine the outcome of the Federal election.
Speaking to The West Australian, a confident Mr Shorten sought to underline the large amount of time he had put in campaigning in WA since becoming Opposition Leader six years ago.
“If you vote for me, what you will get is a very pro-Western Australian Federal government,” Mr Shorten said.
“Where the West has been doing its job, in Canberra they haven’t been pulling their weight.”
Mr Shorten yesterday capped his final day of a four-day blitz of Perth electorates with a major rail-funding announcement in the battleground northern suburbs seat of Pearce, held by Attorney-General Christian Porter.
Federal Labor pledged another $150 million for Mark McGowan’s Metronet rail scheme, as well as another $50 million for a new rail-car manufacturing site.
The promise lifts Federal Labor’s contribution to Mr McGowan’s planned Morley-Ellenbook rail line to a total of $850 million — meaning Canberra will pay almost all of the estimated $1 billion cost of the project.
The promise also means Federal Labor is offering $350 million more for the line than is currently on the table from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Mr Shorten’s latest trip to Perth — his 38th flight west since becoming Opposition Leader — involved campaigning in Perth, Brand, Canning, Swan, Hasluck, Cowan and Stirling, as well as Pearce.
Mr Shorten refused to be drawn on suggestions by Labor strategists that the party hoped to pick up as many as five seats in WA.
“I have been around too long to put a number on it,” Mr Shorten said. “I want to chase as many votes as I can.”
Senior Liberal Party operatives have conceded the Coalition is in great difficulty in Victoria and admit they will have trouble holding on to Swan and Hasluck. But Liberals insist the Coalition is better placed in Queensland than public polling suggests.
Opposition figures have referred to the southern suburbs seat of Canning — held by Andrew Hastie — as its “heartbreak seat”, meaning Labor could fall just short of taking it.
But any loss of seats in WA and Victoria will spell the end of the Coalition’s period in Government.
Mr Shorten’s visit to WA was criticised by Mr Morrison as an attempt to avoid the tight State election contest in NSW.
But Mr Shorten said you had to spend a significant amount of time on the ground in WA to understand it. He emphasised that he had long links to the State dating back decades from his time as a union leader.
“We would hold our delegate meetings in the back room of the Silver Sands in Mandurah,” Mr Shorten said. “So I’ve been coming to Mandurah for the best part of 25 years.”
Although Labor is hoping to win Pearce, the Liberals now say Mr Porter has played a much smarter “ground game” in his electorate and predict he will hold on.
Mr Shorten batted away suggestions Labor lacked high-profile Federal candidates in WA to spearhead the party’s campaign locally.
He rejected the idea that with the GST issue largely resolved, Labor needed a major infrastructure project in WA to capture the public imagination — indicating he would take his lead from the Premier as to where the spending priorities should be.