WA Senate election: Mark Bishop slams Labor’s ‘disastrous’ performance, says mining tax must go
Updated 18 minutes ago
The Federal Government says Labor should listen to its own Western Australian Senator who says the ALP should abandon its “failed mining tax”.
Labor Senator Mark Bishop says his party has “wilfully and continually” ignored voters in the west and is on the verge of being replaced by the Greens.
His extraordinary attack has been backed by senior ALP figures who say the party is in “crisis” in the west and needs reforming.
Both major parties suffered substantial swings against them in Saturday’s Western Australian Senate election re-run, with the Liberals experiencing a 5.5 per cent fall in their primary vote while Labor’s primary vote dropped by nearly 5 per cent.
The Greens staged a major comeback with a swing to Senator Scott Ludlam of more than 6 per cent, while the Palmer United Party (PUP) will enjoy a greater say in the balance of power in the Senate after enjoying a favourable swing of 7.5 per cent, with 90 per cent of first preferences counted.
However, the Liberal Party’s strength in the west means its first two candidates, ministers David Johnston and Michaelia Cash, will return to the Senate for another six years.
But on the latest count, Labor’s primary vote falls short of 22 per cent and means it is currently only assured of just one Senate spot, which will be filled by Joe Bullock.
Mr Bullock was last year installed as Labor’s number one Senate candidate with the backing of right-wing union factions.
The change consigned left-wing Senator Louise Pratt to Labor’s second position, which is now in doubt.
Senator Bishop is retiring when his term expires in July and has lashed out at his own party, saying the “disastrous” outcome in WA is no “one-off”.
Why on God’s green Earth we defend a failed tax that doesn’t raise money, I will never understand.
Senator Mark Bishop
Listen to his AM interview:
“There is now a continuum in Western Australia going back 10, 12 or 14 years where there have been swings of 3 or 4 or 5 per cent at successive elections,” Senator Bishop told AM.
He says the reason why Labor holds only three out of the 15 West Australian seats in the Federal Parliament is simple.
“In this state we speak a language that is either not understood by voters or, if understood, rejected,” he said.
Senator Bishop says the mining and carbon taxes have been an ongoing problem for five years, stemming from Labor’s initial failure to sell the policy and then design a scheme which raised almost no revenue.
“It was said to be able to raise 3 or 4 or $5 billion when the mines got up and running. I think last year it raised $100 million or $200 million. In practice, it has not worked,” he said.
“Why on God’s green Earth we defend a failed tax that doesn’t raise money, I will never understand.”
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann says Labor’s vote “collapsed” because of its “anti-West Australian taxes”.
“We don’t want Labor’s mining tax, we don’t want Labor’s carbon tax,” Senator Cormann told reporters in Perth.
“Labor should listen to their own Senator for Western Australia, Mark Bishop, and stop defending a failed, anti-Western Australian tax,” he said.
Asked about the swing away from the Liberals, Senator Cormann said it was not unusual for the government of the day to experience a drop in primary votes in a re-run election.
And he dismissed the growth in the Greens vote, describing the party as still a “relatively small protest party” with a “low” overall share of the vote.
But Senator Cormann’s cabinet colleague, Scott Morrison, says the PUP combined with the Greens are a more viable opposition than the Opposition itself, based on the senate re-run election result.
And Senator Bishop says without change, the threat of Labor being permanently displaced by the Greens in the west is now a real possibility.
“The Greens are now no longer in this state to be regarded as a minor party, they are now virtually on equal terms,” he said.
“As Bob Brown said many years ago in the Senate, ‘They are out to replace the Labor Party’ and they are well underway in this state.”
Former WA Labor premier Geoff Gallop also says the re-run election result is appalling and the party is in a diabolical situation.
“The party is in serious existential crisis; major reform is needed,” Mr Gallop said.
“The principle that every member of the Labor Party should be equal, that there should be proper and professional processes for selecting candidates, these issues have to be dealt with or Labor simply will not return to a position where it can be a majority government.”
Senator Bishop says Labor needs to pay a lot more attention to its pre-selection practices.
“We need to be a lot more open, we need to be a lot more democratic and we need to have a greater range of people who volunteer to get involved in political life,” he said.
“We don’t have that at the moment, and when political parties don’t implement what the punters in their state want, or don’t have a reasonable explanation as to why not, they go elsewhere. That’s what they’ve done.”
The message appears to have been anticipated by Labor leader Bill Shorten who was due to deliver a speech in Melbourne today acknowledging the party risked a long stay on the opposition benches unless it faced up to some “hard truths”.
“For too long we have allowed the characterisation that Labor only has an ‘image problem’, a ‘message problem’, a ‘selling problem’ to explain our electoral fortunes, that we only need to change perceptions – change the way people see us,” Mr Shorten would have said in the speech.
“It’s more serious than this. We need to change ourselves. We need to change our party.”
Mr Shorten has had to cancel today’s engagement due to the death of his mother, but the ABC understands he is still keen to deliver the speech soon, in which he will call for two separate reforms to the party’s structures.
They would include ending the requirement that Labor Party members must also belong to a union and more significantly, opening up the election of state leaders to the same process in which he won the federal leadership over Anthony Albanese.
“I believe it should no longer be compulsory for prospective members of the Labor Party to join a union,” he would have said, according to speech excerpts released by his office.
“People will say this is a symbolic change – and it is. But it is more than that,” his speech reads.
Mining tax didn’t affect outcome: Ludlam
Greens Senator Ludlam says he will be sorry if Labor’s left-wing candidate Senator Pratt misses out on a senate spot.
Senator Ludlam says the major parties suffered because the Greens were able to articulate what they stood for on a range of issues, including climate change, shark culls and Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s commission of audit.
He says the WA result was a clear rejection of Mr Abbott as Prime Minister and is downplaying the role the mining tax played in the result.
“It didn’t play any part in the campaign,” Senator Ludlam told ABC News Breakfast.
But he says it will be bad for the state if Senator Pratt loses her job.
“She is a very good advocate for WA,” he said.
“We have worked constructively together over the last couple of years.
“Mr Bullock’s behaviour has been disgraceful quite frankly.
“I hope the Labor Party work out internally what it is that keeps going wrong.”
Mr Bullock emailed voters on the eve of polls offering to apologise for calling Senator Pratt the