Lib­eral-La­bor face-off proves re­minder

Pilbara News - - Election 2017 - Daniel Emer­son

Colin Bar­nett and Mark McGowan have taken their elec­tion pitches prime time as they faced off in a lead­ers’ de­bate that failed to scale great heights or trip ei­ther con­tender up in a “gotcha” mo­ment.

The only tele­vised lead­ers’ de­bate of the 2017 cam­paign did not in­volve di­rect ver­bal in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the op­po­nents, who were ques­tioned by lead­ing Perth jour­nal­ists in a for­mat mod­er­ated by To­day Tonight’s Monika Kos.

The men out­lined vastly dif­fer­ing vi­sions for WA last week.

But nei­ther landed a knock­out blow. They re­turned to well­re­hearsed lines and pol­icy scripts, with no pol­icy an­nounce­ments.

The Pre­mier used his open­ing pitch to out­line the mas­sive in­vest­ment by his Gov­ern­ment in schools and “a to­tal re­build­ing” of the State’s hos­pi­tal sys­tem.

Mr Bar­nett said he had led a sta­ble, re­spected Gov­ern­ment since 2008 and while he ac­knowl­edged many peo­ple were do­ing it tough and un­em­ploy­ment was too high, the WA econ­omy had ex­panded in real terms by 40 per cent.

“No other State has matched that,” Mr Bar­nett said.

Mr McGowan ham­mered home key themes of record debt and deficit and at­tacked the Gov­ern­ment for fail­ing to an­nounce enough sav­ings dur­ing the cam­paign.

The La­bor leader re­turned re­peat­edly to the Lib­er­als’ plan to pri­va­tise 51 per cent of West­ern Power to wipe off $8 bil­lion of debt and un­lock $3 bil­lion for in­fra­struc­ture, point­ing out that Mr Bar­nett had spent much of his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer ar­gu­ing for pub­lic re­ten­tion of en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture.

Mr McGowan made Mr Bar­nett’s re­tire­ment plans part of his at­tack, ac­cus­ing the Pre­mier of cut­ting when the go­ing was tough.

Mr Bar­nett said West Aus­tralians should have con­fi­dence vot­ing for a Lib­eral team which had de­liv­ered for the State, de­spite La­bor op­po­si­tion.

But the Pre­mier hit back on Mr McGowan’s ca­pa­bil­ity to lead the State, ar­gu­ing the La­bor leader had “vir­tu­ally no in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence”.

Pre­mier Colin Bar­nett and La­bor leader Mark McGowan shake hands be­fore the de­bate. Pic­ture: Mo­gens Jo­hansen

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