Labor’s McGowan Set to Take Over After West Australian Victory

  • McGowan will be state’s next premier after Barnett concedes
  • Barnett’s Liberal-National coalition held power for 8 years

Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett, who saw a once-in-a-century mining boom turn to a bust under his watch, conceded defeat to Labor’s Mark McGowan in Saturday’s state election.

McGowan will replace the 66-year-old, with the 49-year-old’s party projected to win 37 of the 59 available seats in the lower house and Barnett’s Liberal party taking 11, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Barnett led the Liberal-National coalition government for eight years.

McGowan celebrates win on March 11.

Source: Mark McGowan

“It’s time for a fresh approach,” McGowan said in his victory speech. “We will get to work immediately on carrying out our plans.”

Labor has pledged to create 50,000 new jobs, improve public transport and boost schools and hospitals in the state, whose economic fortunes have flagged with the end of the mining-investment boom. Efforts to rein in record debt and reclaim the state’s AAA credit rating will be complicated, as Labor has also vowed to block the planned sale of a 51 percent stake in energy provider Western Power.

Labor’s victory means that mining giants such as BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group will be spared an increase on lease-rental payments levied on iron ore. The Nationals, the junior coalition partner in Barnett’s government, had been pushing for an increase.

“The overwhelming factor was time -- it is a phenomena, particularly in Australian politics, that the electorate, the voters, only give a government a certain amount of time,” Barnett said in a speech in Perth.

While state elections are fought predominantly on local issues, the ousting of Barnett is a blow for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose Liberal-National government is trailing in national opinion polls as he struggles to instigate economic reform.

The end of a Chinese-led stampede for Western Australia’s iron ore, natural gas and gold has left the state with the nation’s highest unemployment rate and plunging economic growth. Treasurer Mike Nahan said last year the economy had taken “the greatest hit since the Great Depression.”

With vote-counting to continue for some days, the performance of anti-Muslim immigration party One Nation wasn’t clear. Leader Pauline Hanson, who opposes free-trade agreements and the privatization of state-owned assets, campaigned heavily in the state and was aiming to gain the balance of power in the upper house Senate.

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