The WA Liberal Party’s long-held financial advantage over its political opponents has all but been erased, with its fundraising difficulties ahead of March’s state election laid bare by official figures.
Returns released by the WA Electoral Commission showed the Liberals were forced to reduce campaign spending ahead of the election while a financially resurgent Labor Party was able to dramatically ramp up its advertising effort.
The Liberals had to reduce spending by 4 per cent, compared to the 2013 election, while Labor was able to spend 66 per cent more – almost eliminating the long-running financial disparity between the two major parties.
WA election spending by party
- Liberals — $4.9 million
- Labor — $4.6 million
- Nationals — $682,471
- Greens — $575,901
- One Nation — $170,260
In all, the Liberals spent $4.9 million on the 2017 election while Labor spent $4.6 million.
It is a far cry from the 2013 election, when the Liberals spent nearly double what Labor did.
The campaign culminated in a landslide election win for Labor, with the Barnett government suffering a disastrous loss which saw the Liberals reduced to holding just 13 seats in the 59-member Legislative Assembly.
Unions also spent nearly $2 million in their campaigns, more than double their effort in 2013.
Both ahead of and during the campaign, many Liberals privately voiced concerns about the party’s fundraising difficulties – with the Barnett government’s soured relationship with parts of the business community seen as a significant factor.
‘Low ebb’ for Liberals
Political analyst Peter Kennedy said the figures painted a concerning picture for the Liberals.
“The party’s stocks in WA are at a low ebb and that makes it harder for the party to go out and raise funds from business,” he said.
“If your party is on the ascendency, money seems to roll in, but if you’re on the decline then you tend to get neglected.
“Financially, the Liberals in the west are going through a tough time.”
Labor poured much of its additional resources into broadcast advertising, nearly quadrupling what it spent in that area compared to four years earlier.
The Nationals ($682,471), Greens ($575,901) and One Nation ($170,260) were the next biggest campaign spenders among political parties.
The Australian Nursing Federation spent an extraordinary $844,449 on its election activities, while other unions also splashed the cash.
The Australian Services Union, which oversaw the campaign against the Barnett government’s proposed Western Power sale, spent nearly half a million dollars.
Other big spenders included the RAC ($361,421) and Chamber of Commerce and Industry ($80,871).