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Federal election 2022: Labor sets sights on marginal WA seats of Pearce and Swan as independent interest grows

The Liberal Party is facing an uphill battle to retain the 10 seats it holds in Western Australia with less than three months to go until the federal election.

A political analyst predicts the Liberals will face the most difficult federal election in WA that anyone can remember, while even the state’s former Liberal premier believes the party will lose seats in the West when Sandgropers head to the polls before the end of May.

The Liberals are battling with the loss of sitting members, including former Attorney General Christian Porter, the unfavorable redistribution of some electoral boundaries, the nine years the Coalition has already been in power and the dominance of Labor at a state level.

The Coalition holds 10 of the 15 WA seats. Labor holds five and will be hoping to claim more with three key electorates in its sights: Pearce, Swan and Hasluck.

Former premier Colin Barnett believes it will be a tough election for the Liberals after “a really difficult, messy 18 months” for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and the loss of seats is inevitable.

Colin Barnett says WA Liberal seats are in the firing line this federal election. (ABC News: Nicolas Perpitch)

“I don’t think Labor is going to lose a seat, but the Liberal ones are at risk,” Mr Barnett said.

Cost of living pressures bite

The Liberals’ most marginal seat in the west is Swan on 3.2 per cent, which includes inner city suburbs such as Victoria Park and South Perth, as well as the industrial areas of Welshpool and Kewdale, and Perth Airport.

Sitting Liberal member Steve Irons has held the seat since 2007 but is retiring.

A composite image of Zaneta Mascarenhas and Kristy McSweeney
The battle for Swan is expected to be a close race between Labor candidate Zaneta Mascarenhas, left, and Liberal candidate Kristy McSweeney, right. (abcnews)

It’s expected to be a tight contest between Liberal candidate Kristy McSweeney, a political commentator and former ministerial media advisor, and Labor candidate and engineer Zaneta Mascarenhas.

Anne Bramoulle is a stallholder at the Manning farmers’ market where she has been selling her jams and preserves for the last 10 years.

A woman stands behind a table full of jam jars at a farmers' market.
Anne Bramoulle says taxes and cost of living are important to her.

She lives close by and thought Mr Irons did a good job, but has not yet decided who will get her vote.

“I don’t know who the new candidates are and what values ​​they represent and what they want to push through,” Ms Bramoulle said.

Candidates in the marginal seat will be trying to tap into local sentiment, especially among undecided voters. Shoppers at the markets were clear on what was important to them.

“I think for most people at the moment, it’s around things like cost of living, particularly around what’s going on internationally around things like fuel prices, which will affect things like food prices,” local Warren Clark said.

Shopper Judy Stanley said she would be happy to see a change of government, citing the environment, aged care and education as her priorities.

Judy Stanley, Manning Farmer's Market
Judy Stanley would welcome a changing of the guard. (ABC News: Nicolas Perpitch)

Swan could be first casualty

Peter Kennedy, a long-time observer of state and federal politics, said if the Liberals did lose seats in WA, Swan may be the first to go.

“In fact, I don’t think they can go back with 10. I think they’ll lose several of them and the challenge for the Liberal Party is to limit the damage.”

Mark McGowan smiling, outdoors, wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and no tie
Mark McGowan’s popularity could draw voters away from the Liberals at a federal level. (ABC News: James Carmody)

There’s also the question of whether Liberal voters who flipped at last year’s state election – backing Premier Mark McGowan – will continue to stick with Labor federally.

“Mark McGowan’s Liberals, they’ve got to get them back into the fold. That is the enormous challenge for Liberals,” Mr Kennedy said.

Many ABC voters spoke positively about Mr McGowan, but none said that they would necessarily vote for Labor federally.

“I’m quite happy with what Mark McGowan’s done, he’s kept us pretty safe here,” said Tania Park, who backs Liberal MP and Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt in Hasluck.

Hasluck woman Tania Park
Tania Park’s vote at a federal level has not been swayed by Mr McGowan.(ABC News: Nicolas Perpitch)

“(But) no, I’m not [going to vote Labor], to me it’s an entirely separate entity. They are different issues.

“I think leadership is a big issue. I’m not all favorable towards [Federal Labor leader Anthony)]Albanese. I think he’s got a little bit to learn.”

Christian Porter retirement changes contest

As well as Swan, Labor is targeting Hasluck, on a 5.9 per cent margin, and Pearce, which Mr Porter is not recontesting following a number of controversies including a defamation case against the ABC.

Christian Porter and seat of Pearce
Christian Porter has been the Liberal member for the federal seat of Pearce since September 2013.(ABC News: Supplied)

The boundaries of Pearce were radically redrawn and reduced in a recent redistribution.

It lost a large swathe of inland areas and now essentially mirrors the boundaries of the City of Wanneroo, on Perth’s northern and coastal fringe, including fast growing suburbs like Alkimos and Eglinton.