Memo to Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison — voters aren’t swallowing what you’re selling.
As I ventured south to Mandurah on Thursday as part of a two-day trek across six WA electorates, I had a mission: speak to 100 random West Australians about who they’d vote for on May 18.
I expected I’d meet some voters who as yet hadn’t switched on to the election.
And I expected animosity towards Shorten and Morrison.
But I wasn’t expecting what I got — totally disengaged and livid voters who not just disliked politicians and their parties, but loathed them.
A staggering 60 per cent of people I spoke to, as I criss-crossed the towns and suburbs of Mandurah, Rockingham, Cottesloe, Ellenbrook, Midland, Victoria Park and the Perth CBD, told me they did not yet know whom they would support on election day.
My straw poll — in the crucial Liberal seats of Canning, Hasluck and Swan and also taking in parts of the safe Labor seat of Brand, Julie Bishop’s old seat of Curtin and the Perth business district — showed support for the Labor and Liberal seats was virtually even — at 17 per cent and 19 per cent respectively.
Support for the Greens (2 per cent) and Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (1 per cent) and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation candidate was low, although my poll was a sure sign that preferences will play a crucial role this election.
The Liberals’ strongest support did appear to be in Mandurah, with 42.8 per cent of people I spoke to saying they would vote for incumbent Andrew Hastie.
Elsewhere, the undecided vastly outnumbered voters who had already chosen their parties, making it impossible to tell who would win those seats.
Along the Mandurah foreshore, on Anzac Day, families were out enjoying the sun. Dome was packed (yes, I did have my first coffee there) but as soon as I saddled up to voters and mentioned the E-word, their expressions changed.
Many voters told me they would wait until election week, or election day, to turn their minds to who they would select at the ballot box.
Jimmy Wicks, an exploration driller who is also a handy musician, was about to belt out a few tunes when I approached him.
“I’ll decide who I vote for as I get closer,” he said.
Jimmy was worried about the rising cost of living in WA.
“Here in WA, we don’t have some of those issues to think about — like energy supply in the east — but the cost of living is something that’s affecting many of us here in Western Australia,” he said.
“The costs keep rising, but wages don’t. Most of us just want to move forwards, not backwards.”
Jimmy was polite about politicians. Others, not so much.
“They are all the bloody useless,” one voter said.
Another added: “You vote for one (prime minister) and you end up with another.”
And another barb followed when I approached another young bloke: “They are all corrupt.”
Retiree Terrence Stewart reckoned he had had enough of the major parties. “I might go Hanson. I am wasting my vote with the major parties.”
As I made my way to “Mark McGowan territory”, Rockingham, I expected a lot of support for Labor. Not so. More undecided voters.
On the foreshore, I met pensioner Marie Hickey, of Beeliar.
She probably summed up the thoughts of the many when she told me she didn’t know who to vote for this election.
“I wish they (politicians) would stop bickering. They should be concerned about what’s good for the country, and not themselves,” she said. “They (politicians) are not interested in the people they were elected to represent.
“They have their own agendas.”
One Rockingham voter was a bit more specific. “I don’t trust Shorten,” he said.
Mind you, he wasn’t too complimentary of Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer either. “Hanson is a nutter and you take what Palmer says with a pinch of salt,” he said.
Rockingham mother Michelle Cooper said she, too, hadn’t decided yet who to vote for.
“I am scared of making the wrong choice,” she said. “But what’s the right choice?”
A quick trek to Cottesloe is where I met a solitary Greens supporter.
Train driver Clive Judkins was, throughout my travels, just one of two voters who would vote for the Greens.
“The environment and climate change — they’re important to me,” he said.
In Cottesloe, I also met a fellow Italian- Australian, Stefano Zaupa, a nurse from Midland.
He believed there needed to be change of government. “I think it’s about job security. We need a change.”
The next day, I headed east to Ellenbrook — Christian Porter territory, in the crucial Liberal seat of Pearce.
Porter has been boasting this election that his Government has helped deliver the long-awaited rail line to Ellenbrook, with construction expected to start later this year.
But young mum Jess Brady, whose husband is a FIFO worker, reckons she doesn’t give a fig about Porter — or his rail line.
“I’m sick of seeing his face — too much signage,” she said. “He looks so smug — and he has done nothing. There is enough riff raff here already. A rail line will bring more.”
Job security and the economy appeared to be mostly on voters’ minds this election.
Cherie Stafford, another young mum in Ellenbrook, told me while doing the shopping at the local shopping centre that she had lost her job two months ago and desperately needed work.
“I go to churches to help me feed my children,” she said.
Immigration also appeared to high on voters’ radars. Ironically, hardly anyone talked about the environment.
Pensioner Patricia Haines, also of Ellenbrook, said Australia had to be careful about who was allowed to settle in the country.
“I am not racist,” she said.
“But people shouldn’t come to Australia if they have all these demands.”
She too was scathing of political promises made during elections. “You know damn well they won’t deliver,” she said.
It was at a pub in Midland that I met at real character — Rebecca Hewson, of Guildford.
The disability pensioner has an interesting election day game plan already worked out.
Last election, Rebecca drew her own little square box on the ballot paper and ticked that as a silent protest.
“I didn’t want to pick any one of them,” she said, with a loud laugh.
This time around, she’ll have a real vote.
“I might just tick all the minor parties — they won’t win,” she said.
“I don’t trust either the Labor or Liberal parties.”
And she wasn’t in the minority.
Most people I spoke to just didn’t trust that what Shorten and Morrison were selling this election would actually be delivered.
In Victoria Park, voters were also scathing of the majors.
Local salesman Joe French was having his hair cut when I asked him who he’d vote for this election.
Mimo Hashem, his hairdresser, momentarily put down his scissors to hear his client’s answer: “I’d go Labor,” Joe said, admiring his freshly cut hair in the mirror.
“The people who are in charge now, actually weren’t voted in.
“I want the person who gets voted in (Prime Minister) to be the person who is still there at the next election.”
Victoria Park cafe owner Sandro Puca, who took over Social Manna last December, said he was too busy trying to run his new business to think about politics.
“My focus is work,” he said.
My journey ended in the heart of Perth’s city.
I hit the Perth Train Station, where I met a bloke who reckoned he had a problem with Liberal Curtin candidate Celia Hammond.
“I don’t know why the Libs chose her to replace Julie Bishop — her views are too far to the right,” he said.
“I might vote for that other woman, the Independent. What’s her name?”
I reminded him that the independent candidate’s name was Louise Stewart.
Finally, I headed to the font of all knowledge, well-known cafe owner Leo Agnello, who runs the iconic Bocelli’s.
Leo said that normally around election time people liked to talk politics while ordering their espresso.
But this time, there was a deafening silence.
“Normally, you get a lot of people talking about elections. But this time it’s different,” he said.
Leo reckoned people had already made up their minds on who would win the May 18 election.
He said the fact that polling had continually predicted a Labor victory meant voters believed the result was a fait accompli.
“I think people believe Labor is so far in front, that they’ll win.”
Time for a piccolo. Leo’s coffee is good.