Barnett Removes Another Knife From His Back

John Poynton has decided to ramp up his interference in Western Australian politics. This time, he has played a significant role in commissioning a private electoral poll in order to put pressure on Colin Barnett’s leadership.

As always, significant facts have been withheld from the public.

Firstly, for those who don’t know Poynton, he’s best described as a prominent Perth businessman. In other words, exactly the kind of person average people love to see meddling around in greasy political power plays.

Not John’s first time

TMR first became alerted to Poyton’s intervention in Western Australian politics in October 2015. This is what he had to say about the performance of the Barnett government at the time:

“I just wonder where the $31 billion worth of debt has gone? What has it purchased?

“On my reckoning I don’t think we have ended up with an additional $30 billion worth of infrastructure and built assets.

“The question is what happened to the rest of the money. What happened to the $30bn that hasn’t been spent on hospitals, Elizabeth Quay and the stadium. Because the reality is that income came during the boom.

“Yes the government had to spend a lot of money on roads and other infrastructure but it seems to not only have spent whatever surplus it had, but it has also borrowed a lot of money.

People with basic reading comprehension could immediately see that Poynton had largely answered his own question.

TMR then helped the numerically challenged prominent businessman fill in another gap or two:

Has some of the $35 billion been wasted? Absolutely: that’s what governments do. At least in this case we can point to things of substance to show for it (new hospitals, Northbridge link, Elizabeth Quay, Perth Stadium, East Perth Waterfront development, Gateway project and more).

Some more rigorous facts also clouded Poynton’s ‘analysis’. Specifically:

  • Following Barnett’s first year as Premier (2008-09), public sector debt was $6.8 billion, with an operating surplus of $318 million (see page 5 – or PDF page 9 – at the very bottom of the page).
  • A $26.1 billion capital works program was included in the 2008-09 State budget handed down by the previous Labor government in May 2008 (see page 8 – or PDF page 10).
  • In 2007-08, total public sector debt was $4.7 billion, with the Labor government of the day forecasting that figure to grow to $7.9 billion by 2008-09 (see page 6 – or PDF page 8).

Poynton’s accusation that the Barnett government wasted ‘whatever surplus it had’ is utterly false – and Poynton knows it. He’s a prominent businessman after all.

Indeed, as you can see from the above numbers, the only thing Colin Barnett and his team did on coming to office was put the brakes on.  The previous Labor government had projected 2008-09 debt to amount to $7.9 billion – while the actual figure following Barnett’s first year ended up at $6.8 billion.

Clearly, there was no surplus in the bank.

As for the remaining $30 billion of debt (i.e. $35-40 billion overall, minus the inherited $6.8 billion), the average Western Australian can see evidence of where it has been spent in many places.

This then begged the question at the time: why would a ‘business superman’ like Poynton get involved in such matters and spout such nonsense?

PS: I could have poked more holes in Poynton’s ‘analysis’ (e.g. erroneously conflating spending, operating surpluses and debt) but I have no doubt you already get the idea.

Poynton’s poll

We now arrive at the recently commissioned poll, with Poynton as it’s number one public face. Before going further, try to guess how many lower house seats are in the Western Australian parliament…

Answer: 59.

Now try to remember how many seats were included in Poynton’s poll…

Answer: 11.

And when is the next Western Australian state election?

Answer: 11 March 2017.

And the media’s response?

Yesterday, rumours swept through the Liberal Party like a bushfire. The poll was said to be very bad for the Premier. It was big: more than 10,000 respondents across 11 Liberal seats.

Most Statewide polls published in newspapers have about 800 to 1200.

Where has anybody been told that ‘most Statewide polls’ are, wait for it… STATEWIDE and cover all 59 seats and are (generally) statistically significant – while Poynton’s ‘it was big’ poll covered only 11 of 59 seats? (Seriously: how bad is the ‘journalism’ here?).

What about the other 48 seats? Will this poll be relevant in another eight months? Who knows?

If the Liberals were to lose the next election with Barnett at the helm, it would be because Western Australians haven’t allowed a State government to make it past 10 years in power since 1959 – and not because of Barnett himself.

What doesn’t make sense is Poynton’s funny agenda so late in the day? Does he really think someone else can come in and turn it around? If so, how does Poynton think this could happen?

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the answers. Instead, Poynton’s own words help us get much closer to what’s really been going on :

Mr Poynton said he was not really actively in business these days “and I don’t really need or want access”. [TMR comment: your involvement in the above poll says otherwise].

“I certainly don’t think that people expect just because they’re donating to a party that somehow they’re going to get special treatment,” he said.

“Those sort of days of direct access and sort of maybe sweetheart deals went out the door 30 years ago.

“It would be the height of arrogance to assume we could influence leadership.

He also said he’d spoken with the MPs who according to the poll faced losing their seats, but not the premier.

“Sure, maybe I should have gone to see Colin, but … I don’t think it would have gone very far.

“It’s not a threat or anything like that but you imagine that people would be less inclined to rush a whole lot of money into the Liberal party.

I’m sorry John: why would they be less inclined to ‘rush a whole lot of money’? And who said anything about ‘special treatment’ or ‘influencing leadership’?

Poynton really should hire some PR help before gets involved in this stuff. Repeating Year 3 maths could also help.

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