Controversial Labor senator-elect Joe Bullock says his running mate Louise Pratt could still claim the sixth spot on the Senate ticket.
And Mr Bullock, who has previously argued the ALP needs to distinguish itself from the Greens, said on Monday he believed the party needed to reclaim the political middle ground rather than chase votes on the political Left.
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It's not just Labor struggling in Western Australia - Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says the Liberal vote is also in long-term decline.
Speaking to Fairfax Media in his central Perth office on Monday, a cautious Mr Bullock admitted he had endured a "rough week" after a recording of him describing ALP members as "mad” and disparaging Senator Pratt emerged in the final days of the Senate by-election campaign.
The senator acknowledged many in the ALP were blaming him for Ms Pratt’s struggle to hang on to her seat but said he was hopeful she would still claim the seat.
“I am optimistic that Louise is in with a real shot, but we have to wait until the count is complete. The Palmer vote will slowly come down, he got a surge in the final weeks,’’ he said.
With 68 per cent of the vote counted, Coalition candidates, including number three candidate Linda Reynolds, were on track to win three Senate seats in the west, while the ALP, Greens and Palmer United Party are each on track to pick up one.
However, Mr Bullock said, Palmer candidate Dio Wang may end up relying heavily on Ms Reynolds’ preferences to secure a quota, which could lead to Ms Pratt sneaking through.
Asked about the furore created by his controversial comments Mr Bullock said he “did not want to comment on that at all”. He said he would remain focused on his job as secretary of the WA branch of the Shop, Distributive and Allied workers union until he takes his place in the Senate in July.
Senator Bullock’s comments came as his predecessor in the Senate, Mark Bishop, warned the ALP could be overtaken by the Greens as the dominant progressive party in the state in the wake of its “disastrous” WA Senate performance.
Labor suffered a 5 per cent swing against it at Saturday’s WA Senate re-run, leaving the party languishing with a primary vote of 22 per cent. The party may be left with only three senators in WA - sitting senators Sue Lines and Glenn Sterle and former union boss Joe Bullock - if Senator Pratt misses out.
“This is a disastrous outcome for the ALP - I think it’s virtually unprecedented,” Mr Bishop said,
“The Greens are now no longer in this state to be regarded as a minor party,” he said. “They are now virtually on equal terms [as Labor].”
Mr Bishop said Labor’s support for the carbon and mining taxes had damaged the party in the west. The focus on east-coast matters such as the declining manufacturing sector also played a role.
"The mining tax, the carbon tax have been an ongoing problem for at least five years [for the ALP] …why on God’s green earth we defend a failed tax that doesn’t raise money I will never understand."
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann seized on Senator Bishop’s comments on Monday, arguing Labor’s WA vote had collapsed because of the anti-WA carbon and mining taxes.
"We don't want Labor's mining tax, we don't want Labor’s carbon tax,” he said.
"Labor should listen to their own senator for Western Australia, Mark Bishop, and stop defending a failed, anti-Western Australian tax,"