Murray-Wellington the dark horse of Labor’s bloodbath

Robyn Clarke’s ecstatic reaction to her elections results on Saturday night said it all.

Ms Clarke, the Labor candidate for the traditionally Liberal seat of Murray-Wellington, was at Mandurah’s Boathouse Tavern, when it first looked possible she would beat maverick Liberal incumbent Murray Cowper, 24 years after Labor last held the seat.

“Saturday night caught me off guard,” Ms Clarke said.

Her exuberance on the night was a response to election analyst Antony Green’s declaration she had won.

“It was too early to call it, but obviously with everything going on, all the screens around me, it was really overwhelming,” she said.

“And then Antony Green comes out and declares me the winner. Obviously, he's the political guru. That threw me, and everyone obviously saw my emotional reaction.”

On Wednesday Ms Clarke was leading Mr Cowper by 435 votes, with almost 85 per cent of counting complete.

Ms Clarke said her success could be put down to her community-based platform and a strong personal contrast to Mr Cowper, who was seen as a country member.

“Our process was really simple. A few months ago, my team and I just started calling around, trying to gauge what the community’s priorities are,” she said.

“From there, I approached the Labor caucus, put forward what I thought were the priorities for Murray-Wellington and organised funding.

“Our aim is to be as up-front and direct as possible. What the community needs, that’s what we’ll be aiming to provide.”

Despite Saturday night’s confusion, Ms Clarke was careful not to push her mandate too much. Even though she pledged relatively small, community-minded projects during the campaign, she said she would need to tackle the big issues.

“We didn’t want to promise too much at the start. We wanted to lay out the things we knew we could get done at this stage,” she said.

“We’ve all seen candidates who have promised huge things before elections and end up without anything to deliver. I wanted to tell the community that yes, we have ideas, and we will be able to start from somewhere.”

Despite this, Ms Clarke does plan to tackle the big Murray issues, thanks in part to the new state Labor government.

“First of all, WA Labor will adopt all of the recommendations of the Ferguson Inquiry,” Ms Clarke said.

“Labor will also fix the unfair funding model that Royalties for Regions is currently under. We know the South West has received a minuscule amount of Royalties for Regions funding, and Murray-Wellington the least out of all of the South West electorates.

“Labor will not change Royalties for Regions, but we will ensure those funds are much more equally distributed.”