People like to say that there is very little difference between the Labor and Liberal parties on many major issues, particularly when it comes to state government. I think that's long been quite true.

However in recent years the two parties have started to diverge and become ideologically more distinct. Federally, Labor has become much more of a high tax, high spending government. It keeps coming up with grand projects for the people but so often they come a cropper through incompetent management. Examples include the BER, the pink batts fiasco, and the NBN -- which is progressing very slowly and looks likely to become the biggest white elephant ever constructed in this country.

You can even see a similar idealistic love of the grand plan in the West Australian state Opposition. Just as federal Labor proposed the NBN to meet the challenge of growing internet usage, WA Labor have created the Metronet rail plan to solve increasing transport congestion in Perth.

It looks mighty ambitious and will obviously cost a lot of money. And the Libs believe it will be significantly more expensive than Labor says it will be.

The state Liberal government has opted for a sleeker, less costly solution with their proposed light rail network.

This marked ideological difference can be seen in promises related to other issues as well. And I think that it will be a factor in how the coming state election plays out -- even though the prevailing view from local pundits seems to be that Barnett will win mainly because he's widely perceived as the better economic manager; a "safe pair of hands".