Controversial former senator and WA Liberal Party powerbroker Noel
Crichton-Browne offers his latest thoughts on the WA election campaign.

The Western
Australian Liberal Party campaign has in the past days reflected signs of inattention
to elementary detail and indulgent indiscipline.

Presumably
at the specific invitation of the State branch of the Party, Treasurer Peter
Costello came to town to campaign, however it would in the circumstances have undoubtedly
been better had he stayed in Melbourne. It was very apparent he was not fully briefed
by the State party’s Head Office.

Costello
was as to be expected, asked about two particular matters; shopping hours which
with the Liberal Party’s approval are restricted in Western Australia and Barnett’s proposed water canal
from the Kimberley to Perth which Barnett had strongly implied
would attract federal funding: Both are matters which in different ways are naturally
receiving considerable media attention.

It was
inevitable that Costello would be diametrically opposed to the former and
cautious about the latter. The federal government under the auspices of
National Competition Council policy has already financially penalised Western Australia because of its failure to
deregulate shopping hours.

It was
equally inevitable that insofar as federal funding was concerned, without a
comprehensive feasibility study Costello would be very cautious in giving any
support to a multi billion dollar enterprise.

Predictably
when interviewed during his Perth visit, Costello warmly embraced
deregulated shopping hours while extolling their virtue. When asked about his
views on the canal he declined even conditional support, listing numerous
hurdles required to be overcome before approval would be considered for federal
funding.

It is an
elementary matter of State campaigns that when federal ministers are involved,
they are automatically briefed before hand on all issues and the appropriate
lines are settled. If the differences are irreconcilable the minister stays in Canberra.

Costello
could never have supported deregulated shopping hours however given that Gallop
has called a referendum on the issue to coincide with the election, Costello
could have referred to it and been much less effusive and much more discreet.

In respect
to the canal Costello could have been enthusiastic about Barnett’s vision for
watering Western Australia and strongly critical of the crisis of
Gallop’s making. Equally he need not have pedantically ticked off all the
criteria for federal funding. As it was, his answers were very widely reported.

It seems
inconceivable that Peter Costello would have answered the way he did if he had
been properly informed of the political nuances of the issues for his State
party.

The Labor
Party is now running a very damaging television commercial based on Costello’s
comments about Colin Barnett’s canal vision.

In
thoroughly predictable indulgent behaviour Wilson Tuckey has done his bit to
damage

Colin
Barnett’s election. Tuckey is permanently publicly at war with the National
Party which holds a number of State seats in his electorate and which dares to
stand a candidate against him from time to time. The fact that Tuckey once
stood as a National Party candidate against a Liberal member before he decided
the Liberal Party was an easier option into parliament seems lost on him.

Tuckey has
publicly accused the National Party of doing a preference deal with the Labor
Party for Assembly seats in return for the National Party not standing
candidates in the Upper House seat of Mining and Pastoral region. He also
accuses the National Party of further dealings with the Labor Party which has
resulted in the Labor Party running candidates in three corner contests and
giving their preferences to the National Party.

The Labor
Party has for many years “preferenced” the National Party in Western Australia ahead of the Liberal Party and the
Liberal Upper House Leader and member for Mining and Pastoral region “has no
problems” with the National Party not running a candidate in his seat.

Given that
political honour was is stake, National Party Leader Max Trenorden very
publicly slapped Tuckey down, questioning his involvement in the campaign.

The Liberal
and National parties have entered into a coalition agreement and Trenordan is
by it to be the Deputy Premier in government. Wilson Tuckey’s disruptive
interference in the campaign will have only done harm to his own party.

This is not Tuckey’s first thoroughly
unhelpful foray into State elections. Former Premier Richard Court has nothing to thank Tuckey for.

Prior to the last State election Tuckey ran a
long and virulent personal campaign against Court and the State Liberal
government’s logging policy culminating in a bitter attack in an address to
timber workers on the steps of the Western Australian State parliament house. Tuckey was at the
time the federal minister for Forests.

The Liberal
Party can ill afford to gratuitously squander political capital in a contest in
which it will need to take every trick.