The Western Australian Liberal Party is a constant source of innocent merriment for Crikey readers. Fresh from his taxpayer-funded trip to Europe with his girlfriend, and his gaffe about “the Pope’s partner,” the new state WA Liberal leader Matt Birney is in the news again – this time over a blue with a breathalyser.

Perth’s Sunday Timesreported on the weekend that Birney was escorted to a police station last Thursday after he blew more than 0.05 in a preliminary breath test. Beer Matt had apparently had a few friendlies with his deputy Paul Omodei (who has had his own recent run in with the plod) and some journos from the West Australian at the trendy Subiaco Hotel.

From there, the story gets a little murky. Some reports say he failed his preliminary test and Birney says he wasn’t told the result. In the end he was taken to nearby Kensington Police station and passed a breath test. Beer Matt enjoys playing the likeable larrikin, and after becoming leader said he wouldn’t give up drinking at the notorious skimpy pubs in his electorate of Kalgoorlie. Local Libs still shudder at his response to his local paper 18 months ago when asked about leadership murmurings he said: “No but anything is possible, I was drunk for four days.”

What’s got some tongues wagging is the intervention of Opposition police spokesperson, Rob Johnson, who managed to kick the story along by claiming in Monday’s West Australian that hand-held breathalysers are inaccurate. His intervention has ensured the story runs for longer. Was it a clumsy attempt at muddying the waters or something more sinister? Johnson’s intervention followed a WA Liberal state council meeting where reports say he was a particularly active participant.

For an all-Australian bloke, Birney has been a little touchy over the whole episode. Can he handle his grog? Perhaps his daddy, Noel Crichton-Browne, should make sure he sticks to light beer.