Liberal leader Matt Birney has been placed on unofficial probation by several within
his parliamentary team who increasingly see him as being too accident prone. Some have begun telling each
other and the media that they’re wondering which will come first – Mr Birney’s
scheduled April wedding or his departure from the leadership.
The main reason for the changed
mood is a slide in ratings in Westpoll, conducted monthly by the State’s only
daily newspaper, The West
Australian. According to that newspaper’s latest
The percentage of voters believing Mr Birney was doing a good job has
plummeted from 21 per cent in May to just 9 per cent this month. Even more alarmingly, the
percentage of recognised coalition supporters who say he is doing a good job
has more than halved from 33 per cent to just 15 per cent this month.
Mr Birney’s slippage is
attributed to a failure to adapt to the ongoing demands of his job. But he continues to take pride
in the fact that his hails from the Goldfields and is a knockabout lad. After a mid-2004 party in an
inner city hotel with journalists he encountered the police who subjected him
to a breathalyser test, which, although showing he had not exceeded the limit,
was highly publicised.
Jim McGinty, Labor’s Attorney-General and a rabid
opponent of Mr Birney, recently upped the ante by claiming Birney
no longer constitutes an electoral threat. And it was McGinty who sparked
a Parliamentary Privileges Committee
inquiry just before Christmas into Mr Birney’s decision to secretly add
information to his financial interests statement held in Parliament.
The Committee found that that action amounted “to a contempt of the Legislative Assembly” and Birney’s response was to
reluctantly go along with the findings. “If the House accepts this report when we reconvene in
March I will apologise to the Parliament,” he said. “I acknowledge that by supplementing my return without
following the Clerk’s preferred procedure, I may have inadvertently affected
the make-up of the pecuniary interest’s file and for that I apologise.”
But in a radio interview
yesterday he downplayed the contempt findings; something several of his backers
believe was unwise since it will almost certainly prolong the
issue. Parliament will debate the
contempt findings in March to decide how Mr Birney should be censured.