The big question for political trivia buffs today is whether Eric
Ripper actually gets listed as a Premier of Western Australia, or is he
just an Acting Premier.
If he is Premier, he gets to go down with such famous luminaries as
former Labor Prime Minister Frank Forde – he filled in for a week in
1945 between the death of John Curtin and the election to leadership of
Ben Chifley – and the last Liberal Premier of Queensland Gordon Chalk,
who bravely kept Queensland together between the sudden death of Jack
Pizzey and the surprise elevation of some bloke with a weird foreign
name, Johannes Bjelke-Petersen.
Perhaps he will just be an Acting Premier. Political veterans will
remember Jack Ferguson famously filling in as Acting Premier of NSW for
Neville Wran at critical times.
The first was when Wran was recovering from an operation on his vocal
chords which rendered him briefly speechless, an unfortunate state for
any politician. (Wran required Teflon injections in his vocal chords to
fix the problem for those who don’t remember why he came to be known as
Ferguson’s period as Acting Premier coincided with the
vicious bashing of Peter Baldwin, and it was the temporary presence of
the left-wing Ferguson as Premier that forced the hand of Labor state
secretary Graham Richardson in doing something to deal with the matter.
Most famously, Ferguson filled in as Acting Premier when Wran was
forced to stand aside in 1983 during the conduct of the Street Royal
Commission. The former bricklayer, well known for his gravel voice and
rugged features, was asked whether he would change his image now he was
In an era when there was still discussion about whether
politicians should slick down their hair or go for a more modern
bouffant style, Ferguson famously responded “What, do you mean I should
get one of them boof-ant hairstyles?”
We doubt Eric Ripper has that much class.
PS WA Labor pols with high hopes probably shouldn’t read Antony Green’s “The curse of the premiership succession.”