Geoff Gallop
isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last politician to succumb
to a psychiatric problem. But the surprising thing is that, for the
eight years I knew him as an MP, he gave no signs or indications that
depression was lurking just around the corner.

I shared the WA
Parliament with him from 1996 to 2005 while he was both Opposition
Leader and then Premier. I didn’t get to know him too well in that
time, except as a performer on the floor of the Legislative Assembly,
but here are a few insights that may shed some light on his character.

Generally,
being verbally attacked by Gallop was not much of an ordeal. He was too
nice to go for the jugular (unlike my tip as his replacement, Alan
Carpenter, who will need to be restrained by his minders from wanting
to see blood flow on a regular basis). Instead, he’d go for the high
moral ground and attack your lack of principles or inadequate policies
– something that usually didn’t disturb your sleep too much!

His
most frequent claim to fame was that, after he won the 2001 election,
he “protected” WA’s old growth forests from logging. True enough, I
suppose, but the reality is that little extra money was then made
available to manage these ‘protected’ forests from the multitude of
threats (pigs, dieback fungus, weeds) which had previously been paid
for from the proceeds of logging.

The 2001 election result was
notable for the strong flow of preferences from One Nation to the ALP
and Greens, in protest at Richard Court’s determination to put One
Nation last on all ballot papers. Gallop hated One Nation with a
passion and absolutely refused to accept that he’d been elected more
with their support than with preferences from the Greens.

The
strangest insight into the ex-premier relates to a speech I made in
Parliament in which I reminded Gallop that he’d spent his life as a
student, an academic, an employee of a member of Parliament or as an
MP. At no stage in his life had he been a labourer, someone who actually
“got his hands dirty,” nor had he ever worked for a private rather than
a public employer.

To his credit, Gallop sat there and listened to my
speech and, thereafter, he’d reply to my greeting whenever we passed
each other in the corridors of the Parliament, something he’d refused
to do until then. I can only conclude that he’d assessed my speech to
be a fair summary of his life to date and that he was now prepared to
accept that on occasion I had something worthwhile to say in the
Parliament.

One final comment. One former state MP was placed
under nursing home care as a result of what I understand is rapid-onset
dementia just a few months after he lost his seat. Only in hindsight
was it obvious that his occasional quirky behaviour was actually the
early signs of the disease. I also know of a sitting MP whose family
history is reported to include suicide and depression, so I hope that
Gallop’s admission of his illness will not be lost on this person nor
his colleagues.