The man most widely tipped to
succeed Geoff Gallop is seen by Labor Party powerbrokers as being both
telegenic and a competent media performer. That’s because he was a hack
himself.

Alan Carpenter, currently Minister for State Development and Energy,
had a brief spell as a journalist in his home town of Albany after
graduating from the University of Western Australia in 1979, before
working as a television reporter and presenter in Perth.

Carpenter worked for TVW Channel 7 and ABC TV as a political roundsman and in 1992 became the 7.30 Report‘s WA presenter. He later presented the ABC’s Stateline
program. As a good looking guy he presented well on screen, got consistently good ratings and was well respected.

Carpenter is a pretty moderate sort of character, and he was always
very fair in his interviewing – unlike some ABC journalists, he
didn’t go for the man, he went for the issue. He left television in April 1996 to
contest the safe Labor seat of Willagee which he won in December that
year.

Carpenter quickly moved on to the front bench as shadow spokesman ofDisability
Services, Sport & Recreation, Family & Children’s Services,
Education and Drugs. And he joined the first Gallop ministry as
Minister for Education, Sport & Recreation and Indigenous Affairs
in February 2001.

The 49-year-old, married with four daughters,
became Minister for Education and Training in June 2003 and took up the
state’s primary economics portfolio as Minister for State Development
and Energy in the second Gallop Government in February 2005.

Although
factionally unaligned this is likely to boost his chances of taking
over Labor’s leadership since he will be seen as acceptable to
factional chiefs who will not want to see their rivals taking the
party’s leadership and the state’s top political position.

Carpenter
is seen as a moderate who strongly backs policies aimed at boosting
state economic development, especially the minerals and energy sectors,
which are currently riding the crest of an international boom. He has
not been scared to confront the resource sector’s giants – BHP-Billiton
and Rio Tinto – over loopholes in classification of grades of iron ore
to ensure higher royalty payments to the state.

He is also
seen as a straight shooter who is not scared to tell unions that their
closed-shop and other practices will not necessarily be of benefit to
the community.

As Education Minister he clashed with the
Left-controlled Miscellaneous Workers Union who wanted schools to be
cleaned by government labour rather than the far more
cost-effective contracting or tendering system then in place. For some
time it appeared that he might lose endorsement for his Willagee seat
forcing him to look to another career.

Carpenter was in London when he learned of Dr Gallop’s surprise decision to resign as premier.