The inmates have really taken control in the Western Australian Liberal Party.

The State Council of the Party met last night and unanimously
resolved to contest the State seat of Victoria Park recently vacated by
Geoff Gallop. The meeting also endorsed 59-year-old Bruce Stevenson, a
teacher and more recently a real estate agent. The by-election is
expected to be held on 25 February.

The obvious arguments against the Liberal Party running a candidate are:

The swing required is an impossible 16%; there will be an enormous wave
of transferred sympathy for the Labor candidate given the circumstances
of the by-election; Gallop whose support in the community is now
greater than at any time during his parliamentary career will publicly
endorse and embrace the Labor candidate; it will be the first election
contested by new Premier Alan Carpenter who comes to office with
enormous goodwill and who will be at the pinnacle of first flush
popularity; the Government is about to announce an enormous budget
surplus, unemployment is at a record low and Labor is well ahead in the

The Opposition does not have one detailed policy in any portfolio;
Opposition Leader Matt Birney who is presently embroiled in a
controversy about his public register disclosure is currently recording
his lowest approval ratings since his election to the position; this
will be Birney’s first election campaign; the Liberal Party has a debt
of a million dollars and has recently been embarrassed by being unable
to pay its operating costs and the Party organisation in the seat is

As if to confirm the fears of many in the Liberal Party who have grave
reservations about the manner of its conduct, last night at the
Council meeting the ordinary members were ambushed with a candidate and
asked to endorse him on the spot. This in spite of the fact that the
Party had not called for nominations and nor did it advertise an
opening or closing date for nominations.

No other candidate was allowed to nominate.

This conduct comes hard on the heels of a scandal which engulfed the
federal campaign in the seat of Swan at the last election and which
cost the Party the seat. The State seat of Victoria Park is in the
heart of Swan. In the federal election, an undisclosed member of the
Liberal Party used the name of an 89-year-old Salvation Army pensioner
on a letter to a local newspaper to smear the sitting Labor member for

What, you might ask, were the reasons given to the bewildered members
of the Liberal Party’s State Council for contesting this by-election?

Senior office bearers of the Party breathlessly informed the meeting
behind closed doors that the Party expected to win the seat. This was
no canter around the track to give the Liberal punters someone to vote
for; this was no flag showing exercise, this was a seat the Party
seriously believed it could win.

What must be terrifying to those tortured Liberal souls in Western
Australia who have all but given up on the State Party winning an
election in the foreseeable future but still hope for a credible
Opposition is that those running the Party really do believe that the
State seat of Victoria Park is going to be won by the Liberal Party on
25 February.

Matt Birney could not have been given a worse battle ground upon which to
fight his first election. In many respects the outcome will define his
leadership. Were the folly of this campaign not just transparent
stupidity by those who now claim ownership of the Western Australian
Liberal Party, others could be forgiven for suspecting it to be a
devious plot to destroy him.

After the political bastardy of disendorsing a sitting Upper House
member to give the seat to a mate, which immediately led to the member
sitting on the cross benches and delivering one vote one value and the
next election at the very least to Labor, some in the Liberal Party
seem determined yet again to inflict damage on Birney. He deserves far
far better.