Following
an article in which I set out reasons why I viewed the Western Australian
Liberal Party as most unwise to contest the by-election for the seat vacated by
Geoff Gallop, Crikey published what was claimed to be a response from an
anonymous WA political watcher.

The writer, while
acknowledging the appalling misbehaviour of the Liberal Party, claims my criticisms should
be “taken with a grain of salt” because I am speaking ill of alleged opponents;
a curious disqualification.

He then
suggests I (and others he describes as my “followers”) have also in the past been
guilty of “some pretty shrew manoeuvring.” That is certainly not a claim I
place at the feet of the present pretenders.

The writer
claims “to win the seat would be a major coup for the Libs.” With a swing of 16% required and in the
circumstances set out in my earlier piece, it would not be a coup, it would be
divine intervention.

The writer
offers the further view that if the seat is not won by the Liberal Party but
there is a swing against the Labor Party that “would let the Libs claim a
victory of sorts and would open new Premier Alan Carpenter to attack.”

This
proposition opens up a whole new view about swings in by-elections against
incumbent governments, particularly in their own seats. The last occasion a
Liberal claimed “we didn’t win but it was not a loss” was Billy Sneddon immediately
following the 1974 federal election. A loss was a loss then and a loss is still
a loss except to the WA Liberal Party.

The final view
through Alice’s
looking glass is that “even if the ALP retains the seat with an increased
margin, the Libs can claim that Carpenter is in his honeymoon period and the
circumstances of Gallop’s departure are responsible for the swing.” These are but
two of the very reasons that I suggested would make it certain the seat would
not be won by the Liberal Party and that it was unwise to contest the seat.

The writer
might have soliloquised about what such a result may say for the Liberal Leader
Matt Birney who, unlike Alan Carpenter, cannot claim the voters have not had
proper opportunity to judge him and that the result does not reflect the
public’s informed judgment of him. In the
final paragraph the author finishes with the flourish that “the Libs can’t lose
whatever happens so they would be stupid not to run a candidate.” There we have
it: the Liberal Party in Western
Australia has found the formulae for winning
elections whatever the result.

Peter Fray

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