WA Liberal
leader Matt Birney has followed Alan Carpenter’s frontbench reshuffle by
shaking up his frontbench. The most
interesting move is shifting the Liberals’ longest-serving MP, Norman Moore,
out of a shadow portfolio into the never-before-heard of position of Shadow
Minister for Policy Development.

Mr Birney has
obviously realised that growing criticism of his failure to come up with ideas needed
urgent attention. The choice of Mr
Moore is not a bad one and his reputation as a policy innovator is deserved.

For example, in
1993 he outlawed compulsory student unionism on the state’s four publicly owned
campuses. Compulsion was
reinstituted in 2001 by then Education minister and now premier, Alan

That puts him
13 years ahead of the Howard Government’s voluntary student unionism
legislation passed just before last Christmas. Mr Moore also
took a novel and democratic approach to rationalising schools.

Rather than
merely close down those with too few students by ministerial or departmental decree
he instituted a democratic procedure whereby parents were consulted and after a
series of meeting they voted on whether or not to close down their local

Parents whose
children were attending a targeted school were offered a series of “carrots”
that would be bankrolled at a nearby school with the proceeds of their
closed-down school.

He also took on
big gold mining companies by allowing small prospectors to fossick on
land to which companies had staked claims because he’d concluded that
the big miners
wouldn’t be going into small scale prospecting. Labor may not
realise, but if Mr Moore comes up with four score and ten such popular
and lands them during the February 2009 state election campaign the
Carpenter government
could find itself standing firmly on the back foot.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey