WA’s Matt Birney-led Liberals are in unprecedented
turmoil with two leadership challenges in the pipeline before the end of the
year. The first will come sometime this week with Mr Birney likely
to be toppled by his former deputy Paul Omodei.

And party insiders say that if Omodei succeeds he’ll be removed
before Christmas, with the challenger likely to be former leader, Colin
Barnett.

To
understand this wheels-within-wheels scenario one must go
back to the February 2005 election, after which Barnett stood down amid
claims he blundered badly in announcing a $2-billion-plus plan to bring
Kimberley water to Perth via a 2,000km-long two metre-deep plastic lined
trench.

Pundits saw that widely ridiculed notion as taking the
pressure off a floundering Geoff Gallop-led Labor Government. Most concluded that if Barnett had simply hammered Labor’s high
taxes and failures in the policing and health areas he’d now be premier.

Barnett consequently stepped aside for Birney and Omodei became
deputy. But Omodei accidentally shot his son in the hand so stood
aside due to the resultant conviction. His deputy post went to Troy Buswell, who’d only entered
parliament in 2005. But the past year has seen Birney struggling in the job.

Last week he sacked shadow attorney general, Sue Walker and by Friday, the sacking had been become an Omodei challenge
with Walker signalling
she’d return to the frontbench if Birney was dumped.

Then Barnett announced he’d join an Omodei team, something
he’s refused to do with Birney. Because few believe Omodei has what it takes to succeed as
leader, a pre-Christmas challenge is already widely tipped.

What happens when Omodei finally gets the message that he’s
like Birney, not up to the job? Simple – Barnett moves back into the job he held between
February 2001 and February 2005.

The only likely spoke in that wheel could be that Buswell who,
by then, would have had two years’ parliamentary experience, will want to move from
being Omodei’s deputy to opposition leader. To help ensure this happens, Buswell has thrown his weight
behind Omodei instead of Birney in this week’s Omodei-Birney challenge.

Peter Fray

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