The smoke is so thick within the Liberal Party at present that very few
people are seeing the leadership battle too clearly (yesterday, item
14).

At the last election in 2005, Paul Omodei wanted to retire and grow
grapes/make wine on his Pemberton farm. He was talked out of it by his
MP colleagues on the grounds that there was going to be a huge loss of
long-serving MPs from the Liberal ranks. As it turned out, 18 of the 33
current Liberals are new to the parliament, so his expertise and
experience (assuming they’re called upon by party leaders) should be
valuable. But why would a person who is even more likely to retire at
the next election, due in 2009, seek to be the Liberal leader in 2006?

Before answering that question, two more points need to be made. First,
the Liberals WILL lose the next election, barring a stuff-up of the
magnitude of the mortgage brokers scandal. While police minister
D’Orazio may be a bit lazy paying super to his staff, he’s far more
capable than Doug Shave whose incompetence and leadership ambitions
allowed the Court government to lose office in 2001. So the Liberals
WILL lose in 2009 because they have few capable people in Parliament,
they have a large Labor majority to claw back, and (most importantly)
last year’s electoral reform will see eight seats move from the country
into Perth, forcing the Liberals to win at least two extra seats just
to maintain their current parliamentary deficit.

Second, Paul Omodei’s seat WILL expand into a neighbouring National
Party seat. The Liberals hate the Nationals with a passion and Paul,
being an even more passionate MP than normal thanks to his Italian
background, would happily sacrifice a few more years of quiet family
life if he could help the Nationals lose a couple of seats and thus
lose party status.

So why is Paul challenging? So that a long-serving, about-to-retire
Liberal leader will lose the 2009 election, not a younger, less
experienced person like Matt Birney or Troy Buswell who has the
potential to take the party to an election win in 2013.

Just as Brian Burke understood the long-term implications of his 1989
changes to the state’s electoral laws, which saw the conservative
parties lose their control of the upper house after the 1996 election,
Paul is sacrificing himself for the good of the party.

Even if Paul hands over to Colin Barnett prior to the next election,
the scenario is essentially unchanged: an experienced Liberal MP losing
the election, with Paul Omodei hanging around to contest his
significantly expanded seat and deny the Nationals an extra MP.

I’ve got no doubt that the current game plan has been hatched by people
who ultimately want to see Troy Buswell become leader after the 2009
election.

Peter Fray

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