Last week’s decision by WA’s Liberal Party to back the
Labor Government’s funding of political parties has led to one of its
senior frontbenchers resigning from party leader Paul Omodei’s team.

Former Liberal deputy leader, Dan Sullivan, has told
Omodei he no longer intends being a frontbencher. The reason is that Omodei has threatened to remove
from his front bench any MP who speaks out on the planned legislation. And Omodei further upped the ante by saying those who
spoke out risked being disendorsed before the next election. The Omodei gag immediately prompted Sullivan, a critic of
taxpayer funding of political parties, to resign as shadow energy affairs

For Omodei to have threatened MPs with being
disendorsed suggests he’s got the nod for that draconian move from the party’s
state executive, which is dominated by loyalists of the faction headed by Howard
Government ministers, Senators Ian Campbell and Chris Ellison. That faction also has a stranglehold over the party’s
state council.

Sullivan is seen by those in the Campbell-Ellison
faction as a long-time loyalist of ex-Senator Noel Crichton-Browne who was
expelled from the party a decade ago. But what further irked Sullivan was the fact that
Omodei has tolerated his ally, former party leader Colin Barnett, making
pronouncements on a range of issues and has now moved to gag others.

“If I wish to continue voicing my opposition and
representing the views of my electorate then I am directly at odds with the gag
directive from my leader in my capacity as a shadow minister,” Sullivan said.

“I am being hauled over the
coals for this one incident of talking about one thing outside the party room
and yet you have the party’s self-professed mentor, Paul Omodei’s mate Colin
Barnett, able to talk about absolutely everything.”

Omodei’s decision to apply the gag on front and
backbenchers will undoubtedly be a lively topic of debate at the coming Liberal
Party room meeting.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey