The Western Australian State election has descended, perhaps predictably, into a contest of personal abuse and sleaze.
The Liberals are attempting to smear Carpenter and his government with the large shadow of Brian Burke and his alleged influence in the Labor government. Given that Carpenter has very publicly forced Burke out of the Labor Party along with three sitting Labor parliamentarians who in varying degrees have in the past had an association with Burke, it is nonsense politically to portray Burke as having any influence within the Labor Party.
Besides being seen by the voters as attempting to sell “the big lie”, the Liberal Party has consumed energy and resources which should have been applied to the four big issues of the campaign — health, education, law and order and taxes and charges.
The practice of introducing bogey men into campaigns is not new and was alive and well during the federal election which had Rudd forcing members out of the Labor Party for trivial and absurd reasons.
The cold reality is that unless political parties can show a pattern of deep and endemic sleaze of the type consumed the John Major Conservative government or an influence so patently and transparently dictating policy such as the notorious “thirty six faceless men” of the ALP Federal Conference (which saw the infamous photograph of Calwell and Whitlam standing on the footpath at midnight outside the Hotel Kingston in Canberra awaiting policy decisions by their union masters), campaigns against third parties are an unrewarding distraction, waste of time and money.
Advertising campaigns of this nature which ignore voter self interest do no more than give false and smug comfort to party hacks who drive them and titillate the superficial media hacks who encourage them.
The issue of Burke’s influence in the Labor Party was raised aggressively in the form of a question by one of the journalists on the panel of the recent televised leaders’ debate and the worm predictably flat lined.
Labor’s contribution to the sleaze element of the campaign has been to raise the Buswell chair sniffing episode at every opportunity and the fact that they feel free to do so is entirely due to the lack of courage on the part of the Liberal Party.
Labor has more than its share of appalling misbehaviour to explain, however, Buswell and his chief of staff were petrified during Buswell’s short period at the top about raising the issues for fear his behaviour being again raised. Whatever further could be raised is a mystery. There was, however, little downside in the Liberal Party going after Labor.
It has been widely reported that at an alcohol fuelled Labor karaoke night at Bunbury Carpenter raised the top of young Labor member of the Legislative Assembly, Ms Jaye Radisich to display her bra. Carpenter has outside parliament denied the incident took place however Radisich has fiercely refused to publicly deny the incident.
With the prospect of having the matter referred to the Privileges Committee and all that implies, foolishly the Liberal Party did not press Carpenter about the issue in parliament.
The further matter in the sleaze stakes which should be of considerable embarrassment to Labor is the appalling misbehaviour of Carpenter’s Energy Minister, Fran (Francis) Logan who invited one of his staff to participate in a “threesome” with him.
The woman has told reporters that she found the threesome remarks offensive and completely inappropriate. The woman has since resigned from her job with Logan.
Logan also turned up drunk to an ABC news function at a Perth hotel in December 2006. He was refused service asked to leave the function. Logan has admitted to both events however the Premier has said that Logan retains his confidence.
In an act of breathtaking hypocrisy, Premier Carpenter has in the last week announced that if re-elected he will move to close down the bar in parliament house. The gesture is a further swipe at Buswell whose drunken bra snapping incident took place at parliament house.
Aside from the fact that the matter of House facilities is entirely within the province of the Presiding Officers, the failure of the Opposition to take on Carpenter and Logan has given Carpenter a free run at the sleaze issue.