The announcement of the new Liberal Ministry yesterday concluded the most spectacular period in Western Australian politics in recent history.
A Premier who just two years and six months ago inherited from Premier Gallop, the political capital of a government with the handsome majority of 17 seats in a 59 seat parliament, through his arrogance, rudeness and incompetence, has been driven from office.
A man who four years ago announced that he was proposing to retire and who since has not once under three successive Liberal leaders accepted a shadow ministry and who was but four weeks prior to the election ensconced on his farm having made his valedictory speech, is now Premier.
The National Party which prior to the recent election, existed in Western Australia as a minor rump party with four Assembly members and one Legislative Council member, and which increased its representation by one Assembly seat and five Council seats while refusing to participate in a coalition, holds every significant country portfolio in the Ministry together with a billion dollar bag of money to be spent in their electorates.
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It will be a matter of considerable interest to watch what the federal National Party may have learnt from the behaviour of their country cousins in Western Australia, particularly with the ascendency of people such as Barnaby Joyce.
Carpenter has quite properly been held entirely responsible for the Labor Party’s disaster. Perhaps there is something for other Labor State organisations to learn from embracing as leaders, people who have no party political experience or ingrained cultural wisdom.
Putting aside his appalling personal character failings, Carpenter came to politics with no substantial life experiences and his political experience was limited to interviewing State politicians about parochial issues on the local segment of The 7.30 Report.
Carpenter now joins the ranks of humiliated labor Premiers such as Barry Unsworth, never to have won an election while squandering the legacy gifted to them. The irony of Carpenter having called the election early for the facile reason of wanting the removal of some members he claimed not to deserve to be in parliament, who now remain there while he is gone, is not lost on his internal opponents.
Labor’s new leadership team is an unlikely pair. Former Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Resources Minister, Eric Ripper who bungled in not distributing to the voters, the enormous largess which during the term of the Labor government, poured into Treasury coffers and who is solely responsible for the loss to Western Australia of the $25 billion INPEX gas project, has been elected leader.
His Deputy, Roger Cook, is not yet a member of parliament having been elected by a handful of votes at the recent election. Cook is a former State President of the Western Australian Labor Party and has in more recent times been a political lobbyist.
The deputy leadership position was contested by Cook and former Education Minister, Mark McGowan. Perhaps the real loser in the leadership contests was McGowan, who possessed of unrestrained ambition and as an unquestioning and obsequious follower of Carpenter’s, was defeated 31 votes to 9 by a member not yet in parliament.
McGowan is notorious for having once approached me for dirt on the Liberal Party for as he explained to me, he was factionally unaligned and it would help impress then Premier Gallop.
The two contenders for the leadership were Ripper and former Minister, Alana McTiernan. Both come from the Centre Left of the Labor Party. However, the leader of the left, former Minister Jim McGinty, holds bitter ill will towards McTiernan and the left delivered the deciding votes to Ripper.
In an act of political bastardry, the left invited McTiernan to its faction meeting then proceeded to humiliate her with a series of very personal questions about her conduct and habits, never having intended to support her. In the event, McTiernan stood for no leadership positions.
The former Western Australian Labor government has again demonstrated that a reasonably competent bureaucracy can make a hopeless bunch of Ministers look reasonable.
Noel Crichton-Browne is a former Liberal Senator for WA.