In announcing his decision on Friday to leave politics, former WA premier Alan Carpenter blamed the spectacular defeat of his government a year ago on the poor performance of a number of his ministers rather than take responsibility himself.
And yet, earlier that day at the Perth Press Club, Alannah MacTiernan, his extremely successful Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, sheeted home the blame for Labor’s loss of government to its negative election campaign strategy.
MacTiernan said that had Labor campaigned positively on its achievements in government instead of attacking the now Premier Colin Barnett, who was only appointed leader at the start of the election campaign, Labor would have retained government.
Carpenter has been a lonely and forlorn figure in opposition since the election, so his decision to leave politics came as no surprise, although the timing might anger Labor Party power brokers.
Unexpected as he was to win government, within a year Colin Barnett has established a clear position of ascendancy over Labor, and it is difficult to see how Labor can defeat the Liberal-National alliance at the next election or even the one after that.
The government has not only ridden out the financial downturn but is now set to enjoy the fruits of the impending boom from the mining and resources sector. The Premier is having a remarkable run of good fortune.
Not having the numbers to roll Labor leader Eric Ripper, MacTiernan has announced her candidature for the federal seat of Canning — currently a Liberal seat — and whether she is successful or not in winning that seat she will be a huge loss to Labor in WA.
The Minister for Planning and Infrastructure for eight years, she was a standout in the Gallop and Carpenter governments and has been one of the few shadow ministers to take it up to the Barnett government.
A lawyer by training, she is feisty and robust and has a can-do attitude.
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In her witty and entertaining address to the Perth Press Club, MacTiernan outlined her credentials for a place in the federal parliament and made it plain that she wanted to be more than a backbencher.
However, she was less than reassuring concerning WA Labor’s vexed policy on uranium mining, which is not only at loggerheads with federal government policy but also seems redundant given the Barnett government’s decision to allow uranium mining.
Alan Carpenter and Labor went into the last election saying there would be no uranium mining on their watch, and the electors turfed them out.
That of course raises the question of what WA Labor will do about existing uranium mines, should it win government.
But it’s a question that Labor’s shadow ministers are not even allowed to discuss in public. Nonetheless, it’s one that needs to be resolved.
Lawrence Apps is president of the Perth Press Club.