How Bernie Masters must be enjoying this.

In its inestimable wisdom, the Liberal Party went out of its way five years ago to shaft a popular, long-standing MP with a track record of service and integrity in favor of a boorish yob, a local mayor with more question marks than achievements next to his name.

Masters fought the blitzkrieg tooth and nail, but as is the way of these things, lost in the end. And for WA’s sins, one Troy Buswell was dumped into the state’s lap, baggage and all, bellowing and boozing and generally behaving like a provincial come to town for a spree. Which, of course, he was.

Should we be surprised that Buswell cheats on his wife, or that he cheated the taxpayer to pay for it? Should we really express any shock that a man who treats woman so appallingly as to s-xually harass them in Parliament House itself, should treat his wife with such contempt? Is all this really any more — or less — than we had a right to expect?

All political parties have their idiots, their embarrassments, their lapses of judgement. But this one’s a cracker.

Senior figures in the Liberal Party, old enough to know better, have been touting this fool as a future Premier for years. What that says about their political nous is obvious to anyone with a newspaper and the ability to read; if, that is, the choices of first Matt Birney and then Paul Omodei as leaders left anyone in any doubt to begin with.

Colin Barnett, the only man who could win an election (and we know that, because he did) was so far on the outer with his own party three years ago that he was the only state MP not to attend their planning and strategy session. Kim Hames, now deputy Premier, was such a decent, honest and hard-working MP that in the leadership ballot that elevated Buswell the first time he could only garner one vote — his own.

In racing parlance, it’d be fair to say the WA Liberals aren’t much judges of horseflesh.

Even as late as Tuesday morning, the foolishness continued. After Buswell’s press conference saw him admit to not merely adultery and deceit but also fraud and potential corruption, the recently deposed Treasurer still saw fit to argue that he should remain in his position. In this he was backed up by state Liberal president Barry Court, a professional descendant and political legatee if ever there was one. It was left, again, for Premier Barnett to state the screamingly obvious and demand Buswell’s resignation in Cabinet.

What a crew.

Barnett is an unlikely candidate for the position of sympathetic figure. Brusque, harsh and not overburdened with social graces, he’s the sort of politician who could leave the charm out of a charm offensive. But even he must be wondering what he’s done to deserve this; his premiership’s been distinguished more by putting out political spot fires than actually achieving anything. Be careful what you wish for, and all that sort of thing.

Is this the best the Liberals can do? Is Troy Buswell really the best they could offer WA? And if he wasn’t, why was he appointed in the first place?

The WA Liberal Party is one step away from descending into a rabble. With judgement such as theirs, you wouldn’t have much faith in their choice of federal candidates or state ministers, would you?

If Barnett cannot get his government’s act together and fast, he will find his support eroding very quickly. The electorate has a very good nose for scoundrels, fools and incompetence; better, it seems, than WA Liberals, who are now down one Treasurer and a whole lot of public trust.

How Bernie Masters must be enjoying this.

Peter Fray

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