For Western Australia’s business and political elite, it’s the Holy Grail of jobs: a Liberal Senate seat over east to get the state’s interests onto the national agenda.
That prize is up for grabs with the announcement that Mathias Cormann will retire from politics at the end of the year.
A shopping list of Perth identities has already emerged, with most of the names plucked from the state’s powerful business and mining lobbies.
As the vetting process gets underway, Crikey takes a look at the candidates, and what kind of personal and political interests they might bring to the job.
Number one on the list is reportedly Paul Everingham, the chief executive of Western Australia’s powerful Chamber of Minerals and Energy. Everingham is a lobbyist first and foremost, but he says he doesn’t play party favourites. “I’m not an ideologue,” he told The West in 2018. “I’ve never been particularly partisan.”
His resume tells a slightly different story. The one-time corporate banker was a senior advisor to the Commonwealth Treasury and a state director of the WA Liberal Party from 2003-2005. Following that he set up his own lobby group, GRA Everingham, which is now a part of PR and marketing conglomerate Clemenger BBDO.
Everingham is also a director of lobby group Newgate Communications. Newgate represents some of the biggest names in Australian business, including Qantas, Tabcorp, Macquarie Group and Whitehaven Coal. It also has some powerful overseas clients on its books, such as Google, TikTok, and the China Mengniu Dairy Company.
Everingham is reportedly close to Attorney-General Christian Porter, and he is currently sitting on Porter’s IR steering groups.
Another name being thrown around is WA Liberal state director Sam Calabrese. Calabrese is about as rusted on as they get, and is one of the younger names on the list. He’s spent most of his career working his way up the Liberal Party’s WA division, during which time he, among other things, endorsed this talent release form that sought to ban people who appeared in Liberal Party ads from criticising or satirising the party for five years. He’s also spent some time as an adviser to former WA premier Colin Barnett.
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Rick Newnham is one of the corporate names to make the list. He’s a project principal at Wesfarmers and a former Shell employee, where he claims to have helped negotiate commercial agreements in the North West Shelf. He’s also a former director of policy and campaigns at the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the state’s main employer lobby group.
Brewer is a marketing director and current executive director of the Property Council of WA, another powerful lobby group that represents the state’s property investors and developers. The council has recently been pushing to reduce the tax on overseas investors as part of a COVID-19 recovery plan. The plan was reportedly devised with input from industry heavyweights including banks, Lendlease, Mirvac and Andrew Forrest’s private business entity Tattarang.
Anna Dartnell is a mining executive who was in the running to replace Julie Bishop as the federal Liberal candidate for Curtin at last year’s election. She lost the preselection battle to Celia Hammond. Dartnell is the general manager for rail freight company Aurizon’s iron ore operations and has reportedly been the president of the Lib’s Nedlands branch.