Private life offers rewards
Mr Dowding works as a barrister specialising in the corporate end of family law, where people are unravelling their corporate relationships along with their personal ones.
He also sits on the boards of three public companies – Biotech International, miner turned vehicle gas technology supplier St Francis Group and wedding-related services Internet portal E-Bridal.
Mr Dowding won the Legislative Council seat of North Province in 1980 and rose rapidly through Australian Labor Party ranks.
“I had been involved with the Labor Party since I was a teenager,” he said.
Mr Dowding held various ministerial portfolios in Brian Burke’s government before replacing him as Premier.
“Burke was younger than I was when he left in 1988. Most of my contemporaries were either my age or younger,” he said.
The events of 1990, particularly a spill within the ALP’s caucus, led to his political retirement.
“I don’t have any regrets about leaving politics. Life as a politician is very tough and unyielding,” Mr Dowding said.
“It’s hard on one and one’s family. It’s hard to see, at the end of the day, the rewards of the job.”
Mr Dowding has also been involved with Native Title law since it first arose in 1994.
“Whenever a new law is introduced, particularly one that is so different to what was there before, there is going to be a settling period,” he said.
“People need to learn how it works. People who’ve been kept out of legal matters, such as the aboriginal people, have to learn to deal with their new legal rights.
“It’s like a major tax law or land law change. This is an evolving type of law. It also has very big economic consequences attached to it.
“Many mining companies have learnt to deal with a Native Title environment but there are some, driven by a lack of good will, who will probably never deal with the problem sensibly.
“You can see that from the extraordinary reaction, from a vocal few, to Cathy Freeman lighting the Olympic cauldron.”
Mr Dowding said the companies he directed were not spectacular high-flyers but were interesting and offered a challenge.
“The Australian economy is dependent on the successful growth of all sorts of companies,” he said.
“We don’t just rely on the BHPs, the CRAs and the Telstras. The economy is built on small innovative businesses.
“Unfortunately there is a severe lack of seed capital to fund these ventures.
“We have conservative companies with considerable money in superannuation funds and banks that are probably the most profitable in the world, living in cosseted environments.
“They are not providing the lifeblood of seed capital.”
Mr Dowding believes 11 seats will pose too much of a challenge to the ALP.
“Politics in WA has become more volatile than it used to be. Parties can’t rely on traditional blocks of votes going one way or the other,” he said.
“I think the Liberals will be pretty nervous. I thought (Premier Richard) Court would call the election during the Olympics but it looks like they’re going to run their full term and I think that is good.
“I believe all elections – national, state and local government – should be held on the same day, just as they are in the US system.
“It leads to a more cohesive country. It prevents one State from offering its employees a better deal because it is contesting an election and the other States getting caught with it.”