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Back to the court

WHILE much of the focus on the new state government’s advisers has been on the newcomers from Canberra, most of the key players are locals, many with experience from the previous Liberal government of Richard Court. First among those is Deirdre Willmott, who has returned to the role of chief of staff to the premier, having worked interstate in the intervening years and then played a major role in guiding policy at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA. With political ambitions of her own, Ms Willmott found herself in the odd position of having to give up running for the seat of Cottesloe – for which she was pre-selected – to allow her now boss Colin Barnett to head the opposition. She was also considering running for the federal Senate vacancy, which opens up with the retirement of Senator Chris Ellison, but did not nominate. Deputy Premier and Health Minister Kim Hames has, it appears, picked up his old office from the Court government days, employing Ian Wight-Pickins as chief of staff and David Allier as a policy adviser. Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore has appointed former Bunbury Wellington Economic Alliance CEO Trevor Whittington as his chief of staff. Mr Whittington worked for Mr Moore in the previous Liberal government. Sean David is an adviser. Another influential adviser is Doug Cunningham, who is Nationals WA leader Brendon Grylls’ chief of staff and also touts a background going back to the days of the Court government where he worked for transport minister Eric Charlton. He is joined by another Court government adviser, Chris Morris, on the policy side. Another influential player from the Court government era is Paul Plowman, who has been appointed director of communications within Premier and Cabinet, including oversight of the Government Media Office, which appoints media advisers to most of the ministers. Mr Plowman worked as an adviser in the early Court years before establishing his own public relations and lobbying firm, Atticus Communications. Other characters in key roles are Damian Creedon, who was previously a lawyer with the state Director of Public Prosecutions office, working as chief of staff for Attorney-General Christian Porter, assisted by policy adviser Peter Phillips. Conservative commentator Tony Rutherford is running Education Minister Liz Constable’s office. An adviser to federal Liberals, including government of John Howard, Mr Rutherford has a background in conservative policy debate and, interestingly, has co-authored works with newly-elected Riverton MLA Mike Nahan, including a 1993 book published by the Institute of Public Affairs entitled Reform and Recovery: An Agenda for the New Western Australian Government, aimed at giving a policy direction to Mr Court’s government. Keetha Wilkinson, ex-adviser to former opposition leader Matt Birney, has taken a role with Water Minister Graham Jacobs. Police Minister Rob Johnson’s decision to take a former adviser to Eric Ripper, Richard Lang, as chief-of-staff raised eyebrows although he is viewed as simply an apolitical member of the bureaucracy

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