WITH Clive Brown announcing his intention to retire from politics at the next election, and assuming that Labor is returned to office, one question looms large – who will replace him as State Development Minister?
Mr Brown, on announcing his retirement, declined to suggest who might be his successor but said that he would be staying on in the role until the next election to see some major projects through.
From the industry point of view the list of replacements is not long – it is limited to three cabinet ministers, two parliamentary secretaries and a back bencher – however, there is strong agreement on them.
Of the current front benchers only three names come up – Attorney General and Health Minister Jim McGinty; Deputy Premier and Energy Minister Eric Ripper; and Education Minister Alan Carpenter.
Of those, Mr McGinty is seen to be the least likely candidate, mainly because of the profile of his current portfolios.
While Mr Ripper has had a torrid time of late with Western Power, industry sources say they would be happy to see him in the State Development role if he were to put energy aside.
His efforts to bring change to Western Australia’s electricity market, albeit unrealised, have won him some friends.
The unknown quantity is Mr Carpenter, mainly because he has had little to do with industry groups.
However, he is well respected as a minister and for his ability to think strategically – something considered essential for the portfolio.
On the parliamentary secretary front the standouts are Mark McGowan and Ken Travers.
Mr McGowan is seen as a rising star within Labor ranks and was considered unlucky to have missed out on a cabinet post when the party won office in 2001.
He is parliamentary secretary to Premier Geoff Gallop and, with the exposure to that office, would be considered to have the prerequisites for the job.
The one thing standing out against that are rumours that he may take on the Federal seat of Brand and be lost to State politics.
Mr Travers is parliamentary secretary to Mr Brown and also thought to be something of an up and comer in party ranks.
He has the benefit of being exposed to the day-to-day duties of the job.
His position as a Member of Legislative Council is also considered to be something of a plus because it means he does not have to be as electorate-focused as a Member of the Legislative Assembly would need to be.
The outsider for the job is thought to be Member for Eyre John Bowler, who is seen to be a competent politician.
Mr Brown said he decided to step down at the next election because he was not sure he would have the energy to do the portfolio justice by the end of the next parliamentary term.
He said he had several ideas about what he would like to do when he left politics but would not be assessing them until his term finishes.
“I would like to be involved in some sort of international aid organisation,” Mr Brown said.
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