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Dearth of As on 2001 political report card

CHRISTMAS is a time to relax, eat, drink, and contemplate.

Perhaps some in our political parties will even reflect on the year that has just passed.

If the leaderships of WA’s six formalised political groups did that they’d encounter a mixed picture of performances.

WA’s currently dominant political group, the ALP, shouldn’t feel triumphant, for it won the Treasury benches in February largely by default and has done little since to write home about.

Labor Premier Geoff Gallop may be judged as having taken up his post with ease, but his government has given little in the way of lasting reforms.

Business continues to be unduly weighed down by high and burden-some slugs, especially payroll tax and high-energy costs.

Things are so bad with payroll tax that this revenue source will make up about 40 per cent of WA’s domestically derived revenue by 2004.

The Gallop-Ripper premium property tax debacle showed that a virulent streak of socialist envy survives deep within the Labor party.

Was it primarily a Treasurer Eric Ripper initiative or was Dr Gallop perhaps behind this silly decision?

The fact is, neither dreamed it up.

The idea came from a keen State Treasury bureaucrat who keeps a sharp eye on how other States tax and, when this Sydney scheme reached Cabinet, it resulted in a collective licking of chops.

When it was unveiled to Labor’s Caucus there was, wait for it, unanimous clapping by front and backbenchers alike.

No wonder no one is keen to discuss it now.

Efforts at half-hearted token tinkering, such as the wasteful so-called community drug summit and the ineffectual Robson task force report on education, were nothing special.

Nor were things markedly better in the more conservative side of politics.

Both previous conservative leaders, Richard Court and Hendy Cowan, promptly deserted their constituents after their votes were counted.

Mr Court couldn’t wait to move into a relaxed career as a mining and machinery industry consultant while Mr Cowan, although seemingly departing to assist his party federally, did nothing of the sort.

He never had a hope in Hades of winning a Senate spot.

Not since the Nationals lost the seat held by the late Tom Drake-Brockman in 1977 have they had WA Senate representation.

The immediate post-WA election leadership debacle involving Curtin MHR Julie Bishop, even though she wasn’t in State Parliament, to thwart current Liberal leader Colin Barnett, remains a measure of the latter’s acceptance by colleagues.

That said, he gets a pat on the head for at least keeping his party together and performing credibly, under the circumstances, by retaining the seat Mr Court so hastily vacated and for performing moderately well in the Merredin by-election.

Where he and Nationals leader Max Trenorden dismally fail is that their parties remain policy and imaginative ideas-free zones.

Liberal and National Party conferences continue to be social affairs rather than hard-headed events where policies are debated and developed.

The policy development machinery is non-existent.

Things are just ticking over in Liberal and Nationals ranks, in the hope Labor’s bungles eventually return them to power.

The Democrats have simply vanished from the State scene.

If it wasn’t for Senator Andrew Murray, who gained the required preferences from the various conservative parties, and colleague Senator Brian Greig from last election, WA would be without a Democrat in either Parliament.

WA’s One Nation troika – John Fischer, Frank Hough and Paddy Embry – although shaping up to becoming quite stolid MLCs, are paying the price of Pauline Hanson’s silly “kick the b….s out” strategy.

That meant One Nation handed the balance of power in the Council to the leftist Greens, thereby making themselves legislatively irrelevant.

But the troika appears to have unshackled itself from Ms Hanson and their local adviser, former Liberal powerbroker Noel Crichton-Browne, two moves from which they can only gain.

Which brings us to the Greens – akin to the Dr Jim Cairns (rem-

ember him?) wing of the ALP.

Not only do they hold the balance of power in the Council, they’re using their newfound strength.

So Attorney-General Jim McGinty’s electoral changes and the laws on homosexuality are ensured of quick passage.

Electoral reform – McGinty and Greens-style – means WA is set to get two extra MLCs after election day 2004.

That’s at least another million dollars annually, rising at about 5 per cent a year for the rest of the 21st century and beyond.

What outcomes their changes to laws on unorthodox sexual proclivities will bring to family and individual lives as well as WA society at large remains anyone’s guess at this stage.

And while bikie gang warfare and other crime continues alongside widespread burglaries and other largely unsolved crimes, particularly in the suburbs, the Gallop Government has launched a $15 million royal commission. What into? The police force, of course.

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