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Federal politicans seek power beyond portfolio

THE Federal politicians judged to be most influential are those who both exercise power in their respective parties in Western Australia, and hold positions of some authority in Canberra.

On the Liberals side of the fence the major players are senators Ian Campbell and Chris Ellison, who have long been regarded as leading power players in WA, as well as rising star Julie Bishop.

All three of these people hold relatively junior ministries and will be aspiring to rise to more senior roles. They will also continue trying to shape the WA Liberal Party.

Ms Bishop had been considered a close supporter of treasurer Peter Costello, and it was considered this might stifle her career progress under Prime Minister John Howard.

Despite this, she was rewarded last year with her appointment as minister for ageing.

Senator Campbell has been active in the Liberal party for many years, having been State president of the Young Liberals in 1982 and 1983.

Last October he was finally promoted to the junior ministry, as minister for local government, territories and roads.

Senator Ellison has held junior ministerial positions since 1997 and has been minister for justice and customs since 2001.

A fourth influential Liberal is Senator David Johnston, a former State president who is yet to obtain a senior role in Canberra.

Dropping off the most influential list this year is Communications Minister Daryl Williams, who announced in April his intention to retire at the next Federal election, which is likely to be held in the next few months.

His retirement means the safe seat of Tangney is up for grabs, and Senator Campbell is reportedly one of the people considering seeking pre-selection.

On the Labor side of the fence, the most senior person from WA is Stephen Smith, who holds the electorate of Perth and is factionally aligned with State president Michelle Roberts, a leader of the ‘new right’ faction.

Mr Smith was a strong backer of Kim Beazley and consequently the ascension of Mark Latham to the leadership of the Labor Party has dented his career path.

He is still in the shadow ministry but his portfolio of immigration is a major demotion from his previous roles, when he was spokesman on health and communications.

Mr Smith’s successor as State secretary of the Labor Party was Senator Chris Evans, who is Labor’s defence spokesman.

The Labor senator making the biggest news in recent weeks has been Mark Bishop, who is Labor customs spokes-man and, more importantly, a member of the ‘right’ faction.

It was Senator Bishop who first raised allegations of vote rigging against two major left-wing unions.

His allegations have opened a can of worms for Labor, which is now struggling to manage a succession of embarrassing revelations about branch stacking and vote rigging.

Former premier Carmen Lawrence is considered a write-off by many observers.

Nevertheless, her influence in the Labor Party was highlighted last year when she won a popular vote for the position of party president.

The final Federal politician on the most influential list is Democrats senator Andrew Murray.

His term as a senator lasts until June 2008, so even if support for the Democrats collapses at the next election, he will be around for several years.

This could place him in a powerful position.

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