25/05/2004 - 22:00

Joe Poprzeczny - State Scene: Cadby dumping could cost

25/05/2004 - 22:00

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THE 56-to-54-vote at last Saturday’s Liberal Party State Council, confirming the dumping of single term upper house MP Alan Cadby, clears the way for a February State election.

THE 56-to-54-vote at last Saturday’s Liberal Party State Council, confirming the dumping of single term upper house MP Alan Cadby, clears the way for a February State election.

Mr Cadby was dumped for controversial Scotch College teacher Peter Collier because the party’s ruling factional chiefs wanted it so.

Until last Saturday it still seemed Premier Geoff Gallop would opt for an election in early December 2004, like his predecessor, Richard Court, had done at the end of his first term.

Pundits in mid-1996 were predicting a February 1997 poll, but Mr Court surprised them and his parliamentary colleagues by going for December 1996.

That caught cash-strapped Labor, which had just dumped its leader Jim McGinty for the still largely unknown Dr Gallop, on the back foot.

How does denying Mr Cadby the opportunity of continuing what promised to be a successful parliamentary career impact on the election date?

The answer is found in a three-page letter acquired by State Scene.

Headed ‘Urgent – A Personal Letter to Divisional Presidents’, it was written by Liberal deputy and electoral affairs spokesman Dan Sullivan.

It’s worth noting that Mr Sullivan played a key role in organising a statewide fundraising campaign that raised several hundred thousand dollars to bankroll two costly Supreme Court and a High Court challenge to Labor’s one-vote-one-value legislation.

The Max Trenorden-led Nationals, rural shires and Western Australia’s two major farming groups, the Pastoralists and Graziers and the WA Farmers’ Federation, wholeheartedly backed that campaign.

Because such a line-up is so rare it’s little wonder Mr Sullivan headed his letter about the possibility of State council confirming Mr Cadby’s dumping as “Urgent”.

Labor’s one-vote-one-value plan, which strips rural WA of eight seats and earmarks them for metropolitan Perth, failed to pass the upper house with an absolute majority by just one vote. It gained 17 Labor and Green votes to 16 Liberal, National and One Nation ones, not the required 18 votes to 15, or better.

But Mr Cadby’s dumping now has State council’s blessing.

And he’s written to Liberal Party State president, Danielle Blain, saying: “If the State council supports the recommendation of the north metropolitan’s pre-selection committee and the result stands, then I will take it as a vote of no confidence in me as a Liberal Member.”

That paragraph is variously interpreted.

Some say he’ll resign from the party and go on to back the one-vote-one-value plan if Labor reintroduces it.

Others claim he’ll accept the upper house presidency – now held by Labor’s John Cowdell – which would mean the 17 votes to 16 would be transformed to the needed 18 votes to 15, meaning Labor’s one-vote-one-value plan electorally would become law in time for a February 2005 election, not an earlier one.

Let Mr Sullivan’s urgent letter outline what all State councillors knew as they marked ballots at last Saturday’s crucial Cadby-Collier vote.

It begins by saying he’d been contacted by members who were concerned Labor’s one-vote-one-value plan may be reintroduced.

“Labor and the Greens combined have 18 members in the upper house, but the president, who does not have a deliberative vote, is a Labor member, leaving just 17 members to participate in the vote – one short of an absolute majority,” Mr Sullivan wrote.

“If, however, a current Liberal upper house member were to become independent and vote with Labor on this legislation, it would pass with an absolute majority.”

Mr Sullivan then said Labor could achieve the same outcome if it offered such an independent the upper house’s presidency.

“Either way, we would be absolutely powerless to stop Labor’s so-called one-vote-one-value legislation in parliament or in the courts,” he continued.

“Once passed, the law would gain the assent and form the basis of a new electoral system for WA.

“I have spoken personally with the electoral commissioner who advised that, provided Labor passed the legislation quickly, she would have time to organise a completely new electoral redistribution, based on the new law, in time for an election in February 2005.”

In fact, the Electoral Commission has a one-vote-one-value redistribution, having compiled it when the issue was in dispute before the superior courts since it was unsure of the outcome.

Mr Sullivan then revealed that he and a party psephologist had assessed the impact of Labor’s one-vote-one-value plan, which could be put in place for a February election.

 “It is no exaggeration that the prospects of a Liberal win at the next State election would be diminished very significantly,” he said.

“For example, the Kalgoorlie electorate would virtually double in size, expanding into strong Labor areas.

“New Liberal seats like Capel, Serpentine-Jarradale, Vasse and Moore would be replaced.

“Bunbury, currently with a winnable margin of just 0.2 per cent, would become safer for Labor.

“And some country electorates like Geraldton and Greenough would be combined virtually into one seat. The political landscape in the metropolitan area would provide few additional Liberal-leaning seats, while Labor would gain more favour and Labor-leaning seats.”

Mr Sullivan’s warning makes dismal reading for Liberals.

Notwithstanding that State council voted 56 to 54 for Mr Collier.

But for two votes, the risk of seeing an entirely different electoral distribution arrangement adopted that Mr Sulllivan warned against could have been laid to rest.

Instead it’s set to haunt the Liberals and party leader Colin Barnett over the coming weeks, and maybe at the next election.

Many threatened Liberals MPs are now likely to take a quite contrary view to what 56 State councillors decided upon.

Some may even quiz Mr Barnett on why he failed to come out strongly for Mr Cadby, who fell just two votes short of gaining re-endorsement – something Mr Barnett didn’t hesitate to do in another upper house seat where a sitting member was similarly dumped but was reinstated by State council last Saturday.

That contradictory stand may have unintended consequences, especially at next Tuesday’s Liberal Party parliamentary meeting.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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