31/01/2006 - 21:00

Joe Poprzeczny: State Scene - Carpenter has stripes to earn

31/01/2006 - 21:00


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Despite some people contending otherwise there was, from the moment Geoff Gallop resigned, never any doubt that Alan Carpenter would become premier.

Joe Poprzeczny: State Scene - Carpenter has stripes to earn

Despite some people contending otherwise there was, from the moment Geoff Gallop resigned, never any doubt that Alan Carpenter would become premier.

State Scene backs this contention by directing readers to a quickly-composed 670-word comment article for this newspaper headlined, ‘Carpenter Looking Good for Top Job’ (WA Business News, January 19) which, among other things, said: “Mr Carpenter, like [former premier] Mr [Peter] Dowding, is therefore set for a dream run into Western Australia’s top political job.”

Whether Michelle Roberts’ bid was a miscalculation because of undertakings ex-premier Brian Burke gave her is irrelevant, as were activities he may have been involved in to ensure Leftist powerbroker Jim McGinty never ascended to greater heights.

The fact is neither Mr McGinty nor Mrs Roberts was a credible premiership candidate.

Polls conclusively showed this about Mrs Roberts and anyone doubting it in relation to Mr McGinty should read his ministerial website biography, where no reference exists to the fact that he resigned as Labor leader after two hapless years to make way for the telegenic and now ill Dr Gallop.

His resignation in October 1996 came after Labor’s realisation that it was heading for an electoral wipe-out in December that year because of his dismal showing in party-financed polling.

That ordeal remains at the forefront of his mind, and in the minds of many others, who consequently baulked at seeing him as leader again.

Furthermore, this time around there was the added factor of Mr McGinty not wanting to go down in history as another John Tonkin, who lost power to the Liberals in 1974, and Carmen Lawrence, who lost it in 1993.

Why not remain a party king-pin, have a finger in every big spending pie, and not risk possible and life-long ignominy?

Instead, let relative new chum and factionally powerless Alan Carpenter become party flak catcher.

This contention doesn’t ignore that Mr Burke was peripherally involved in some of the less relevant wheeling and dealing surrounding the inevitable Carpenter ascendancy.

It could be no other way.

Mr Burke, a long-time arch-tactician of Labor’s right faction, is someone who relishes the cut and thrust of number crunching.

So just to be sure, Mr Burke, who rarely takes risks, inevitably became tangentially involved to help ensure against Mr McGinty emerging as leader, and at the same time hopefully gaining something for factional buddies.

Remember, the last time he took a risk was on advice of several of the state’s less reputable businessmen, and look what happened; jail, destruction of a planned federal parliamentary career, and an unwelcomed record that’s now in the history books.

However, Mr Burke’s involvement had more to do with ensuring that long-time pal and political loyalist, Norm Marlborough, could gain ministerial rank, something Dr Gallop wouldn’t countenance.

There’s also the far more critical matter of his lawyer daughter, Sarah, who aspires to follow in the footsteps of her father, uncle, and late grandfather, all of whom became MPs.

An array of side deals needed to be done to help enhance Ms Burke’s eventual effort at a clear run for a state or federal seat.

If Mr Burke remained aloof from the Gallop-to-Carpenter leadership transfer there was a greater likelihood of Ms Burke remaining in the cold.

In Labor one simply has to be in it to win it; otherwise one is assured of losing it.

And Mr Burke, more than anyone, knows this.

However, with the leadership now resolved and sideshow wheeling and dealing over, where do things stand?

Well, it’s pretty clear that the guiding consideration underlying Labor’s decision to opt for the telegenic Mr Carpenter was to ensure it wins the next election, the contest that’s due in 36 months.

Although at this stage the Liberals, under Matt Birney, look as if they’ll remain in opposition until 2013 and perhaps beyond, the one thing Laborites always do is ‘run scared’.

With opting for Mr McGinty or Ms Roberts seen to be risking defeat, Mr Carpenter was the inevitable and only choice.

That said it’s worthwhile considering Labor’s down side, its achievements, or lack of them, from the Gallop years.

What positives did the 2001-2006 years bring WA? Sadly, the answer is, very few.

There’s been a lot of huff and puff about the so-called ‘process-driven’ Gallop administration. But sit down for a moment or two and attempt to name a real or tangible gain.

And State Scene doesn’t want to hear of the banning of logging of so-called old growth forests, since many were re-growth tracts.

The reason for this is there’s absolutely nothing environmentally unwise or short-sighted about farming timber, logging if you like, as long as the practice is sustainable, meaning that the timber farmed or logged never exceeds that which is being augmented by annual growth.

Nor is State Scene swayed by hearing of the alleged saving of Ningaloo Reef, where a thoroughly well-regulated resort at Maud’s Landing was denied a go-ahead, yet we now hear that nearby Coral Bay is to be the venue of a flash hotel complex.

That said, there’s little else to highlight.

The Gallop years were ones of ever-rising taxes and charges, a far bigger than necessary bureaucracy, and a premier’s department that was already overmanned under former premier Richard Court but nevertheless was further expanded.

Then there’s the infamous Perth-to-Mandurah railway that’s set to despoil the foreshore along Melville Waters as well as the CBD’s southern or river foreshore gateway.

Quite frankly, it’s difficult to find anyone who can convincingly argue that metropolitan Perth needed such a costly and long-term debt-creating burden before about 2020.

And to compound this premature move Dr Gallop and Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan then botched this project by failing to take the opportunity to sink the ugly railway yard between the Horseshoe Bridge and the Mitchell Freeway so as to link the CBD and Northbridge.

Let’s also not forget ever-present Mr McGinty.

What has he done? Oh, yes, of course, his so-called one-vote-one-value legislation lands Western Australians with four extra politicians after May 2009; up from a hefty 91 to an even heftier 95.

Well done Mr McGinty. As if we don’t have enough of them.

And nothing at all happened in the areas of parliamentary and democratic reform.

Dr Gallop, in 2000, publicly promised a referendum to ask Western Australians if they wanted to elect state governors.

What happened?

That promise was quietly sandbagged just before the February 2001 election by excluding it from that election’s Labor manifesto.

In other words, it was dishonoured before the election rather than after it, which is something of a historic first in political promising breaking.

Where does this performance leave Western Australians five years on?

Well, in a far worse position than we all were in February 2001.

But despair is the greatest of all the sins so let us not commit it.

For good or ill we are left with Mr Carpenter.

Like him or dislike him, he has 36 months to steer the ship of state back towards a sensible path, meaning lower taxes and charges, a trimmed public sector, and proper and orderly planning in the infrastructure area.

Several pronouncements he’s made since, and before, becoming premier indicate he just might well be capable of doing precisely that.

If not, to heck with it.

Vote for the less than impressive Mr Birney, if he’s still Liberal leader.


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