08/06/2004 - 22:00

Joe Poprzeczny - State Scene: To handball or run with it

08/06/2004 - 22:00


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STATE Scene first raised the prospect of an upper house Liberal MP resigning from his party, and paving the way for the re-introduction and successful passage of Attorney-General Jim McGinty’s one-vote-one-value draft legislation through that chamber, on

STATE Scene first raised the prospect of an upper house Liberal MP resigning from his party, and paving the way for the re-introduction and successful passage of Attorney-General Jim McGinty’s one-vote-one-value draft legislation through that chamber, on April 15.

Former Liberal Alan Cadby was identified in that column as one who could opt to resign because his party’s powerful ‘northern alliance’ clique was conspiring to remove him from a winnable spot on the Liberals’ north metropolitan ticket.

Notwithstanding that, on May 5 (nearly three weeks after that column had appeared and Mr Cadby had been allocated the unwinnable fifth places on that ticket) he told the ABC he was not considering quitting to become an independent.

Last week he did just that.

A transcript of that ABC report reads: “Mr Cadby has been dumped for the seat of north metropolitan in favour of Curtin divisional president Peter Collier.

“Senior Liberals have told the ABC they are concerned Mr Cadby could quit the party and give the Government the final vote it needs to pass its one-vote-one-value electoral reforms.

“But Mr Cadby says he has no plans to do so and does not know where the speculation is coming from.”

What Mr Cadby was banking on was that the (then) still-to-come Liberal State Council meeting might reject north metropolitan’s preselection vote and reinstate him, something it failed to do by just two votes.

The ABC report continued: “Premier Geoff Gallop says he would gratefully accept Mr Cadby’s vote but says the Government will not revisit its one-vote-one-value legislation before the next election.”

And, as of last week, when Mr Cadby resigned and became an independent, Dr Gallop hadn’t budged from his May 5 line.

One question worth asking is whether Dr Gallop, like Mr Cadby, could have a change of heart.

And if not, why not?

All the evidence State Scene has been shown indicates that if Dr Gallop moved in the next two or so weeks he’d have adequate time to reintroduce the McGinty bills and Western Australians could go to a February election on electoral boundaries that reflect one-vote-one-value.

That would mean eight, over-represented rural seats would have been transferred into metropolitan Perth.

Moreover, Labor would enter such an election contesting 15 marginal seats with the conservatives having to win 13 of them, whereas under current boundaries Labor faces just 10 marginals with the conservatives needing to win just five to regain government.

With such a situation confronting Dr Gallop – and with him remaining adamant that he won’t permit Mr McGinty to proceed to enhance Labor’s chance of being returned – one is compelled to conclude that the premier is privy to some quite definitive polling showing the Barnett-led conservatives are headed for defeat at the coming election.

That’s not entirely surprising since Mr Barnett has failed to poll well as an alternative to Dr Gallop, and hasn’t even managed to inspire his colleagues.

However, if such sanguine Labor polling isn’t at hand and Dr Gallop loses the election he’ll go down in WA Labor history as its biggest-ever political bungler.

Readers should remember that Western Australian Labor has campaigned doggedly since at least the early 1970s for electoral reform, meaning first and foremost, one-vote-one-value.

And today, and for the next few weeks, Labor’s in the position of actually being able to achieve this, thanks to Mr Cadby’s unequivocal signal that he’s prepared to pave its way through the upper house, where it failed by one conservative vote to become law.

Should Labor lose the coming election, Dr Gallop risks being compared to the dog that chased and chased vehicles and when it was finally about to catch one, didn’t know what to do with it.

It would be as ignominious as that.

Now he fears electoral repercussions.

Nor should Mr McGinty be quickly let off the hook.

It was he, after all, who cost each of his Labor colleagues $5,000 in 1995 when he unsuccessfully challenged Western Australia’s electoral arrangements in the High Court.

It was also he who cost Western Australian taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars last year by again trekking off to the High Court, and earlier to WA’s Supreme Court, over the upper house’s vote.

Yet, despite all this, he’s now mute.

Perhaps he should be reminded that a former Labor electoral affairs minister, Arthur Tonkin, when in a similar position, resigned his cabinet post on learning that then premier Brian Burke had decided not to proceed in pressuring the conservatives on electoral reform.

Mr Tonkin’s resignation letter of April 22 1986 concluded: “The question arises: why is it that in WA our Labor politicians are so loath to tackle genuine electoral reform when it has been achieved so remarkably by Labor Governments in South Australia, NSW and Victoria?

“Pragmatism in politics is necessary.

“But there is a line beyond which we should not go.

“When that line has been reached is a matter of judgement by each individual person.

“I believe that there has been a betrayal of basic principles. Such a course of action makes politics an ephemeral plaything.”

Clearly, Dr Gallop and Mr McGinty see being returned to power as far more important than what they’ve always argued was electoral justice.

Another question one could ask is what would they do if Mr Cadby grasped Mr McGinty’s draft legislation for them and re-introduced it himself into the upper house. Would they ‘run with the ball’ or, like now, continue running away from it?

State Scene raises this because it has been suggested this may happen.


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