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Jostling under way in Libs’ mounting yard

Hopefuls are getting into starting blocks for election 2005.

Others are still assessing likely numbers before deciding whether to attempt launching or re-launching parliamentary careers.

However, until the Supreme Court delivers its decision on the case Marquet v The Attorney General of WA, the Electoral Commission can’t know how bush and city seat numbers split, so cannot begin the scheduled redistribution.

Once the judgement is known the redistribution commissioners can get to work.

Several MPs have visited the commission so know its staff is eager to start.

One told me, after a recent visit, that the commission has computer programs accessing latest Bureau of Statistics demographic statistics, so when the bush-city seat split is known it’s only a matter of tapping keyboards and the voters in question will get allocated into appropriate seats.

But such technicalities don’t concern those planning moves on what are regarded in Liberal circles as desirable upper house spots or safe seats.

And that means eyes are focused on the Alfred Cove seat, which former minister Doug Shave lost to Liberals for Forest MLA, Janet Woollard.

Mr Shave is unlikely to re-contest Alfred Cove.

He feels his 2001 battering means it’s not a good pad to re-launch a second political career.

So he’s considering re-entry via the upper house, through South Metropolitan Province.

That’s bad news for current South Metropolitan members Simon O’Brien and Barbara Scott.

Mr O’Brien is seeking to shore up his position and one way is doing a deal with long-time Shave patron, veteran ex-Liberal powerbroker, Noel Crichton-Browne (NCB).

Mrs Scott’s future isn’t as sanguine.

Many say she’s reconciled to possibly being dumped or receiving an unwinnable spot on the ticket.

The top two spots could be reserved for Messrs O’Brien and Shave, with the order to be finalised.

But what of Alfred Cove?

Former Court Government minister Graham Kierath and Kalgoorlie MLA Matt Birney are both seriously considering it.

Mr Birney knows he hasn’t a hope in Hades of holding Kalgoorlie if a McGinty-style redistribution eventuates.

If he’s to be premier - something he’d like – he must find greener pastures. Alfred Cove, on the Swan, qualifies.

But it also appeals to Mr Kierath, who also sees himself as leadership material.

So a clash between them, with NCB backing Mr Birney, just as he’ll back Mr Shave, seems inevitable.

But Mr Shave is unpopular with those loyal to Liberal leader Colin Barnett .

“Regardless of Doug Shave’s personal ambitions, can I suggest that his future in politics is identical to Pangea Resources’ chances of establishing a nuclear waste dump in WA – non-existent,” Vasse MLA Bernie Masters recently wrote.

“I may be wrong. The Liberals for Forests will be looking for candidates at the next election.”

Mr Masters might be eating those words.

While focusing on south of the river Liberals there’s also Monica Holmes, who lost Southern Rivers and is now Tangney Division president.

Ms Holmes believes she did her apprenticeship in marginal Southern Rivers and feels she qualifies for something safer.

Because there are so few vacant safe State Liberal seats, Ms Holmes is seen as a likely contender for the Federal Tangney seat, held by Attorney General Daryl Williams.

It should be remembered that Mr Williams isn’t immune to challenges, particularly from women.

He was the only WA Federal Liberal to be challenged before the last Federal election.

Although he defeated his challenger – Melville Mayor Katie Mair – he’s still seen as fair game.

So don’t be surprised if Mrs Holmes moves on Tangney.

Mr Williams knows something’s brewing, since he recently hired former Liberal candidate and lawyer Andre Shannon as a Tangney troubleshooter.

As a last resort he could call on Prime Minister John Howard to make a plea for him, just as the PM did for his WA pal, now Consul General in Los Angeles, Allan Rocher.

One reason he did that was because Mr Rocher’s challenger was former Premier Richard Court’s brother, Ken, who was seen as having NCB backing.

If Mr Williams convinced the PM a push against him was NCB rearing his head again, in all likelihood Mr Howard – no NCB fan – would find reason to officially open something in Tangney.

There are several other likely challenges being considered, including the return of former Court Government Police Minister Kevin Prince, who lost Albany.

Like Mr Shave, he’s thought to be contemplating resurrection as an MLC, so is eyeing-off South West and agricultural provinces.

Mr Barnett would certainly welcome his return, as he’s a backer, unlike Messrs Shave and Kierath.

That could be crucial in coming leadership challenges.

Just imagine, Mr Barnett doing the unlikely and leading the Liberals to a 2005 victory, only to lose the premiership in a party room vote.

Surely resurrected Messrs Kierath and Shave wouldn’t plot anything like that.

Don’t bet on it.

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