06/08/2008 - 22:00

Liberals reap what they sow

06/08/2008 - 22:00


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The attributes of a good leader include the ability to plan for the long term and put in place a succession plan.

Liberals reap what they sow

The attributes of a good leader include the ability to plan for the long term and put in place a succession plan.

On these criteria, it has been many years since the Liberal Party in Western Australia has had a good leader.

The latest turmoil is a tragic indictment of the powers-that-be in the party, which has been riven by factional disputes and personality clashes for far too long.

This week's resignation of Troy Buswell as party leader is also the latest example of wasted talent.

Mr Buswell has many attributes but unfortunately will be remembered for his dreadful lapses of personal judgement.

Mr Buswell's early demise shows that the Liberals were too hasty in elevating him to the leadership, just like they were too hasty in elevating a young and inexperienced Matt Birney to the leadership a few years ago.

Now they have lost Mr Birney from politics, stopgap leader Paul Omodei is embittered by his treatment and Mr Buswell is severely damaged as a result of his bra-snapping and chair-sniffing antics.

The current problems stem in large part from the factional disputes of the 1990s and the early part of this decade.

Who remembers the unseemly battle after Richard Court lost power in 2000?

Many Liberals at that time were united by only one thing - their dislike of heir-apparent Colin Barnett, who was seen as autocratic and aloof from his parliamentary colleagues.

This led to the creation of the so-called ABC faction, which stood for 'Anyone but Colin'.

Some Liberals even tried to draft federal MP Julie Bishop back to state politics, but that plan went nowhere.

It would be an extraordinary turn of events if the party turned back to former leader Mr Barnett, as appears likely at the time of writing, to lead them out of their current dark period.

They might take some comfort from John Howard's electoral success after his dismal failure when he first became opposition leader in the mid 1980s.

Irrespective of whether Mr Barnett takes the leadership this week, the Liberals need to focus on building a strong team that can take the fight up to the government.

Current MPs such as Christian Porter, Kim Hames, Steve Thomas and Simon O'Brien have the makings of a solid team.

Add in some new talent, like endorsed Cottesloe candidate Deidre Willmott and upper house candidate Michael Mischin, and the party starts to look more than respectable.

WA Business News is keen to see a strong opposition because that is a crucial ingredient in good government.

No matter who is in power, the governing party needs to be subject to close and continual scrutiny, from the media, from community and business groups, and from the opposition parties.

With an election in the wings, the people of Western Australia deserve to have a credible alternative.

While Labor must be considered a favourite to retain power, it is amazing how quickly electoral fortunes can change.

Just look at federal politics. In the space of less than a year, John Howard went from the powerful leader of a united government to being on the nose with the electorate.

Conversely, the Labor opposition went from ineffectual under Kim Beazley to being a cohesive alternative government under Kevin Rudd.

The rest is history.



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