17/09/2002 - 22:00

McGinty wins in Mr Average stakes

17/09/2002 - 22:00


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IS there such a thing as a typical WA politician?Though not an easy question to answer quickly, first and foremost, they typically belong to political parties.

McGinty wins in Mr Average stakes
IS there such a thing as a typical WA politician?

Though not an easy question to answer quickly, first and foremost, they typically belong to political parties.

However, WA has three who don’t – Phillip Pendal, Larry Graham and Liz Constable – but only the last entered parliament without party backing.

Dr Constable opted to go it alone, bucking Liberal factional dominance and in the process trouncing an endorsed Liberal.

Her emergence, however, is the exception.

Messrs Pendal and Graham entered parliament with party endorsement but, for various reasons, they cut ties with their parties.

Even new Alfred Cove MLA Janet Woollard didn’t buck this firmly entrenched trend.

She and her husband created a party – Liberals for Forests – and unseated Liberal minister Doug Shave, who bungled the administration of the finance brokering industry.

The remaining 88 members, or 96.7 per cent, are party loyalists.

But what of their less obvious traits?

A good place to begin searching for leads is the rarely mentioned WA Parliamentary Handbook.

This tome carries a host of valuable information about WA’s past and present parliamentary contingents.

The latest, compiled by Curtin University academic Professor David Black and the Legislative Assembly’s deputy clerk, John Mandy, is a sizeable 420 pages.

Twenty editions have been released since the handbook was first released in 1922.

“This publication is recommended to both serious scholars and those with a more casual interest in the WA Parliament and its history,” the handbook’s introduction says.

As well as giving MPs’ birthdays, it names their places of birth.

Although most are native-born West Aussies, a surprisingly high number, 18, is from the Old Dart, including two from Wales – Nick Griffiths and Bob Kucera.

Only one is continental European – Ljiljanna Ravlich, from Split in Croatia – with Liberal deputy Dan Sullivan from Kuching, Sarawak, the only Asia-born MP.

A further 18 were born interstate. So over a third, or 38, aren’t WA-born.

This sizeable figure is telling and goes some way to confirming that, after 1959, WA began attracting sizeable migrant numbers – the first time since the gold rushes of the 1890s – who saw bright futures in WA for themselves and their children.

That was the year Charles Court emerged as a dynamic minister for industrial development and the north-west, and WA hasn’t looked back.

Before then many Western Australians, especially the better educated, emigrated, mainly to eastern Australia.

Although three are of Italian ancestry – Paul Omodei, Adele Farina and John D’Orazio – all are WA born.

Most interstate-born MPs are from the two most populace states – NSW and Victoria – with two from the latter, Ross Ainsworth and John Hyde, both from Hamilton.

None hails from Tasmania. One was born in Brisbane (Larry Graham) and two in Adelaide (Katie Hodson-Thomas and Margaret Quirk).

The one born in the most unusually named location is Graham Gifford, who is from Sullivan’s Territory, Victoria.

Of the 53 native-born group, 31 were born in the Perth-Fremantle metropolitan area, reflecting the fact that it has been WA’s major population centre since 1829.

Of the remaining 22, Kalgoorlie can boast to have been the first home of six, more than any other town, revealing also gold mining’s significant role in WA’s post-war economy.

Two were born in each of Geraldton, Bunbury and Wyalkatchem.

None was born north of Gerald-ton, Premier Geoff Gallop’s birthplace.

Parliament has no members of recent German, Greek, Dutch, Polish, Chinese or Vietnamese ancestry, showing how little these not-insignificant ethnic groups are contributing to direct law making in this State.

Also disclosed are MPs previous careers or jobs.

Fifteen were teachers or lecturers; 11 businessmen; 13 union bosses or political staffers; nine were lawyers and nine farmers; and six were public servants.

That’s 63 of the 91, over two-thirds, in just six occupations.

Five are from the medical/nursing fraternity – a doctor, dentist, nurse and two pharmacists.

Eight are Bachelors of Science, three are Bachelors of Economics, one each Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Commerce, and 28 Bachelors of Arts.

These tertiary qualifications are on top of nine law degrees.

Four hold joint masters and doctoral degrees.

Amazingly, there’s even one blue-collar worker, former mechanic Mick Murray.

There’s also a student, meaning politics has attracted someone who’s still learning, and there’s an actor and a theatre set builder.

The remaining 19 were administrators, journalists, consultants or managers.

So who is a typical or average WA politician?

Firstly, it’s a male; there are 69 men and only 22 women, so three to one.

Secondly, he was Perth-born and was either a teacher, lawyer, union boss or political adviser.

Although no-one fits this identikit profile perfectly, one comes more than amazingly close to the mark.

Who, therefore, is WA’s most typical politician?

Stand up Kalgoorlie-born lawyer, former ministerial adviser, and one-time union chief who also briefly tutored law at UWA and Murdoch, Jim McGinty.


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