17/04/2001 - 22:00

Minister of Nice Things reigns Victorious

17/04/2001 - 22:00


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AS night inevitably follows day, the mainstream print media across Australia – indeed, across most of the democratic world – presents readers with cursory surveys on how new governments have performed over their first 100 days.

Minister of Nice Things reigns Victorious
AS night inevitably follows day, the mainstream print media across Australia – indeed, across most of the democratic world – presents readers with cursory surveys on how new governments have performed over their first 100 days.

One hundred, it’s a nice round figure, one that has even greater significance in cricketing cultures like Australia’s, where a century is every batsman’s dream, like hat-tricks to bowlers.

No doubt, if former Liberal Premier Richard Court had won, what for him became the disastrous 10 February contest, meaning getting the much sought after third term, we’d have seen newspaper headlines like – Hat-trick for Dick, or, Dick’s hat-trick.

Instead, he was clean bowled as were several of his not-so-well-performing ministers.

But we’re now in a new game so we can soon expect to see stories splashed across pages assessing the new Labor Government, beneath headlines like; Gallop’s First 100 Days, or, Gallop – The 100 Day Mark.

Rather than waiting another 33 days, why not make a few hopefully telling observations about Dr Gallop at his two-thirds of a century mark?

He’ll chalk up his first 100 days on 21 May, the day before newly-elected Legis-lative Councillors take-up their seats - 22 May - Queen Victoria’s birthday, which is the quaint colonial era reason they begin their terms then.

Yesterday, April 18, was Dr Gallop’s 67th day in power, the two-thirds mark.

Apart from the rather ignominious MacTiernan Speeding Affair, which dem-onstrated a serious lapse in Dr Gallop’s judgement by naming her Minister in charge of Road Safety, he’s handled media matters moderately well.

There are several reasons for this.

Firstly, his government hasn’t confronted any really tough issues, yet.

Secondly, Dr Gallop shrewdly sidestepped the Treasury portfolio by handing it to Eric Ripper, his deputy.

Mr Ripper is the man who’s going to have to put palatable spin on forthcoming un-palatable financial news and blame the previous govern-ment, for as long as possible, for things such as an alleged need for ever increasing taxes and charges.

But a day will come when he’ll realise electors no longer cop that line, just as it didn’t buy the silly Liberal ploy of trying to scare voters off Labor by highlighting Brian Burke and his less than illustrious terms in office back in the distant 1980s.

Interestingly, not even Mr Burke, who proved himself to be less than an expert with financial matters, handed his deputy, Mal Bryce, Treasury. Instead he created a Budget Management portfolio which was overseen by former North Metropolitan MLC, Joe Berinson.

Precisely what Mr Berinson did with it has never been adequately explained in light of the huge losses WA taxpayers sustained during what were dubbed the “WA Inc Years”.

By off-loading the Treasury Dr Gallop has ensured he’ll publicly avoid all the coming hard questions on tough money and economic issues.

But there’s another reason. Dr Gallop is consciously presenting himself each week as Minister for Good News.

Look at the headings on some of the media statements he released over Feb/March.

l Premier announces fuel wholesale price cap.

l Premier launches Harmony Day celebrations.

l Premier unveils new community bank.

And one more, for good measure:

l Premier unveils concept plans for John Boyle O’Reilly Interpretive Park.

Heady stuff indeed, issues that obviously required only a premier to announce.

The first rightly belonged to John Kobelke, Minister for Consumer Affairs.

The second, the one on Harmony Day, ought prob-ably have gone to one of the State’s clergymen or clergy-women.

Why a premier of Western Australia was making announcements about harm-ony will forever baffle. It’s almost as if he had nothing better to do that day.

The third, on a new community bank, should again have been made by Mr Kobelke, and if not him, then by Treasurer, Mr Ripper.

Why doesn’t Mr Ripper get a chance at releasing some good news? After all he’s about to release a lot of bad news in the coming budget that’ll have to, amongst other things, find $756 million to honor Labor’s vote-buying election promises.

The fourth, the interpretive park, probably rightly fell into Environment Minister Judy Edwards’ court or into Cul-ture and Arts Minister Sheila McHale’s.

It’s quite evident Dr Gallop’s industrious image groomers, media minders, and spin-doctors want him to be seen and widely perceived as Minister for Nice Things, always guided towards soft issues and announcements, never to something perceived as even slightly prickly.

The reason for this is that not only are our elections now run along what’s called presidential lines – meaning projecting party leaders, and only the leaders, US-style – but that’s also how govern-ance in general is now media managed.

If premiers are able to be thus projected and conse-quently gain high opinion poll ratings, all ministers, and their backbenchers will feel safe and sound, something they really yearn for.


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