27/11/2007 - 22:00

Opportunities aplenty in a post-parliamentary world

27/11/2007 - 22:00


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Now that the federal election is over there’ll be a few former Liberal MPs looking for work.

Opportunities aplenty in a post-parliamentary world

Now that the federal election is over there’ll be a few former Liberal MPs looking for work.

In recent years it seems ex-politicians have had no trouble finding a second wind for their working careers.

Largely, that has been in the field of lobbying or consulting. Mostly, in Western Australia at least, this has appeared to be more the realm of state politicians, rather those who were elected to the federal parliament.

While Brian Burke and his mate Julian Grill have done their best to give this set a bad name, others like Megan Anwyl, Peter Dowding and Mark Nevill have operated for some time without managing to find themselves as central figures in a Corruption and Crime Commission investigation.

Richard Court, Barry McKinnon and Bill Hassell have all been on company boards, as well as doing some consulting, though their absence from the lobbyist register suggests that, with Labor in power, they don’t operate in the sphere that involves direct contact with parliamentarians or government.

Other coalition players, Hendy Cowan and Monty House, have also been listed company directors, as has former Labor member Gordon Hill.

While these names have a reasonably high profile among the local business community, there is little evidence that former federal politicians have found much joy in this arena in WA, indicating that knowing the ropes in Canberra is not that useful if you live in Perth. Noel Crichton-Browne is one rare exception, perhaps due to his role as a state Liberal Party power broker.

In WA at least, it seems former federal parliamentarians are far more likely to fade away than their state-based colleagues.

Daryl Williams, one of the state’s most senior parliamentarians to serve in John Howard’s cabinet (as attorney-general), has slipped quietly back into life in the world of law, resuming his career at the bar.

Liberal one-term parliamentarian Ricky Johnston has become a member of the Migration Review Tribunal based in Queensland.

The closest thing WA has to a celebrity ex-politician is Ric Charlesworth, already a sportsman of note before entering parliament for a decade at the age of 31. Dr Charlesworth went on to coach the Hockeyroos to successive gold medals and has since consulted to the Fremantle Dockers, as well as helped coach New Zealand’s cricket side.

Another former federal politician to have gathered some profile recently is Ian Campbell. Perhaps benefiting from an early exit ticket from parliament when he resigned earlier this year over a low-level scandal that involved meetings with Mr Burke, Mr Campbell has quickly built up a portfolio of directorships.

Most recently he joined the board of struggling Welshpool-based sustainable water and power company, Solco Ltd, which is seeking to rejuvenate itself under new management.

Back in June, Perth-based IT services provider ASG Group Ltd and Henderson shipbuilder Austal Ltd added Mr Campbell to their boards.

The 48-year-old Mr Campbell has spent 17 years as a Liberal senator, and was a member of federal cabinet, holding the portfolios of environment, heritage and human services. He was also federal minister for local government, territories, and roads.

A generation earlier, former federal Labor treasurer and trade minister John Dawkins served on numerous company boards.

The track record above indicates that, if anything, the career roadmap for former politicians is very much dependent some key factors.

Clearly Liberal Party members have closer links to business and, therefore, appear more likely to take board roles, be they federal- or state-based.

Peter Dowding is one Laborite who has cracked that field, though his main occupation is understood to be as a family lawyer, a pre-parliamentary occupation.

On the consulting front, arguably in Perth it is the state-based politicians who have the upper hand when it comes to understanding the workings of government. And then, it seems, you are probably better off if your party holds power.

For former Labor luminaries Carmen Lawrence and Kim Beazley, it appears that a life of academia beckons.

After this weekend’s result, it will be interesting to see if those who lost follow the trends above.


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