20/02/2007 - 22:00

Political contenders warm up

20/02/2007 - 22:00


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With the political stage now set for a federal election in October or November, and any upheaval in the upper echelons of Western Australia’s two major parties before the February 2009 state contest unlikely, a cursory look at various contenders is worthw

With the political stage now set for a federal election in October or November, and any upheaval in the upper echelons of Western Australia’s two major parties before the February 2009 state contest unlikely, a cursory look at various contenders is worthwhile at this point.

Firstly, state Labor’s satisfactory, if not spectacular, showing at the Peel by-election further confirmed that the elevation of Alan Carpenter to the premiership, rather than Michelle Roberts or Jim McGinty, was the correct decision.

None of the Burke-Grill, Marlbor-ough, D’Orazio or Ravlich affairs, or Labor’s exorbitant ongoing high taxing proclivity, had a marked electoral impact upon Carpenter-led Labor.

The same applies to federal Labor’s decision to dump Kim Beazley, who persistently showed he lacked broad electoral appeal across Australia.

Although much fuss was made about his confusing of pop TV personality, Rove McManus, with Bush presidential adviser, Karl Rove, State Scene believes the final nail was banged into Mr Beazley’s prime ministerial aspirations well before December; on August 10 2006, in fact.

Cast your mind back to the sometimes-passionate debate about reforms to immigration legislation.

Labor, for reasons best known to Mr Beazley, stonewalled the Howard government’s asylum seekers bill.

Quite accidentally, this resulted in a brief, televised confrontation that proved damaging to Mr Beazley.

It was the morning of August 10; the location was the entrance to the House of Representatives where cars park and media crews wait for alighting MPs.

On that morning, while Wilson Tuckey was being interviewed by a TV crew, Mr Beazley began his own doorstop interview nearby.

Suddenly, Mr Tuckey spotted his WA colleague and decided to walk across and engage the Labor leader.

Here’s what millions of Australians heard and saw on their TV screens that evening.

Tuckey: Oh, here’s Kim. Kim, why are you opposing the border protection for all the people? This is not about Liberals, this is about you mob.

Beazley: Take your tablets, mate, and get inside.

Tuckey: Oh, well, don’t you insult me with tablets.

Reporter Gillian Bradford: Kim Beazley could have walked away, but the ‘Bomber’ – named for his love of defence equipment – seemed up for a stoush with a fellow Western Australian.

Tuckey: I’m asking you why you are defying the Australian people on border protection.

Beazley: Off you go, mate.

Tuckey: Your whole party. Your whole party.

Beazley: Off you go, mate.

Tuckey: I’m as entitled to stand here as you are. Now, I’m interviewing you. I am asking you why your entire party is going to kill off legislation that the Australian people want?

Beazley: And I’m asking you, Wilson, why you would support a weak, sop legislation?

Tuckey: Well, I don’t believe it’s that.

Beazley: It’s a weak…

Tuckey: You’re oppo… well, why don’t you move some amendments to make it tougher?

Beazley: We’re defeating it.

Tuckey: Yes. Yeah, you’re defeating it.

Beazley: It’s a weak, worthless piece of legislation, Wilson.

Tuckey: Okay, well that’s a nice little bit of rhetoric.

Beazley: Why don’t you take your weak, worthless self in there with the weak, worthless legislation. [At this point Mr Beazley patted Mr Tuckey on the arm while gesturing him towards the House of Representative’s door]

Tuckey: Don’t you call me weak and worthless, you big, fat so and so.

Beazley: Okay.

There were many reasons for Mr Beazley losing out, and badly, in that unexpected encounter.

Firstly, he spoke down to someone who was his elder. Secondly, his condescending manner was also exceptionally insulting.

Many across Australia take daily medication and many who don’t have close friends and relatives who do, so the patronising Beazley comment about taking “your tablets, mate, and get inside” won no friends – Labor or Liberal.

Is that the real Bomber Beazley, State Scene thought, as, no doubt, did tens of thousands of other viewers.

The incident was telling, indeed.

And in all likelihood, many of his wavering party room backers who also saw that segment would have been unimpressed. Only one more TV encounter similar to that was needed for them to finally decide it was time for changes at the top. 

Mr Beazley makes a lot of decency in public life. But the Tuckey encounter failed to show him to be a practitioner of what he preaches.

He was, as some might say, well and truly losing the plot.

Clearly, it was only a matter of time before he’d be dumped, since the beating of the war drums of Kevin Rudd’s backers could already be heard echoing in the valleys.

So, what of WA’s state political scene and the position of opposition leader, Paul Omodei?

Although failing to set the polls on fire and performing badly in the Peel by-election, he’s unlikely to be toppled before February 2009, primarily because WA Liberals are bereft of credible contenders.

Failed leaders Matt Birney and Colin Barnett are unlikely to attract more than a handful of party room votes each.

And deputy leader Troy Buswell, who carries electoral baggage, including that clandestine car park meeting with former Liberal powerbroker, Noel Crichton-Brown, is seen as needing many more years of a thorough political apprenticeship.

And even if two of these three Bs teamed-up to topple Mr Omodei, will next election’s outcome be any different? It’s unlikely.

All that said, it’s worth recording another development within WA’s Liberal division that has received little public comment.

For the past several months, excellent Liberal parliamentary and party sources have insisted to State Scene that powerbroker and former Noel Crichton-Brown acolyte, Senator Ian Campbell, retains prime ministerial aspirations.

Most seem to have forgotten that his first parliamentary bid – with then senator Crichton-Brown’s backing – was for a House of Representatives seat.

Although making a concerted bid to gain one, it backfired because the party was then controlled by an anti-Crichton-Brown faction led by then Confederation of WA Industry (now the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry) president, Keith Simpson.

Senator Campbell consequently returned to selling real estate and bided his time.

And, when the Crichton-Brown faction re-emerged, he took what was available, a senate spot, since he was guaranteed winning it.

Since then, John Howard has sometimes looked favourably on him, primarily to balance his cabinet line-up with MPs from the west.

But Senator Campbell persists in eyeing-off House of Representatives seats, something that’s led to tension between him and Mr Howard, who believes he should stay put in the Senate.

For instance, some years ago Senator Campbell was considering moving to gain blue ribbon Tangney, but was told to desist.

While still eyeing-off Tangney he began focusing upon Forrest, which long-time incumbent, Geoff Prosser, had announced he’d be vacating.

When Mr Prosser learned of this, he and several power broker backers in the Bunbury-Busselton region let Senator Campbell know he wasn’t welcomed.

None of this, however, appears to have dissuaded the twitchy senator, because the latest suggestion is that he’s willing to wait for the man who hastened the demise of Mr Beazley, that is, Mr Tuckey, to retire. This, of course, would leave a vacancy in the blue ribbon seat of O’Connor.

Consequently, Mr Tuckey is likely to again have a say in the aspirations of a West Aussie wanting to become PM.

For those who think Senator Campbell’s long-desired move out of the Senate for an intended crack at becoming PM is a long-shot, don’t forget that’s precisely what former senator Fred Chaney did by moving into the new outer suburban seat of Pearce.

Like Mr Beazley, he believed he had prime ministerial wherewithal.

In politics, as in most other areas of human endeavour, many are called, but few are chosen.

Only time will tell if Senator Campbell matches John Curtin to become the second West Aussie prime minister.


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