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Political power players

THE policies implemented by the State Government are the culmination of a complex process that filters input from multiple sources.

Political advisers, lobbyists, factional power brokers and public servants can all affect the final outcome.

This group is collectively known as ‘the influencers’.

Sitting at the top of the pack is Sean Walsh, Premier Geoff Gallop’s long serving chief of staff.

Mr Walsh joined Dr Gallop’s staff while still in opposition and he is widely considered the premier’s single most important adviser.

Kieran Murphy also joined Dr Gallop’s staff while in opposition.

He served as the premier’s press secretary until last year, when he moved to a back-room role as director strategic management.

This change led to some conjecture about Mr Murphy’s ongoing influence, but most people consulted by WA Business News for this series agree he is still a major player.

Another major player is Mike Megaw, chief of staff to Treasurer and Energy Minister Eric Ripper.

Mr Megaw has been heavily involved in the Government’s ill-fated energy reforms and its dealings with Western Power.

In terms of economic policy, the two key people are Rita Saffioti and John Langoulant.

Ms Saffioti is director of the economic policy unit in the department of premier and cabinet – in other words, she is the premier’s main economic policy adviser.

She is a former employee of the department of treasury and finance, which is headed by under-treasurer John Langoulant.

The primacy of economic and financial issues in modern government automatically gives Mr Langoulant significant influence.

Yet he is far more than just another department head.

He is credited with being a pro-active contributor to policy making, while at the same time retaining his professional integrity as a permanent public servant.

Mr Langoulant is the only traditional bureaucrat included in our list of influencers.

While other department heads can have a significant impact in the formulation and implementation of detailed policies, none is considered to have Mr Langoulant’s broad strategic sweep.

He has been involved in many of the State Government’s biggest policy issues, including power procurement, the machinery of government review, the savings taskforce and health reform – as well, of course, as formulating budget policy.

In key policy areas, some ministers have effectively bypassed their departments and brought in ‘hired guns’ to handle major projects.

A prime example is the health reform committee, chaired by Mick Reid, a former NSW public servant, who was brought in specifically to provide a fresh perspective.

Mr Langoulant and Ms Saffioti were also on the health reform committee, as was political adviser Danny Cloghan, who is Health Minister Jim McGinty’s chief of staff

The final member was Mike Daube, director general of the department of health.

Another ‘hired gun’ is Stuart Hicks, who ran the transport department during the Court Government years.

He chaired the Gallop Government’s machinery of government taskforce and has been a key adviser to Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan on the Mandurah rail project, in his capacity as chair of the Perth City Rail Advisory Committee, the City Rail Development Committee and the Northbridge Link Committee.

Influencing policy behind the scenes is a range of factional powerbrokers and lobby groups.

Joe Bullock, State secretary of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association, is considered one of the main reasons the Gallop Government shied away from deregulation of retail trading hours.

The ‘shoppies’ union, which dominates Labor’s ‘right’ faction, includes current ALP State secretary Bill Johnston among its former staff.

The ‘right’ is factionally aligned with the ‘centre’, which is led by Transport Workers’ Union State secretary Jim McGiveron and Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union State secretary Kevin Reynolds, who is a friend of former Labor premier and current lobbyist Brian Burke.

The real influence of Mr Burke is a point of great debate.

While some reports suggest he is omnipresent, others suggest Mr Burke’s reputation as the master lobbyist is based more on hype than substance.

As well as professional lobbyists like Mr Burke, many industry and trade associations are constantly lobbying politicians.

Of these groups, UnionsWA and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry are two of the most significant.

In the Liberal camp, key advisers to Opposition Leader Colin Barnett are chief of staff Richard Ellis and adviser John Hammond.

On the organisational front, the State secretary of the party is Paul Everingham, while the State president is retired business executive Danielle Blain.

Former minister Graham Kierath, who has won pre-selection for the State seat of Alfred Cove, is one of the key people working behind the scenes.

 

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