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Powerful backroom figures make a big difference

WHO provides the strategic direction and tactical guidance for WA’s politicians? Political advisers, bureaucrats and organisational allies such as the union movement have a strong influence.

There are also people out of the public eye who, through their job or personal connections, can have an important influence.

These behind-the-scenes players include ALP State secretary Bill Johnston.

The 40-year old Mr Johnston has spent most of his adult life enmeshed in the labour movement.

He is married to Labor MLC Kate Doust, has been State secretary or assistant State secretary for five and a half years; was an industrial officer for nine years with WA’s largest union, the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association and served as vice president of the WA Trades and Labor Council (now Unions WA) for three years.

An important influence on Premier Geoff Gallop is none other than British Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The two men have been friends ever since they studied together at Oxford University and have kept in contact ever since.

Another little-known, yet powerful, influence is Sydney resident Bruce Hawker.

He was a former adviser to New South Wales Premier Bob Carr and now runs consulting business Hawker Britton, which is represented in WA by former Labor MP Megan Anwyl (see lobbyists).

Mr Hawker’s main influence in WA is not as a lobbyist but as a trusted source of strategic advice to the Premier.

On the conservative side of politics the two senior office holders in the WA Liberal Party are president Kim Keogh and director Paul Everingham.

Mr Keogh, whose family has pastoral interests in the Murchison and Gascoyne, moved to Perth about two years ago.

As well as running a private investment company, he has been positioning himself for a political career.

Mr Keogh defeated former Court Government minister Graham Kierath for the Party presidency in July 2002.

He is portrayed as a centre-right moderate and is considered close to Senators Chris Ellison and Ian Campbell.

He is also seen as having the backing of the Prime Minister.

His political aspirations suffered a shock setback last month when he failed to win preselection for the safe third spot on the Liberals Senate ticket.

Mr Keogh ran fourth behind Chris Ellison, Ian Campbell and the big surprise, Kojonup farmer Judith Adams.

Paul Everingham is the namesake and son of the former Northern Territory Chief Minister.

The 31-year-old moved to Perth in March to take the job of State director after working for several years in Canberra for ministers John Fahey and Nick Minchin.

Mr Everingham, an accountant by training and former Ferrier Hodgson employee, has said he would probably return to commerce for a period before seeking an elected political position later in life.

Kevin Reynolds continues to be a weighty influence on the Labor Party. The extremely militant and unsavoury tactics of his union, the Construction, Forestry Mining and Energy Union, was clearly exposed by the Cole Royal Commission into the building industry.

However, the Royal Com-mission failed to expose illegal activities or deliver a knockout blow that his opponents had been expecting.

Mr Reynolds is close to former premier and current lobbyist Brian Burke and also Norm Marlborough who is Parliamentary Secretary to Consumer and Employment Minister John Kobelke.

Indeed, Mr Marlborough, himself a one-time union heavyweight, was master of ceremonies at Mr Reynolds’ wedding.

 

Helen Creed is considered one of the most influential people in the labour movement. She succeeded Attorney General Jim McGinty as State secretary of the left-wing Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union in 1989 and stayed in that role for 12 years.

Ms Creed is currently that union’s national president, heads the ALP’s recently established National Policy Committee and is a vice president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

Locally she is a member of a Western Australian Government committee reviewing the impact of extended working hours and is a member of the WA Tourism Commission board.

A discussion of behind-the-scenes players in WA would not be complete without reference to former Liberal Senator Noel Crichton-Browne, the once feared powerbroker of the party.

Some people say he has little influence in the party these days. Others acknowledge he is no longer all-powerful but are reluctant to dismiss him as an influence.

The challenge for people trying to dissect his influence is that factions in the WA Liberal Party have nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with personalities.

 

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