06/05/2010 - 00:00

Resisting Canberra’s centralist push

06/05/2010 - 00:00


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A new political party will put WA interests ahead of Canberra’s agenda.

CANBERRA’S Henry Tax Report on how to extract more dollars from Western Australia’s mining sector, and help bankroll the Rudd and east coast state Labor governments’ spending sprees, will greatly help the state’s newest party – Western Australia First.

WA First has already named its Senate team, which is campaigning for its first senator to be elected this year and second in 2013.

Last week, State Scene met WA First’s lead candidate, Scott Cowans, for a background briefing of what the party stands for, hopes to achieve, and why.

His account was as lucid, farsighted, and inspiring an exposition as you’d hope to receive.

Mr Cowans, a Murdoch University philosophy graduate, is an IT expert with national and international experience.

When asked how he’d married-up highly erudite philosophical thinking with IT work, he said IBM hired him because of his philosophy degree.

Mr Cowans’ other plus was years of childhood tampering with, and studying of, discarded high-tech equipment because his father worked for Telecom.

His WA-oriented political inclinations come from a period at Murdoch, when he was active in Labor-oriented politics and, after graduating, worked as a WA Labor senator’s staffer.

He was stunned that WA Labor senators always backed the party over their state’s interests.

Doing otherwise means expulsion or dis-endorsement, thus ending highly remunerative political careers and sacrificing envied pensions. Without exception, all voted as the bosses of their eastern states-dominated parties dictated.

“Careers always came ahead of the state they’re supposed to represent,” Mr Cowans said.

All Labor senators, like lower house MPs, are therefore party toadies when voting comes around.

This was confirmed to State Scene early this year by a Liberal senator, who advised that Labor senators had privately told her they were opposed to the proposed carbon tax because it would devastate WA’s mining sector – especially gold and nickel mining but also the offshore gas sector – but they still voted for it after Tony Abbott had toppled Malcolm Turnbull as Liberal leader.

During that hectic Turnbull-Abbott clash, those Labor senators were constantly asking about the likely outcome and were barracking for Mr Abbott, since that would ensure the Rudd carbon tax would be beaten.

Nor is Mr Cowans ant less critical of WA’s Liberal senatorial teams.

He said the knockdown case with them was the Howard government’s WorkChoices legislation, which WA’s Liberal Party opposed but this state’s Liberal senators supported when it came time for the Senate vote.

Since neither Labor nor the Liberals truly represents WA in the way Australia’s Constitution envisaged, Mr Cowans and several friends decided the time had come to return to basics; have senators assessing all legislation from the standpoint of impact upon the lives and well-being of Western Australians.

That, in a nutshell, is the seed that gave rise to Mr Cowan and one-time Liberal backer, Perth finance analyst and retired Australian diplomat, John Goodlad, creating WA First.

A year on they have the required 500 members to formally register WA First and now await their first election contest later this year. They hope to have a senator seated in 2011.

Not since WA’s pre-war Country (now the Nationals) Party and Nationalist senators, Bertie Johnston and Sir Hal Colebatch, respectively, who vetted all legislation on how it impacted upon WA, has Canberra’s drive to dominate and discriminate against the state been so formidably challenged.

Anyone doubting the gravity of the threat of eastern states domination need only ponder on the following recent remarks by one-time Labor and Liberal prime ministers respectively, Bob Hawke and John Howard.

“If we were starting this country again, you wouldn’t have states, you’d have regions,” Mr Howard said.

“Over time, I hope the states have less and less authority.”

Mr Hawke said: “We should keep the boundaries for the purposes of Sheffield Shield cricket and State of Origin … but that’s it.”

One doesn’t need to be Copernicus to deduce what this Hawke-Howard, this Labor-Liberal, consensus envisages; namely, the break-up of WA into about six Canberra-devised and dominated regions – Kimberley, Pilbara, Mid West, Metro-Perth, Goldfields, South West, and Wheatbelt – after which the Senate would be scrapped, since it would be redundant.

Messrs Cowans and Goodlad adamantly oppose that future for WA. They plan combating, to the bitter end, any policies that are likely to help realise the Hawke-Howard blueprint.

“Since 1990, WA has contributed over $40 billion to the other states,” Mr Cowans said.

“At the same time, Western Australians face higher taxes than most other states, a worse road toll and lower road funding, longer hospital waiting lists, and higher crime rates.

“Therefore, we’re seriously disadvantaged because we are the most prosperous state.

“Over the years WA Labor and Liberal premiers and treasurers have tried to ensure WA receives its fair share of federal funding; all have failed. At the same time independent senators like Tasmania’s Brian Harradine and South Australia’s Nick Xenophon achieved considerable funding boosts for their states.

“The reason is because that the only place federal governments’ legislative program and budgets can be amended, even blocked, is in the Senate, the ‘states’ House’ with its equal representation from all states.

“The Constitution – which party loyalty and politicians’ personal ambitions have perverted – envisaged senators reviewing all legislation and budgets to ensure their home state’s interests were protected.

“Unfortunately, since the Senate has been largely controlled by the major parties who vote in line with federal party interests at the expense of their state, this hasn’t happened, especially in WA’s case.

“Time and again the interests of retaining marginal seats on the east coast take precedence over WA.

“WA First was created to reverse this imbalance. As independent WA senators we’ll ensure the interests of WA come first.”

Premiers can scream and jump up and down but only senators can block adverse Canberra plans.

Mr Cowans said neither he after 2010 nor WA First’s second senator after 2013 would aspire to ministerial or committee chairmanships rank, since that, as well as boosting one’s salary, requires buckling to party pressures.

“There’ll be none of that with WA First – our sole goal is WA first,” he stressed.

Interestingly, the late Senator Sir Hal Colebatch, a Nationalist, wouldn’t attend party meetings because he saw himself as representing WA, not a party.

Those unaware of the inequity WA has endured for so long should consider these recently highlighted percentages, comparing WA and Australia.

• Population: WA (10.3); Rest of Australia (89.7).

• Gross domestic product: WA (13.1); Rest of Australia (86.9).

• Mineral and energy output: WA (48); Rest of Australia (52).

• Merchandise exports: WA (39); Rest of Australia (61).

• Exploration: WA (55); Rest of Australia (45).

• Private Investment: WA (28); Rest of Australia (72).

• Share of GST: WA (8.1); Rest of Australia (91.9).

It’s evident whose being taken for a ride.

Like so many this side of the Nullarbor, State Scene doesn’t want WA divided and conquered by power-hungry Canberra politicians and bureaucrats implementing a Hawke-Howard-style blueprint.

Because WA’s major parties simply surrender to Canberra, a new party that will act has, thankfully, emerged.




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