THE question of who ranks as the most powerful person in State politics is a two-horse race.
Premier Geoff Gallop is an obvious contender but there is a widely held view that Attorney General Jim McGinty wields just as much, if not more, influence.
Mr McGinty has a strong power base in the ALP’s left faction, giving him influence in the party, in caucus and in Cabinet.
In contrast, Dr Gallop has never been a factional powerbroker.
Mr McGinty is clearly the most effective minister in the WA Government but his influence extends more widely, with key changes to areas such as industrial relations bearing his stamp.
The standing of State Government ministers will become clearer next month when Premier Geoff Gallop announces a Ministerial reshuffle.
Treasurer Eric Ripper is seen to have growing influence and is expected to keep his current job.
Education Minister Alan Carpenter is rated as a rising star and he could be in line for a promotion.
Police Minister Michelle Roberts is another influential Minister, but her power flows in large part from her backroom influence as ALP State President.
Clive Brown (State Development) and Alannah MacTiernan (Planning and Infrastructure) hold two of the most important ministries and are considered creditable performers.
Mr Brown is seen as the person doing the most to rein in the influence of the green lobby, which is fitting given his name and portfolio.
As Opposition Leader, Colin Barnett can have a significant impact on policy debates and the dynamics of State politics.
While ambitious rivals have been eyeing Mr Barnett’s job, he is considered relatively safe in the leadership.
Mr Barnett’s ‘achilles heel’ is the central control he seeks to wield over his parliamentary colleagues.
This was highlighted by the recent coalition split over legislation to shut down the Swan Valley Nyungah community.
Mr Barnett could defuse much of the tension in the coalition if he became a more inclusive team leader.
Health Minister Bob Kucera has been dropped off the list from last year and is in line for a demotion under the reshuffle.
He was Labor’s prize recruit before the last election and was seen as the person who could fix the State’s hospital system. Arguably no individual could fix the chronic problems in the health system.
Nevertheless Mr Kucera has failed to live up to expectations and his influence has waned.
Adding to his problems was the revelation that he was the officer in charge of the police station where detectives allegedly framed the Mickelberg brothers.
Greens leader Giz Watson has also been dropped off the list, for two reasons.
The Greens hold on the balance of power in the Legislative Council has proved to be less critical than had been anticipated 12 months ago.
That is not to suggest the balance of power is immaterial.
Issues such as one vote-one value and the passage of Labor’s business tax reforms were dependent on the stance of the Greens.
The second reason is that the collectivist nature of the Greens leaves limited authority in the hands of its leader.
All five of the Greens MLCs have contributed to policy debates, both internally and externally, with former Senator Dee Margetts and Jim Scott being especially prominent.
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