16/01/2008 - 22:00

WA Libs need to settle down

16/01/2008 - 22:00


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One of the buzz phrases of the 1980s and 1990s was “the now generation”.

WA Libs need to settle down

One of the buzz phrases of the 1980s and 1990s was “the now generation”.

It was meant to characterise the desire of “young” people for instant gratification, in supposed contrast to the patience, hard work and thrift of their parents’ generation.

I have always objected to phrases that purport to characterise an entire generation, but two people who seem to fit the description are Matt Birney and Troy Buswell.

Both are highly talented young men who have achieved a lot during their working lives, and will most likely achieve a lot more before they retire to smell the roses.

They are also young men in a hurry, keen to make a big impact on Western Australia.

But Mr Birney discovered that ambition and haste can be a costly combination.

He became leader of the parliamentary Liberal Party in 2005 at the age of 35, when he lacked the experience, judgement and maturity to handle such a demanding role.

Not surprisingly, at least with hindsight, he lasted only 12 months as leader.

As a result, the political career of one of the Liberal Party’s brightest young talents was brought to a premature end, and he has decided to leave parliament at the next state election, due early next year.

Mr Buswell, aged 40, is without doubt the most effective member of the shadow ministry.

Formerly the mayor of Busselton, he entered state parliament only two years ago, rapidly becoming deputy leader and a kingmaker in factional power plays.

He seems to be a hard worker, presents well, has a detailed knowledge of his portfolio and is the only shadow minister who consistently can lay a glove on the government.

Based on those credentials – and the lacklustre performance and low opinion poll rating of current leader Paul Omodei – there is a desire in Liberal circles to install Mr Buswell as leader.

It was a desire Mr Buswell seemed to share, at least until last weekend, when revelations about his parliament house partying wobbled the ship.

Mr Buswell was quoted last weekend as acknowledging that he wasn’t ready for the leadership.

Whether he stands by that comment remains to be seen.

Clearly he should.

Mr Buswell has a bright future ahead of him, and it may include being premier.

Rushing into the leadership will not help Mr Buswell, the Liberals, or government in WA.

As Attorney-General Jim McGinty cheekily pointed out last week, good government needs good opposition, and WA is not getting that at the moment.

Imagine if the Liberals’ leadership team included Colin Barnett, Matt Birney, Troy Buswell and Paul Omodei, all working together.

That may be a naïve and fanciful scenario, but it would certainly deliver more robust debate and scrutiny of government than currently applies.

Politics should be seen as a longterm career, involving a 10-year commitment or more.

The electoral cycle means that some highly talented politicians are forced to endure long periods in opposition.

That’s the nature of the game, and throwing young, inexperienced politicians into the leadership position will not change that.

Change trading laws I WAS bemused but not surprised to read reports of suburban supermarket operators fudging their staff numbers so they can continue to enjoy extended trading hours.

WA’s retail trading laws are characterised by many anachronistic regulations.

Supermarkets, for instance, can only have a maximum of 13 staff if they want to qualify for late night and weekend trading.

That supposedly makes them a small business, in contrast to the big operators like Coles and Woolworths.

It’s an arbitrary cut-off point that has allowed one group of retailers to profit at the expense of others.

Its also just one more example of why the Carpenter government should be applauded for its plan to review retail trading laws after the next state election.


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