Western Australia : New year, same problems – but who can fix it?

January 19, 2015 – 6:44AM

Larry Graham

Alannah MacTiernan is unlikely to accept an invite to lead WA Labor into the next state election.

Alannah MacTiernan is unlikely to accept an invite to lead WA Labor into the next state election. Photo: Ryan Osland

Western Australia will start 2015 as it finished 2014 – with our dullard government broke and borrowing money like there is no tomorrow.

It all makes me think it might be time to get rid of these socialists and put a competent private enterprise party into power.

But where the heck would we find one?

WA Labor should be the obvious choice, but they are not.

I hate our political system being so far out of balance, but the last election dealt Labor a mortal blow and the polling shows their vote locked in the low thirties.

Winning from there is almost impossible, so unless WA Labor makes major changes they are doomed to spend a long time in the political wilderness.

Major political change is difficult and it got harder when the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd fiasco prompted Labor leaders to protect themselves by making it almost impossible to remove a leader.

And a leadership change is needed because, while Mark McGowan is quite popular, he is proving unable to increase Labor’s vote and the rule changes protect his job until after the next election is lost.

Then a post-election change puts the incoming leader in the untenable position of having to rebuild and reposition the party using McGowan’s losing staff and policies, and it also saddles the incomer with an aged political team.

That team’s old timers – Mick Murray, Peter Watson, Michelle Roberts, Margaret Quirk, John Quigley, Fran Logan, Chris Tallentire, Lisa Baker and David Templeman – all seem to have lost the necessary drive and initiative that is needed to attract votes.

Labor’s strategists know that during extended periods of poor polling, a well-managed leadership change can revitalise a lethargic party and they also know that a healthy organisation works best when it has a lot of well-managed talent in the wings.

But this is not the case with WA Labor.

Paul Papalia and Peter Tinley were once mentioned as leadership hopefuls, but both are now overlooked and the focus quickly moves onto the default leadership contender, Ben Wyatt.

I admit to being a Wyatt fan and think he has a lot to offer; but ideally he should spend some time as a minister before even thinking about becoming Premier.

Early mistakes tend to taint your political life and when Wyatt was very new, a group of discontented boneheads talked him into making that disastrously bungled tilt at the leadership.

That bungle seriously damaged his credibility and without it his inexperience was capable of being managed, and vice versa -but to ask the public to overlook both issues and to still make him Premier is a big ask.

This shortage of genuine leaders triggers speculation about parachuting someone who is not a current MP into the top job. After all, it worked for Campbell Newman in Queensland.

But it is a high-risk strategy that is only worth doing if it is likely to succeed.

The outcome of such a move is doubtful because the Barnett Government are currently doing alright, and public opinion is not as toxic towards them as it was towards Queensland’s Bligh Government.

But if WA Labor does choose this course of action, who could be parachuted into the leadership?

Ex Federal Minister Steven Smith, aged a spritely 59, and Alannah MacTiernan, 61, will find their names being bandied about, but these two will understand the size of the job that needs doing and know that a Labor win is only a remote possibility.

The fallout from one of these two leaping over their colleagues and then losing the election would be diabolical, and these two wily operators understand how destructive those internal recriminations can be.

When they weigh it all up, my assessment is that the leadership will tempt neither of them.

But that is not the only strategy available: drafting talent from the upper house worked for Labor with Peter Dowding, Kay Hallihan and Alannah MacTiernan.

And when confronted with similar talent shortages recently, NSW Labor promoted Upper House member Luke Foley into their leadership.

The problem for WA Labor is that they cannot be confident that any of their mediocre upper house incumbents are capable of winning a lower house seat, let alone taking on the leader’s job.

Consequently, Labor will need to find a truckload of untried and untested candidates who they judge are ready to win seats and then quickly be promoted into senior positions.

These folks will learn that the tough and brutally unforgiving parliamentary system has chewed up and spat out many with big reputations.

Wade Smith, Matt Birney, Troy Buswell, Adele Carles, Dean Nalder and many others would probably advise them that succeeding in politics takes time and a lot of hard work.

They also need to know that being in Opposition is extremely hard work.

Hopefully the reward for that hard work is that takes you and your party closer to government every day, but since Geoff Gallop stood aside, the reverse has been happening to WA Labor.

It’s Time (pun intended) for Labor to stop pretending all is good and they need to make some major changes aimed at giving the party a real political future.

 

Source : WAtoday

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