Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

Western Australia: January to June 2006

Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

Western Australia: January to June 2006

Article excerpt

The first six months of 2006 witnessed significant changes regarding the occupants of high public office in Western Australia. On 16 January, Premier Geoff Gallop "dropped a bombshell" when he announced his resignation and immediate departure from Parliament. Two days after Gallop's resignation, Ken Michael was sworn in as the thirtieth Governor of Western Australia. Alan Carpenter was quickly installed as the new Labor premier, whilst the Liberal Party also changed its leader early in 2006. Wayne Martin, one of the State's senior QCs, was appointed on 4 April to replace David Malcolm as the Chief Justice of Western Australia. The new Carpenter Government faced a major policy crisis with the implementation of the so-called Outcomes Based Education (OBE), and at the same time the Liberal Party was wracked by internal dissension, particularly over Labor's revived contemplation of public election funding of political parties. At the end of June 2006, with continued good economic indices in growth and employment, "Newspoll" indicated virtually no change in party voting intention from the percentages recorded in the February 2005 State election.

Premier and Opposition Leader Changes

Premier Geoff Gallop's admission that he was suffering from clinical depression was received with surprise and a measure of sadness. Gallop, just one month short of his five-year anniversary as premier, had maintained high poll satisfaction and preferred premier ratings, was given high trust readings and was broadly credited with a sound methodology and consensus in the formulation of policy. Although banning the logging of old growth forests and winning legislative passage of "one vote, one value" for the Legislative Assembly were assessed as highlights, some critics dubbed him "good news Geoff' as he made a habit of announcing the vast majority of the government's initiatives. Upon accession to office the efficiency of the public service was a high priority but after five years there were assertions that Gallop had lost some appetite for reform. Within a few months of his resignation, the former premier had accepted a university appointment in Sydney. Ultimately, as a man of sharp intellect, Geoff Gallop will be remembered for rebuilding the Western Australian Labor Party from the electoral ashes of the so called "WA Inc" era.

After some speculation as to who had prospects of replacing Gallop, it soon emerged that Alan "Carps" Carpenter would be the unanimous choice of the Labor caucus. Carpenter (forty-nine), a former ABC journalist, was considered the most capable of holding the electoral advantage that Gallop had established and although electors were warned to "get ready for a more instinctive Premier", most key cabinet posts were retained. The Labor caucus also had to replace Judy Edwards who, citing family reasons, had resigned as Environment Minister on 17 January with the intention of remaining in Parliament. Premier Carpenter's "honeymoon" phase did not last for long as the reshuffle of the seventeen-member cabinet was soon beset by problems. Firstly, long-serving MLA Norm Marlborough, who had won the Small Business portfolio, was reported as describing former Premier Brian Burke as "a genius", requiring Carpenter to deny that Burke was going to be able to exercise greater political influence than had been possible under Gallop. Carpenter soon faced a second media assault, with opposition demands for the "sacking" of Police and Emergency Services Minister John D'Orazio. D'Orazio, also the Minister for Justice, had been engulfed in three scandals in as many months. Early in the year it had been publicised that the former pharmacist and Mayor of the City of Bayswater, had failed to pay superannuation to some staff at his pharmacy. This was revealed days after the West Australian reported that D'Orazio was the figure referred to as the "Godfather" at a Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) hearing in 2005 that focused on local government elections and dealings. …

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