Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

Western Australia: January-June 1997

Academic journal article The Australian Journal of Politics and History

Western Australia: January-June 1997

Article excerpt

Although the Coalition Government was elected on 14 December 1996 with three extra Legislative Assembly seats it had lost its historic majority in the Legislative Council, effective from 22 May 1997, the day after the four-year fixed term of the Council was due to expire. The uncertainty of this new parliamentary era tempted the government to use the interim period to secure passage of its controversial "third wave" of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act. This issue, plus a range of contentious matters particularly in the Tourism portfolio, kept the government on the defensive for much of the period under review.

New Ministry

Delays resulting from the December election, the first immediate pre-Christmas poll in more than a hundred years of responsible government, meant a three-week delay before the Premier announced the composition of his new ministry. Of the three Liberal ministers tipped to lose their place only Warren-Blackwood MLA Paul Omodei survived as Minister for Local Government and Disability Services (the latter in lieu of Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs). Those less fortunate included a former Liberal Party deputy leader Kevin Minson, and Mandurah MLA Roger Nicholls, the latter having been effectively downgraded in December 1995 when he lost responsibility for Family and Chidren's Services, Youth and Seniors and took over Water Resources. A gap was also left with the retirement of Planning Minister Richard Lewis while the strong performance of the Liberal Party in winning its first ever absolute majority in the Lower House meant Police Minister Bob Wiese lost his place when the National Party entitlement was cut from four to three.

In addition to Doug Shave (Alfred Cove) who returned to the ministry after a three-year absence, four new ministers were included in the seventeen person team. This represented an increase of one on the number since the resignation of Upper House leader George Cash in April 1996 but with the total of Upper House ministers remaining at four. Ballajura MLA Rhonda Parker, fresh from her narrow victory at the general election, became Minister for Family and Children's Services, Seniors and Women's Interests; medical practitioner Kim Hames (Yokine) picked up Aboriginal Affairs along with his other responsibilities, while the relatively unknown John Day (Darling Range) took over Police and Emergency Services, portfolios which had been the particular prerogative of the National Party over the years. The other new minister, Mike Board (Jandakot), who had been the subject of a pre-election controversy concerning his private commercial activities, was allocated relatively non-controversial responsibilities.

Among the more senior ministers, significant changes included the transfer of Employment and Training from Upper House leader Norman Moore to Cheryl Edwardes who also picked up the Environment portfolio from Attorney-General Peter Foss. In another interesting move, Labour Relations Minister Graham Kierath inherited Planning, the arena of many controversial decisions during the caretaker' election campaign period and its aftermath (see Local Government and Planning below).

The full ministry was as follows: Richard Court. Premier; Treasurer Minister for Public Sector Management; Federal Affairs

Hendy Cowan (NP): Deputy Premier; Minister for Commerce and Trade; Regional

Development; Small Business

Colin Barnett: Minister for Resources Development; Energy; Education; Leader of the House in the Legislative Assembly

Monty House (NP): Minister for Primary Industry; Fisheries

Norman Moore. MLC: Minister for Mines; Tourism; Sport and Recreation, Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council

Eric Chariton, MLC (NP): Minister for Transport

Cheryl Edwardes: Minister for the Environment, Employment and Training

Graham Kierath: Minister for Labour Relations; Planning; Heritage

Peter Foss, MLC: Attorney-General; Minister for Justice; the Arts

Max Evans, MLC: Minister for Finance; Racing and Gaming

Kevin Prince: Minister for Health

Doug Shave: Minister for Lands; Fair Trading; Parliamentary and Electoral Affairs

Paul Omodei: Minister for Local Government; Disability Services

Rhonda Parker: Minister for Family and Children's Services, Seniors; Women's Interests

Kim Hames: Minister for Housing; Aboriginal Affairs; Water Resources

John Day: Minister for Police; Emergency Services

Mike Board: Minister for Works; Services; Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs; Youth

George Cash, MLC: Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet (succeeded by Rob Johnson in June 1997). …

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