No-one But Colin


The bra-snapping, seat-sniffing, testicle-grabbing
Buswell has resigned as opposition leader, former Liberal leader Colin Barnett
has been recalled from retirement plans and Premier Alan Carpenter has called a
snap State Election for 6 September.
Yes, it’s just another week in the crazy ride that has been WA politics
this year.

Having survived two leadership spills, in the end Buswell simply resigned. Internal Liberal polling showed that the Opposition would have been wiped out at the next state poll if he’d hung on. The grim comic debacle of Buswell’s antics had taken its toll, with even confirmed Liberals preferring the incumbent Labor Premier Alan Carpenter. This was a man whose reputation had become so besmirched that he was forced to publicly deny far-fetched and untrue rumours that he had been involved in untoward behaviour with a quokka.

Former Liberal Noel Crichton-Browne was a lonely voice in regretting the end of Buswell’s six month inglorious reign in the job.

So where now for the WA Liberals and do they stand a chance in the poll? Barnett is part of the old generation and his political record is tarnished. When the Liberals lost the last WA State Election in 2005, Barnett as opposition leader took the blame for some whopping campaign mistakes, including the surprise commitment to build a vastly expensive water canal from the Kimberley to Perth without the completion of a feasibility study.

Nevertheless, Barnett is still regarded as a more formidable opponent than Buswell and for that matter than both Paul Omodei and Matt Birney, the other two men who have recently had stints at the helm of the WA Libs.

Perhaps the real question is whether the departure of Buswell will mean that the WA Liberal Party becomes any less viperous. The string of petty feuds and back-stabbings that have characterised conservative politics in Perth over the last four years has made for good theatre, but a weak, disunited and unelectable opposition. It will be interesting to see whether Barnett can heal the rifts.

While the unanimous decision to appoint Barnett on Wednesday night could be seen as a promising sign, the lack of any other challenger also says something about the state of the WA Parliamentary Liberal Party.

It should be remembered that Barnett had already announced his intention to retire from politics altogether at the next state election. Deirdre Wilmott, late of the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry, had been preselected to succeed Barnett in his safe Cottesloe seat. Indeed, as of today Wilmott’s official Liberal website continues to proclaim her candidature.

But now Barnett is back and Wilmott, who as recently as yesterday was reported to be refusing to hand her seat back to the once and future opposition leader, has no job at the CCI and no safe seat. Plans are no doubt afoot to try to find Wilmott a secure electorate somewhere else.

Barnett’s last incarnation as leader was the subject of some furious scheming. The ABC (Anyone But Colin) faction of the WA Libs conspired relentlessly against him and formed a bizarre scheme (as described here by that man again, Crichton-Browne) to thwart his leadership ambitions by parachuting in Julie Bishop. Today Bishop is the Deputy Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party. One wonders just how much has been forgiven and forgotten.

It is likely that Carpenter fancies his chances against Barnett. And there may be some pyrotechnics in store given that Barnett and Carpenter have had some fiery exchanges in the past.

Regardless, Buswell’s departure has brought some dignity back to WA politics. And that’s something, regardless of party allegiances, for which we can all be grateful.

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