A Canning plan

Labor has moved quickly to fill the vacancy created by Cimlie Bowden’s withdrawal as candidate for Canning on Monday, with former state minister Kay Hallahan installed yesterday by a unanimous vote of the party’s administration committee. Since Monday’s posting it has emerged that senior figures in the WA branch including Premier Geoff Gallop had resolved on Monday to persevere with Bowden, if only because no mechanism existed to remove her, and that this and Bowden’s angrily worded announcement of her decision to withdraw became public at about the same time. Roger Martin looks into the troubles surrounding Bowden’s campaign in today’s WA edition of The Australian, reporting that "Labor campaigners say Ms Bowden became upset at trivial matters, would not put enough effort into doorknocking and refused to take advice". At one point Bowden became consumed in a row with campaign staff over sausages, and she is no longer on speaking terms with her former friend and campaign manager Shelley Archer, wife of enormously influential CFMEU boss Kevin Reynolds.

For her part, Hallahan is being perhaps more modest than is prudent, telling The Australian: "I don’t blame people for thinking I’m a retired state MP because that is an accurate picture. The question is can I make a contribution in representing the people in Canning. I have come to a view I can, and I shall do my best to do that". Hallahan was elected to state parliament in the February 1983 election that brought Brian Burke to power and was appointed to the ministry in the government’s second term, above a year before Burke handed the reins to Peter Dowding. As the government slowly collapsed under the weight of the WA Inc fiasco, with Carmen Lawrence ushered into the premiership after Dowding was offered up as a scapegoat, Hallahan prospered in a series of portfolios largely quarantined from the government’s shady deal-making, specifically Arts, Education and Community Services. Following the government’s defeat at the February 1993 election (at which Labor’s less-disastrous-than-expected performance encouraged Paul Keating to call a federal election the very next day) Hallahan rose to the deputy party leadership, but with a view to her forthcoming retirement she agreed to step aside in favour of a Jim McGinty-Geoff Gallop ticket (McGinty subsequently making way for Gallop) in October 1994 and left parliament at the December 1996 election.

The Poll Bludger was a young Western Australian throughout this period and if any mud attached to Hallahan at the time, he doesn’t remember it. Nevertheless, "former Burke Government minister" is an unenviable entry on the resume for any WA politician and her opponents are unlikely to let her forget it.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.