State Newspoll bonanza, episode four. The latest quarterly survey of Western Australian state voting intention has Labor’s two-party lead increasing from 53-47 to 54-46; on the primary vote, Labor is down one point to 41 per cent, while the Coalition is down three to 35 per cent. One way of looking at this result (which was replicated last month by Westpoll, who we haven’t heard from for a while) is that it points to a landslide Labor win; another is that it could have been even worse for the Coalition under the circumstances. Tellingly, Troy Buswell’s dissatisfaction rating has rocketed from 34 per cent to 52 per cent in the first Newspoll since the chair-sniffing revelation in late April (though it was partly conducted earlier in the month). The beneficiary of the majors’ decline has reportedly been the Greens, who apparently have built further on their increase from 8 per cent to 12 per cent in the previous survey (The Australian has yet to give an exact figure).
What follows is a quick review of events in Western Australian state politics since the last published poll. Parental guidance is advised.
May 19. Former Police Minister Bob Kucera quits the Labor Party after being defeated for preselection, threatening to run as an independent in Nollamara or Mount Lawley. Also dumped is upper house member Batong Pham, who has been confined to a wheelchair since suffering an aneurysm in June 2007. Pham’s defeat prompts a bitter attack on Alan Carpenter by Pham’s New Right faction colleague John D’Orazio, recently readmitted to the party against Carpenter’s wishes after being cleared of improperly using his influence during his own spell as Police Minister.
May 20. The West Australian reports Malcolm Turnbull has urged Julie Bishop to switch to state politics to replace the unelectable Troy Buswell. Bob Maumill, local radio veteran and friend of Brian Burke, airs claims that an unidentified minister exposed his Prince Albert (link not safe for work) during what The West described as a gathering of the Government’s luminaries. Another minister is said by Maumull to have invited a policy officer for a ménage à trois. Maumill also says he knows of three impeccable sources who corroborate claims Carpenter lifted the shirt of outgoing MP Jaye Radisich at a karoake night in 2004.
May 23. A former government adviser tells The West Australian she was the recipient of the aforementioned ministerial threesome proposition, and identifies the proposer as Energy Minister Fran Logan. On refusing to sack Logan, Carpenter is reminded of his response in February to the Buswell bra-snapping revelation: that parliament should not be cast as a boys’ club where the behaviour of sexist yobbos is not just tolerated but is rewarded.
May 26. Buswell’s predecessor as member for Vasse, Bernie Masters, says he is seriously considering running against him at the coming election. Masters quit the Liberal Party ahead of the 2005 election after losing preselection to Buswell, and fell 210 votes short of retaining the seat as an independent.
June 4. Former Labor MP John Halden is dumped as campaign manager for lobbyist colleague Karen Brown, Alan Carpenter’s hand-picked candidate for the new seat of Mount Lawley, after admitting to receiving Cabinet leaks from public servants.
June 5. An explosion at Apache Energy’s Varanus Island plant ushers in the state’s ongoing gas crisis.
June 10. The Corruption and Crime Commission finds that Shadow Road Safety Minister John McGrath moved a parliamentary motion provided to him by Brian Burke, but clears him of misconduct (also cleared over dealings with Burke are Labor members John Quigley and Ben Wyatt). Buswell’s refusal to sack his lieutenant angers upper house Liberal Anthony Fels, who was dumped in February 2007 over a similar transgression involving Noel Crichton-Browne.
June 12. Rob Johnson, Shadow Police and Justice Minister and bitter foe of Troy Buswell, is dumped from the front bench after threatening to resign unless McGrath is sacked.
June 15. Buswell strips McGrath of his road safety portfolio in the reshuffle following Johnston’s departure.
June 17. Buswell survives a spill motion for the second time in seven weeks. Anthony Fels introduces the motion despite having failed to interest his prospective challenger, Matt Birney, and it is defeated by 21 votes to eight. The motion is seconded by Shadow Environment Minister Graham Jacobs, who then quits his shadow cabinet and parliamentary whip positions.
June 19. Paul Omodei quits the Liberal Party. Liberal upper house MP Peter Collier reacts to the news by sending out a text message reading: Omodei has resigned from the party. Three to go.. This is presumed to refer to Rob Johnson, Graham Jacobs and Anthony Fels. Among those sent the message, presumably unintentionally, is Omodei himself. Omodei refuses to rule out running at the election as an independent, either in Blackwood-Stirling (the successor to his existing seat, where he has probably burned his bridges by refusing the option of contesting as Liberal candidate), Vasse (Buswell’s seat) or South West (the upper house region for which he failed to secure a winnable seat on the Liberal ticket).
June 20. Dan Sullivan, one-time Liberal deputy leader who quit the party in February after failing to secure preselection under the new electoral boundaries, unveils his curiously named new party, WAFamilyFirst.com. Sullivan has apparently failed to interest Johnson, Fels, Jacobs and Omodei in the venture. Those who might be on board, according to The West’s Kate Campbell, include former One Nation members John Fischer and Frank Hough, and former federal Labor MP turned One Nation candidate Graeme Campbell.
June 26. John D’Orazio quits the Labor Party, joining a cross-bench that has swollen from two members to eight since the 2005 election. He announces he will run as an independent against former Channel Seven journalist Reece Whitby, Carpenter’s hand-picked candidate for the new seat of Morley. Yet another former Labor independent, upper house MP Shelley Archer, says she is likely to run against Labor MP Carol Martin in Kimberley, while The West reports that Bob Kucera is expected to announce he will run against Labor candidate Janine Freeman in the new seat inner northern suburbs seat of Nollamara. A Liberal Party executive meeting reportedly considers disendorsing Johnson and Jacobs in their seats of Hillarys and Eyre.