Opportunity for Premier to set own succession plan
Last month Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett marked the anniversary of his eighth year in the role by winning a vote of confidence from his Liberal parliamentary colleagues, Associate Director Michael Cairnduff discusses what happens now he’s put down a spill motion.
His challenger, former Minister Dean Nalder had earlier resigned from the front bench along with fellow Cabinet member Tony Simpson.
Is this the end of the story?
Following the defeat, Mr Nalder spoke briefly accepting the result and congratulating the Premier on his continuation in the role. Since then, Mr Nalder has kept a low profile.
The big question for the Liberal Party now is how much structural damage the spill caused them on the political front, with the high profile, high net worth individuals in the party’s supporter base not being able to affect their desired change and beginning to hedge their bets with the Opposition.
Political polling continues to tell an unhappy story for the WA Liberals. An Essential poll of 1,115 voters released this week put Labor ahead 53 to 47 per cent in two-party preferred terms, continuing a year which has seen the Opposition repeatedly ahead in opinion polls.
Following the spill, Colin Barnett took the opportunity to strategically reshuffle his Cabinet.
He went further than simply filling the Ministerial vacancies created by the departure of Dean Nalder and Tony Simpson.
Who are the new ministers?
Understandably, the new ministers have maintained a fairly low profile since taking on their new roles, focusing instead on getting across their new portfolios.
Paul Miles MLA
Wanneroo MLA Paul Miles was promoted to Minister for Local Government, Community Services, Seniors and Volunteering and Youth – effectively taking over the previous responsibilities of Tony Simpson.
Mr Miles has a proven history of community engagement within his electorate of Wanneroo (one of the northern suburbs seats that could do with some reinforcing ahead of the election) having been an active councillor for the City of Wanneroo prior to becoming a parliamentarian. He has been a member of the Wanneroo Lions Club for 30 years and working as a member of the Local Drug Action Group.
The Hon. Mark Lewis MLC
The Agriculture and Food portfolio was re-established as a stand-alone appointment, a result heavily lobbied for by farming groups unimpressed with the level of engagement from a string of ministers who had the responsibility lumped in with other major portfolios.
Agricultural scientist and Mining and Pastoral Region MLC Mark Lewis was appointed to the portfolio, a move which was welcomed by farmers, given Mr Lewis’ pre-parliamentary experience in developing irrigated agricultural opportunities as well as his senior management experience within the Department of Agriculture and Food.
Mr Lewis is well respected in the Mining and Pastoral region he represents and is known to spend a lot of time in regional WA, actively engaging in local issues and communities, which will serve him well in his new portfolio.
And the other moves
Senior Minister Bill Marmion took on the Transport portfolio, which is a natural fit given his professional experience as a civil engineer for Main Roads before entering State Parliament and relatively issue-free performance in Cabinet since 2010. Minister Marmion retained the State Development and Innovation portfolios.
The Premier took the Finance portfolio off Mr Marmion and handed it to emerging parliamentary performer Sean L’Estrange, who continues to grow his credentials as a senior member of the Parliamentary Liberal Party in WA. Mr L’Estrange maintained responsibility for Mines and Petroleum; and Small Business.
Mr Barnett also appointed two new Parliamentary Secretaries: South Metropolitan Region MLC Nick Goiran in the portfolio of Mental Health and Child Protection; and Carine MLA Tony Krsticevic assisting the Attorney General and Minister for Commerce.