Matters related thereto
• Legislation to fix election dates for the second Saturday in every March has passed through the Legislative Council and currently awaits the rubber stamp of the lower house. The bill allows some flexibility: automatic postponement if clashing with a federal election or a week either side of Easter Saturday, or a later date under “exceptional circumstances” as agreed to by the Premier and Opposition Leader. Despite the federal election provision, the date could still cause problems for future federal governments wishing to avoid clashes federal and state campaigns, early March having been a traditionally popular time for elections (most recently in 1990, 1993 and 1996). The parliament may still be dissolved at any time up to four months prior to the scheduled election date, but any government that does so will be exposing itself to a separate Legislative Council election held on the usual day. Barring such exceptional circumstances, the next election will be held on Saturday, March 9. This will result in the current parliamentary term being the longest of any federal or state parliament in Australian history, a legacy of Labor Premier Alan Carpenter’s decision to disturb the normal electoral cycle by calling for September 6, 2008 an election that was not due until February or March of 2009.
• There have been widespread suggestions that former Channel Nine newsreader Dixie Marshall will run as the Liberal candidate for Churchlands at the next election. Marshall has recently taken up a position as the government’s chief media strategist, and her father Arthur Marshall was a Liberal member for the seats of Murray and Murray-Wellington from 1989 to 2005. Churchlands will be vacated by the retirement of independent Liz Constable, an ally of Premier Colin Barnett who has served as Education Minister in his government since its came to office. Ben Harvey of The West Australian (see below) says other names in the mix include “cricket legend Justin Langer, hospitality tsarina Kate Lamont, media personality Adrian Barich and Australian Hotels Association (WA) boss Bradley Woods”.
• Ben Harvey of The West Australian offers a further review of preselection rumours doing the rounds. This appeared in the paper’s gossip-style Inside Cover section, prompting Harvey to qualify: “If they turn out to be wrong, then please discount this column as light-hearted fluff. But if any of them are right, then remember what you are about to read is an example of world-class forensic journalism.” The most interesting suggestion contained is that Deirdre Willmott, former Chamber of Commerce and Industry director and current business manager for Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group who won preselection before the 2008 election to succeed Colin Barnett in Cottesloe but then had to hand it back to him when he secured the party leadership, might run in the naturally conservative seat of Alfred Cove against sitting independent Janet Woollard, whose nine electoral lives are probably due to run out. Another suggestion with quite a few ifs attached is that Labor state secretary Simon Mead might succeed Eric Ripper in Belmont should Ripper lose the leadership and decide to bow out of politics. Still more qualified is an assertion that Alannah MacTiernan might be parachuted back in to assume the party leadership and stave off electoral disaster, the plausibility of which is indicated by the fact that no seat is nominated as a vehicle for her return. Harvey’s suggestion that MacTiernan might succeed Lisa Scaffidi as lord mayor and Scaffidi take over the seat of Perth was subsequently given short shrift by Scaffidi herself, who has dealt similarly with other such suggestions in the past. The rumour on which I would put the least money is that Troy Buswell will face a preselection challenge in Vasse from his wife Margaret, the former having taken up residence with the Greens-turned-independent Fremantle MP Adele Carles.
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