It is being universally reported that Eric Ripper will officially stand aside as leader of WA’s Labor opposition today, with Rockingham MP Mark McGowan to fill the vacancy unopposed. Ripper had survived as Opposition Leader for three years and three months since assuming the position in the aftermath of the 2008 election – not bad going by modern standards. However, polling throughout the term has consistently indicated that Labor has failed to seriously trouble the government, and a post-CHOGM blowout in the Liberal lead to 59-41 in the Newspoll published on January 6 may have been the last straw.
The decisive moment came on Friday when Ripper was told he had lost the support of the seven-member “Missos” Left, including the party’s lower house deputy Roger Cook and upper house leader Sue Ellery (not to mention United Voice a.k.a. LHMWU state secretary Dave Kelly). This development activated the latent opposition to Ripper among the eight-member element of the Right which had supported Ben Wyatt’s abortive challenge last year, which included both the mooted contenders – McGowan and Peter Tinley. While some who didn’t like the idea of the former evidently gave encouragement to the latter, Tinley simplified matters by declaring himself too inexperienced. There were also at least three members of the “Metallies” Left (Mick Murray, Fran Logan and David Templeman) who saw things the same way as the Missos, together with factional independents Tom Stephens (a long-standing Ripper foe) and Tony Buti.
This collectively made for at least 19 members willing to back McGowan over Ripper out of a caucus of 37. The tipping point having been reached, by yesterday any holdouts among the Metallies faction had come round to Ripper. Ripper’s only remaining loyalists were the “New Right” faction, which is an alliance built around Michelle Roberts and the “Shoppies” Right, together with Ripper himself and his partner Ljiljanna Ravlich (once colleagues in the now barely existent Centre faction). The West Australian today reports that Ripper retained 12 supporters in total, so I presume by process of elimination this must have included one out of Adele Farina (who has a background in the Centre) and Linda Savage (an independent).
Part of the steady drip of bad news for Ripper was Monday’s announcement by Bassendean MP Martin Whitely that he would not seek another term, which came with a suggestion that Ripper should follow his example. Whitely further complained of “factional bullies who have tried to end my career on two previous occasions”. One of those he may well have been referring to, the aforementioned Dave Kelly of the Missos, was tipped by Gary Adshead of The West Australian yesterday as a possible successor to his seat. Adshead also identifies the proposal which has been floated for Nollamara MP Janine Freeman (whose seat has been renamed Mirrabooka in the redistribution) to recover Morley from the Liberals as being motivated by a desire to gain a further seat for the Missos, and further reports the faction has designs on Ripper’s own seat of Belmont. It had earlier been reported the seat might be of interest to state secretary Simon Mead, who is also associated with the faction.