Monday, March 19, 2012

Sherpa's revolt

As pointed out by the (hardly) ever insightful “Inside Cover” in Saturday’s West Australian newspaper, I’ve had my fair share of life experiences. And while I’ve never been a mountaineering guide like those colloquially named after the noble Sherpa people of Nepal, I certainly get the feeling that I have some insight into their daily lives – and it would appear, other politically aware Western Australians do too.

You see, a stereotypical “Sherpa” according to many of us western lounge-lizards, is a pretty ordinary guy who pays his bills by doing what he does best - thinking for other people who don’t have his specialist knowledge. We rarely hear their names because it’s their job to quietly help rich men in suits climb mountains, update their Facebook pages and document their self-proclaimed heroism with cameras that cost more then the annual GDP of the Sherpa’s entire village. Sometimes the men in suits choose to outright ignore their Sherpa’s advice and no doubt also blame them for not fore-warning of an imminent danger obvious to everyone other than the moody guy with the money. But still, by all accounts, they put their heads down and keep trying to do what they do in a professional manner.

Now, I’m sure that’s not a fair representation of all climber/Sherpa relationships, but I reckon QBF readers are smart enough to see the analogy I’m trying to draw. However, for those Robin Williams fans who like it s-p-e-l-l-e-d out for you at the end of the movie: some of our Ministers are just like the precious, Facebooking men in suits trampling over everything in order to get to their own personal summit - and the Sherpa’s are sometimes like their hard-working, highly skilled advisers.

But the analogy can’t stop there – I haven’t yet been able to bring donkeys into the story…

After listening to Professor D'Arcy Holman, the Chairman of the State’s Road Safety Council, talking to Paul Murray on radio 6PR this morning, our State’s public sherpas, umm servants, appear to have learned another secret of their Nepalese associates: When you’re dealing with donkey’s (or Asses because it’s more fun to call them that in this context), you first try to move them with a carrot and if that doesn’t work, you bring out a mighty big stick!

Professor Holman talked extensively to the doyen of Western Australian current affairs about how the Government might spend the $80 million a year it expects to receive from red light and speed camera fines starting this July. The Professor, who is obviously well versed in the art of making asses move against their will, cleverly used the opportunity to ensure that the public knows he and his council are trying to use a carrot in the first instance:

“I, like you and everyone else, am waiting to see what the government does in response to our recommendations… but in the interests of good governance it is necessary to allow the government some time to consider our recommendations and to formulate its response before it makes its public statement about where it stands.”
Giddyup… move forward… here boy… Sounds like the Road Safety Council enjoys a pleasant and mutually respectful relationship with their political asses (told you it was fun to say).

But then the truth - Mr Holman doesn’t have much faith that the Government will voluntarily do what he wants it too. In true Sherpa style, he humbly pointed to the big stick in his back pocket:

“I am concerned about the possibility that these funds could be misspent in a way that is not consistent with the priorities to reducing deaths and saving injuries on our roads… money could be whittled away in cost shifting or really just funding the wrong things because they are popular… I will make certain that you (the media) know what we recommended… I would be more than happy to enable a comparison between the government’s final position and what we recommended.”
Yar mule!!!  Them’s fightin’ words for sure.

Unfortunately for the Government, the Road Safety Minister, who should be putting on the gloves to jump into the ring with a committee that sounds just a little too big for its boots probably doesn’t have the strength to win yet another bloody bout. And it’s not just strength Minister Johnson is short of. It’s support too. There’s no doubt it’s possible for a tired boxer to perk up with the crowd behind him in the final rounds, but sadly for the kind-hearted Member for Hillarys, the public and according to Federal Liberal Member Don Randall, some of his State colleagues have started cheering for someone else.

That leaves the Premier with only two rather ugly choices: contradict what he said last December with another reshuffle and move Mr Johnson aside before next year’s election; or do what he absolutely detests and let public servants (I know Mr Holman thinks he’s not, but in this role he really is) dictate government policy by just rolling over and funding everything the Council has asked for.

My best guess is the former, but he won’t bring it on unless he absolutely has to.

He said last week from Singapore that Mr Johnson had his “full confidence and support” – seemingly overlooking the fact that he stripped Minister Johnson of the FESA portfolio only 3 months ago without as much as a courtesy phone call.

The truth is, Mr Barnett does not have full confidence in Minister Johnson, plain and simple.

However, he knows reshuffles cause tension within the Party and uncertainty within the public so he will mull over it trying to avoid any sign of weakness or the appearance of a damaging scandal. He really doesn’t want any more change in the Cabinet, but slowly the Premier will carry out his unique, hands-off curing process and Minister Johnson will eventually be hung out and dry. When the Premier is finally forced to act his economically-minded travel buddy Mike Nahan or very capable (and female) Liza Harvey will receive a new title and pay rise. This move will create other problems for the Premier primarily because there’s a line of other backbenchers who think they others should go to make room for them – but we’ll save that insight for another day.

In the meantime, Mr Barnett will huff and puff about public servants not setting government policy, while secretly hoping the distraction is enough to keep the ropes strong and able to hold Minister Johnson up - just for the last round or two.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Darren, do you think Mike Nahan would have to make Riverton less marginal before being promoted? I know the re-distribution has made Riverton less marginal. Your thoughts?

    For the record, I don't think Hannah Beazley will have much chance of knocking him off. She will have some name recognition but without any particular achievements to campaign on, I don't know what the ALP would use to mount a challenge with.