Saturday, July 14, 2012

Porter's Pearce pre-selection pomp

In advance of tomorrows Liberal pre-selection showdown for the Federal division of Pearce, Western Australia's former Attorney General/Treasurer Christian Porter has done what any well-funded, professional candidate for a poll should do - distributed his CV and references to those he wants to vote for him.

And the 47 page, glossy document speaks volumes about the man, the party and the emerging problem for us all in modern politics.

This article in today's West Australian newspaper says almost everything the pre selectors should know about the man - from the cutesy professionally staged photo of Mr Porter being embraced by his well-groomed wife to the pages of out-of-context single lines of "support" ripped from the pages of almost every newspaper in the land - it paints a picture of a somewhat narcissistic, yet accomplished young man who is on top of his idyllic life.

The message the document sends about the Liberal Party is unfortunate, to say the least, on a couple of fronts.

Firstly, the nauseating references from Fortescue Metals Group chairman and billionaire Andrew Forrest, Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief Sam Walsh and Oakajee Port and Rail chief John Langoulant just solidify the popularly held belief that the Liberal Party plays to the "big end of town" and often overlooks the value of small business and genuine local people. Being able to pick up the phone and solicit a reference from a senior executive of one of the world's largest companies is impressive, but what does Rio Tinto or Fortescue do for the people of Pearce? Where is the reference from a shop owner in Gingin or Steven Pollard, the Shire President of Northam?

The second, and much more problematic issue for the Party is the inclusion of references from several very high profile State Council members. If, and we all know it's a big if, the local preselectors choose to stand up and make a point about local candidates as they did in the recent state Churchlands seat, the only hope for Mr Porter is for the Liberal Party's State Council to overturn the decision. And that would cause a serious perception problem, if not a legal one for the Party. Given that these well regarded, high profile members of the Party's State Council have already effectively cast their vote in the most firm and public of ways, would this influence you as a local pre-selector? Would any loyal servant of the Party have the courage to preference someone other than Mr Porter knowing that their vote would not only be overturned, but also irritate senior Party officials?

At best, it's poor judgement of State Councillors to have provided a reference for Mr Porter at this point and at worst, it completely undermines the supposed sanctity of the local branch-led preselection "process" the Party relies on for credibility in the wider electorate.

The last, and most distressing point for us non-Liberal members is the problem Mr Porter's whole approach exemplifies - the tendency for modern political parties to preference celebratory and photoshopped finishing over real, raw, local people willing to jump in and scrap for their local issues.

Don't get me wrong, I believe Christian Porter is a very worthy candidate for any of our Parliaments - and I support his personal decision to follow his dreams.... But is he the right candidate for Pearce or did he only nominate for that electorate because of circumstance? It's obvious that it's the latter. He has no particular passion or connection with the area and the fact that he has chosen to sell himself to the people on the ground using glossy brochures, photoshopped staged photos and references from WA's most wealthy - and perhaps removed - elite, speaks volumes about what we, as a society are looking for in our future politicians.

I hope the preselectors of Pearce think hard before casting their vote tomorrow. Perhaps it's time to remind the tall poppies that they owe much of their place in the sun to the grassroots who let them through and supported them.

I wish Christian Porter well, but I really wish he had nominated for a seat that he was genuinely passionate about - even if it meant having to have a real fight for preselection. At least then we the voters could be confident that the Liberal Party candidates wanted to represent local people and not suspicious that they are just using us to get closer to a personal goal.

PS. This, like many documents, came to me anonymously - before anyone asks.


  1. Care to make the document available?

  2. Do you care to make yourself known to me?

  3. And when the local terrier finishes fighting for a local path, what then?

    Most people, including most party members in all parties, understand that politics is about a battle of ideas for the best way to organise ourselves as a society.