Friday, July 6, 2012

Reshuffle kerfuffle – Part 3: Murray Cowper

Other parts already published:

Other parts coming soon:

  • Michael Mischin
  • Liza Harvey / Rob Johnson
  • Staff fallout
  • Cost to the State
  • Other movements and their wider impact
“Murray Cowper! Murray for Murray! Murray #$%îng Cowper!! Seriously??”

Most phone calls I receive these days start with some sort of greeting (apart from the abusive ones that is LoL), but this is exactly how the well informed person on the other end of the phone began his conversation with me last Thursday.

And his disbelief is shared by many others in the Western Australian Liberal Party and beyond. I’ve had a number of confidential emails and phone calls from party members and even had a couple from Liberal MP’s who have been angered by the move.

Here’s a part of a comment that someone sent in response to Part 1 of this series. I did not republish it in full because I thought some of it was defamatory so I’ve removed those sections but not altered any of the words or context below:

“I struggled with the decision whether or not to comment on this post because what I am about to say will hurt the party I work for. But I decided at the end of the day, the truth needs to get out there at any cost.
I'll be frank and say the decision to axe Rob Johnson was a huge political mistake and may cost the Liberals the 2013 election. For numerous reasons, some obvious only to party insiders. But I'll make the following key points.
1. The Emperor, as he is now called by the party faithful, did not inform the Liberal party of his decision to dump Rob. Liberal Party HQ found out through the media. Yep, good ol' Colin holds the party in such high regard that we had to find out AFTER he had told the media pack of his plans to basically hand election victory to Labor. A further kick in the guts after the whole Kate Lamont shemozzle.
2. IF the Emperor had bothered to inform HQ of his decision to get rid of Johnson, we would have advised to do so would be political suicide, given that internal party polling clearly indicates that Johnson has wide community support and his tough law and order stance is keenly shared by the majority of the public. They know who he is, they know what he stands for and they like it. Any criticism shown to him by the media or Opposition doesn't stick, in fact, our polling showed that it actually increased his popularity. It is widely accepted that he largely contributed to our 2008 election victory and was streets ahead of Michelle Roberts and the Labor party in selling the law and order agenda ahead of next year's election. Colin has basically thrown that advantage out the window. With no thought. No consultation. No regard for party polling.
I'll make the point that politics did play a role in the decision to install Murray Cowper as a Minister.
Yes, the decision that had EVERYONE scratching their heads in utter disbelief and wondering if Cowper had undergone a brain transplant overnight. The truth is, Cowper threatened to go independent before the election if he wasn't given a Ministerial position. Whether he would have had the funds to do so will never be known because the Premier fell for his bluff and handed him a plum Ministerial job.
To all of the Labor hacks reading this, congratulations, you will probably be finding yourselves enjoying the luxury of Hale House come next March due to last week's incredibly foolish Cabinet reshuffle. “
Wow. We will talk some more about the appalling way Rob Johnson (and evidently the rest of the Party) was treated in another part of the series, but the bit about Murray Cowper speaks volumes.

As I reported in Murray for Murray-Welington? Maybe...  on 8 March, Minister Cowper (as he is now) was the only sitting Liberal Member to be challenged for pre-selection this time around. Without being particularly cruel to Mr Cowper, that challenge was seen by many as warranted.

To be fair, it’s clear to me that the big man also has a big heart. It’s clear that he is passionate about his politics. It’s clear that, as a former senior copper, he has had his fair share of real life experiences and understands some of society’s woes better than any of us. But sadly, it’s also clear that he doesn’t have the charisma or even subtlety required to appear competent during the cut and thrust of a Parliamentary question time, let alone the sometimes ruthless media pack that will await him in every day outside in the fern garden.

And any vision of a clumsy response from any Minister will decrease the public’s confidence in the whole Government – let’s not under-estimate that – Ministers are the only MP’s allowed to speak on behalf of “the Government” and therefore the public forms its opinion of the whole Government based on 7 second grabs of which ever Minister they see on the nightly news. Elevating Mr Cowper, especially to a portfolio like Corrective Services that sometimes requires a fast, eloquent response to reassure the public, is a big risk for this government.

With that in mind, the Premier’s decision to promote him ahead of so many others who have waited patiently on the back bench clearly wasn’t about proving he had lots of talent to choose from, because it kind-of suggests the opposite. So in the absence of another rationale for what many are seeing as an unwise promotion, it looks as though my reader’s suggestion stands – under Premier Barnett, the squeaky wheel does indeed get the oil!

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