Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hubris, impropriety and the crises swirling around the Barnett Government

No wonder the WA Premier Colin Barnett feels that his government is under siege. It is.

The minority Barnett Liberal National government is proving even more incompetent than its Labor predecessor. The fog of impropriety, incompetence and hubris swirl around the minority Liberal National Government.

The latest crises, the "staff for votes "controversy, derives from a deal between Premier Barnett and Adele Carles, the former Green but now Independent MP for Fremantle, in which Carles agreed to support the minority Barnett Government  in exchange for additional resources to employ more staff in her office. 

This potentially illegal arrangement is the continuation of a series of questionable deals made between the Premier, various Independent MP's and the WA Nationals to secure power for his minority government.

Each day brings a new revelation or new crises. Today it is the embarrassment of upper house members of the National Party (the Liberals Coalition partners) refusing to support the Government's much vaunted "stop and search" legislation, rendering it dead in the water. The Police Minister and the Premier's handling of the legislation has been so flawed they failed to convince even their Coalition partners to support the legislation.

The Premier’s authoritarian leadership style and single minded pursuit of a “big development” agenda are proving his undoing.

On a range of fronts the Government agenda falters. Community opposition and outrage grows by the day against the Barnett Government's law and order agenda, its intensification of police powers, its radical privatization plans for public services, its support for multinational corporations and big business at the expense of the law and the public good, its plans to seize Aboriginal land, its plan to  industrialize the Kimberley region, its vision for a massive port and rail development in the Midwest, its advocacy and support for a uranium industry and austerity measures that are causing massive increases in daily costs of living and tariffs for water, electricity and gas, and thereby increasing the hardship and suffering experienced by the least well off.

Premier Barnett runs the state as though he was still the CEO of the WA Chamber and Commerce, a position he held before entering Parliament. He gifts the state's “common wealth”, its public services and massive public investment into the hands of multinational corporations and the WA business and corporate elite.

What is deeply troubling is that there is no effective political opposition to hold the Barnett minority Government to account. The Opposition Labor Party has become irrelevant. The Independents are largely self serving local members, seduced by the trappings of power.  The Greens have good people in Parliament but they are distracted by a focus on "pet projects" and internal difficulties resulting from the expulsion of the member for Fremantle, and have failed to mount an effective concerted campaign against the agenda of the Barnett Government. 

It is Western Australian civil society- Aboriginal groups, community groups, citizen activists, trade unions, campaigning organizations, voluntary groups, small not for profits and courageous citizens- who are the real "opposition" in WA.

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