Saturday, August 20, 2022

It’s time

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Like governments, Ministers have a use by date. Some Ministers last the full term before going down in an election, others are shuffled out when they fail in their portfolios, some have to be blown out by the opposition, while the honourable live up to their title and simply fall on their sword when their time is up.

Of course, there are the few who bail out at a time of their own choosing while still at the top of their game.

Unfortunately, the madness of power sees too many stay too long, leaving their leaders or the electorate with the responsibility of showing them the door when it’s time to go.

Eighteen months into the second term of the McGowan government, it’s becoming obvious that there is one Minister that has missed the opportunity to go out on top.

Alannah MacTiernan, once lauded as a great Minister for Transport, missed the opportunity to get out immediately following the opening of the Perth to Mandurah rail line back in 2007.

Quick point of history, while MacTiernan is often credited with building the line it was actually designed, funded and started by the previous Court government, with the funds coming from the sale of the Dampier to Bunbury pipeline in 1998.

Since then, besides taking credit for the rail line, the current Minister for Agriculture has spent her time doing factional deals to allow her to jump back and forth between State and Federal Parliament along with swapping between Upper and Lower Houses.

In hindsight, it is clear that the State Labor Party made a mistake when they allowed her to come back into State Parliament in 2017 after MacTiernan suffered relevance deprivation in Canberra.  

They made a second mistake in putting her back into cabinet, then a third, by giving her the agricultural portfolio, a fourth in rolling a younger MP Adele Farina to allow her to move seats and run again at the last election and the Premier has now made a fifth in backing her to stagger on as a lame duck Minister who has clearly lost the confidence of the industry.

By January, MacTiernan will be turning 70 and the backbench is clearly eyeing off her seat in cabinet.

Despite her recent announcement that this will be her last term, I doubt that after serving nearly 20 years in parliament and 14 as a cabinet minister they will be prepared to allow her to hang on for the remainder of this term as a Minister.

The pressure is mounting behind the scenes for her to go, not only because she is holding back the next generation of ministers, but because she has become a liability to the McGowan Government.

It’s not just the ‘it’s time’ factor, nor the furore around her recent comments linked to Foot and Mouth disease, nor her failure to get her Department to operate effectively, or even the fact she has been captured by the unscientific religion of regenerative agriculture, that she has to go.

No, it’s simply the fact that farmers have stopped listening to someone who prefers to lecture rather than listen.

They have tuned out to a Minster who dismisses them as being captured by the Gods of Yield, they have dialled down the endless noise about regenerative farming, they have given up waiting for supportive words on live exports.

While the Premier might have rushed to defend her comments over FMD with claims that she is hard working, he must know that she has to go. Farmers are not interested in someone who is working hard on their own priorities while ignoring core responsibilities like biosecurity.  

We all saw what happened when Dave Kelly lost the confidence of the fishing industry, he got shuffled out of the portfolio quick smart.

Ministers that are responsible for specific communities like farming, fishing, aboriginal affairs or veterans are particularly vulnerable when their constituency tunes out, or worse gets angry with the Minister responsible for looking after their interests. 

She is well known as a Minister who can’t keep staff, who can’t keep or find Director Generals, who bullies her department into trying to keep up with her scattergun list of demands, who reacts with anger when given frank and fearless advice is given, and who is more interested in driving a progressive green agenda than focusing on the boring basics like biosecurity.

We have a Minister who lauds regenerative crusaders like Charles Massey whose claim that glyphosate causes autism is not backed by good science, she appoints activist organisations to her Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, something no other state has done.

We have a Minster who after five and a half years in the job believes regional development is achieved via handing out grants to businesses like Harvest Road that don’t need them and maintains the fiction that Royalties for Regions lives on, when we all know it is dead.

We have a Minister that ignores our repeated calls for more money and resources for biosecurity and, as this letter highlights, did nothing back in January when we requested she run a track and trace exercise off the back of BJD. 

While the Premier is backing her for now, he knows, that we know, that MacTiernan is well past her use by date. It’s time for her to go, the question is simply, will she jump at her own timing or will she need to be pushed at the next reshuffle due at the end of the year?

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