The most able Western Australian minister’s sudden decision to quit and contest a federal preselection ought be the stuff of high-fiving Liberal celebration.
But Christian Porter’s risky decision has caused great displeasure in Liberal circles with a real risk the bright-spark’s political career could implode. Some Liberals fear it could destabilise the government less than a year before the next state election.
He is no dead certainty of winning the historically stacked, whacked and shellacked federal seat of Pearce, currently held by the Liberal party’s most dripping wet preach-meister Judy Moylan. Porter has always been seen as a very dry, socially conservative type, although has been seen frequenting Perth bars with uber-wet Winthrop Professor and star of Sky News small-screen Peter van Onselen, who has his own Tory political aspirations, some say.
The thrusting young man twenty-something lawyer Alex Butterworth, considered too young by some, had been expected to handily win the Pearce preselection, having circulated in a genteel way among the membership for some time and impressing the oldies despite leaning to libertarianism in a manner that would not wash well with the blue-rinse set.
Meanwhile, no doubt in response to the shock news of his Club Fed plot broken by a chipper young ABCista, unpleasant rumours circle the high-flying WA Treasurer and Attorney-General. Word from state Parliament House has been that the impatiently ambitious senior minister has – as recently as this month – confronted Premier Colin Barnett and demanded a transitional leadership arrangement, described by some in the trade as “a Kirribilli” in honour of the deal between Hawke and Keating that Hawke famously reneged on, as you do.
Mr Buswell (is) Australia’s first Minister for Housing who doesn’t have one.
Porter apparently suggested Barnett depart half-way through the next term after next March’s state election where the Liberals are expected to win in a landslide. The sixty-two year-old Premier was having none of it, like many a Baby Boomer, hoping to push the retirement-age well past sixty-five.
The high-flying pushy young minister has told friends that he has been doing much of the heavy lifting in the state government and is even rumoured to have told Barnett “you can’t govern without me.”
Cemeteries are full of the graves of indispensable people, Barnett could have responded, had he been familiar with the works of De Gaulle, a seemingly unlikely prospect.
Liberal sources say Porter told Barnett he would leave, if no arrangement was made. He’s been as good as his threat, it now appears.
Personal rumours about the Treasurer/Attorney’s supposedly mid-life crisis related behaviour have also done the rounds last night, with fevered speculation on his personal situation perhaps informed by his past record of ditching the first wife, Lucy – in the style of Don Draper – for the secretary, Jennifer, after a wild three-day wine-swilling bed-creaking weekend at Margaret River that came to the attention of first wife. Not good. But that was then, and this is now and there’s nothing to the new speculation, Liberal insiders say.
Indeed, we’re not putting much stock in last night’s burst of nasty personal rumours which some saw as linked to the also incorrectly rumoured resignation of a profanity-uttering political reporter, having seen epic falsehoods presented as certain facts by know-alls and gimps in federal Parliament House who would do the nation service by leaping off a federally-protected tree, so we won’t go into that.
We only like true rumours, like the fact former WA Treasurer and party Leader cum chair-sniffer Troy Buswell who left the missus for the highly unlikely prospect of then Greens MP Adele Carles (it was, of course, VEXNEWS that first revealed their unnatural love long before anyone in the WA media) before wisely opting to reject her into a recycling programme is now officially homeless after departing his enviro-sensitive love-shack, is reputedly now sleeping on the couch of one of his ministerial colleagues, the Minister for Energy; Training and Workforce Development and Indigenous Affairs Peter Collier.
This situation almost certainly makes Mr Buswell Australia’s first Minister for Housing who doesn’t have one. (Perhaps offering him unprecedented insight into the plight of the homeless) This strange situation would count against him in some polities, in WA, the land of the prosperous bogan and his shiny new ute, his plight appears merely to confirm the Minister’s ‘legend’ status, first acquired when busted indelicately sniffing the chair of a secretary whose secretions he admired.
From the succour of his mate’s couch, Minister Buswell could have yet another chapter in his long encyclopaedia of rehabilitation, seen as the only serious option to replace Porter as Treasurer. Some were hoping Buswell would have a bit more time to redeem himself.
Keep in mind, Buswell and Porter are the WA Liberal government’s best-performers by a long way, sources on both sides of politics confirm.
That said, Porter’s critics are coming out of the woodwork, some say his decision to appoint his chum the state Solicitor-General while allowing said mate to maintain a private legal practice was extraordinary if not technically improper.
Others question Porter’s political judgment generally make reference to him being the grandson of a long-serving Liberal MP and son of a former party director, suggesting he is a “professional descendant.” A bit harsh perhaps, given he appears to be one of few of Barnett’s ministers on top of his game.
Whether he’s gamed his move into Club Fed properly remains to be seen, a preselection defeat would certainly be embarrassing. It’s a risky business.