Last Month in Politics: WA’s new leadership team

McGowan's Surprise resignation topped headlines this month, with Roger Cook stepping in as Western Australia's new Premier.

Government, Government Relations, Parliament, Political Leaders, Politics

Bree Liddell 8 Jun 2023
5 mins
Mark McGowan resigns as Western Australia's Premier

Budgets and cost of living were the talk of the month as the WA, Victorian and Federal governments handed down their 2023/24 Budgets, but after only one month of reprieve, interest rates were increased yet again with a double dose of 25 base point hikes to 4.10% and students got the news their HECS-HELP debts are set to be hit with a 7.1% indexation in June.

But no news was bigger in the State than the shock resignation of our Premier Mark McGowan, who departed Parliament altogether last Friday when his week of notice expired.

A new Premier for Western Australia

On May 29, after 27 years in parliament and six as Premier of WA, Mark McGowan announced he would be stepping down as both Premier and member for Rockingham.

After explaining he was exhausted, McGowan said the position had been the privilege of a lifetime.

Arguably one of the most dominant premiers in recent Australian politics, McGowan has experienced vast success and results for the State as well as reaching record high popularity of 91% during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many West Australians he was the person who got the State through COVID-19 and was the face of State politics, especially following the 2021 landslide election where the party took the angle of asking voters to vote for McGowan, not the party or local candidate.

The Premier holds Labor’s safest seat with a margin of 37.7% and his Party holds 53 of the 59 seats in the Legislative Assembly and also holds control in the Upper House, a historic first for the Party.

The legacy the Premier leaves in his wake is immense as he steps away with his Party in a dominant position, and boasting large consecutive surpluses.

As of the first week of June, Roger Cook and Rita Saffioti have formally been endorsed by the WA Labor caucus as Premier and Deputy Premier respectively.

Mr McGowan’s resignation also left a position in Cabinet for a new Minister to join a highly experienced crew. It was Balcatta MP David Michael who got the call up to oversee a couple of strategic portfolios as Minister for Ports; Local Government; Road Safety; and Minister assisting the Minister for Transport.

WA now enters the Cook Government era with a Cabinet as follows:

  • Hon. Roger Cook MLA – Premier; State and Industry Development, Jobs and Trade; Public Sector Management; Federal-State Relations
  • Hon. Rita Saffioti MLA – Deputy Premier; Treasurer; Transport; Tourism
  • Hon. Amber-Jade Sanderson MLA – Health; Mental Health
  • Hon. Sue Ellery MLC – Finance; Commerce; Women’s Interests
  • Hon. Stephen Dawson MLC – Emergency Services; Innovation and the Digital Economy; Science; Medical Research; Minister assisting the Minister for State and Industry Development, Jobs and Trade
  • Hon. David Templeman MLA – Culture and the Arts; Sport and Recreation; International Education; Heritage
  • Hon. John Quigley MLA – Attorney General; Electoral Affairs
  • Hon. Paul Papalia MLA – Police; Corrective Services; Defence Industry; Veterans Issues
  • Hon. Bill Johnston MLA – Mines and Petroleum; Energy; Hydrogen Industry; Industrial Relations
  • Hon. Dr Tony Buti MLA – Education; Aboriginal Affairs; Citizenship and Multicultural Interests
  • Hon. Simone McGurk MLA – Training; Water; Youth
  • Hon. John Carey MLA – Planning; Lands; Housing; Homelessness
  • Hon. Don Punch MLA – Regional Development; Disability Services; Fisheries; Seniors and Ageing; Volunteering
  • Hon. Reece Whitby MLA – Environment; Climate Action; Racing and Gaming
  • Hon. Sabine Winton MLA – Early Childhood Education; Child Protection; Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence; Community Services
  • Hon. Jackie Jarvis MLA – Agriculture and Food; Forestry; Small Business
  • Hon. David Michael MLA – Ports; Local Government; Road Safety; Minister assisting the Minister for Transport
  • Mrs Jessica Stojkovski MLA – Cabinet Secretary

Elsewhere in the world

This month international politics and news heavily consumed the media, as King Charles III was officially crowned; the capital of New Caledonia banned swimming at its beaches until 2024 following multiple shark attacks; and Fiji’s former attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was arrested and charged with an account of abuse of office.

Several May Day rallies across France turned violent as protesters attacked police with Molotov cocktails as they marched against the increase in retirement age; The humanitarian crisis in Sudan continues to worsen as more than 100,000 people were predicted to flee the violence of its civil war; and there are reports China’s politically-targeted exit bans are growing worse as the country increased its counter-espionage law.

The war in Ukraine has again intensified following reports four Russian military aircraft were shot down near the Ukrainian border; Russian missiles hit the city of the Ukrainian Eurovision contestants injuring at least two people; and former U.S President Donald Trump was found guilty by a jury of sexually abusing advice columnist E Jean Carroll 27 years ago.

In Australia, the Victorian Government handed down their 2023-24 Budget; Britain’s free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand came into effect at the end of May; and Trade Minister Don Farrell’s trip to China was met with disappointment after it failed to provide any relief from the country’s trade sanctions on Australian exports.

The Tasmanian Government is under pressure after two Liberal MPs defected, turning the government into a minority leading to heated debates of a potential no-confidence vote; and Minister for Environment, Tanya Plibersek controversially approved a new coal mine in central Queensland.

The Albanese Government placed a ban on the importation and sale of non-prescription vapes; ASIC fined superannuation fund Future Super $13,000 over a Facebook post that contained greenwashing; and the Australian Electoral Commission has warned of a sharp increase in misinformation and threats surrounding the referendum on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Prime Minister Albanese held a bilateral with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was welcomed to a full house in Sydney; and the Government will impose further financial sanctions on Russia in response to the Ukraine war, which will see 21 entities and three individuals added to the list as well as the ban on the export of all machinery and related parts to Russia.

In WA, following the release of the State Budget, the McGowan Government launched the $5.5 million program Job Reconnect to support more individuals into jobs; Minister Johnston announced an independent review into the Construction Industry Portable Paid Long Service Leave Act 1985 to assess whether it remains fit for purpose; and recent testing by APA Group has confirmed the technical feasibility of the conversion of a 43 kilometre section of the Parmelia Gas Pipeline to carry 100% hydrogen.

WA March 2023 Quarterly Financial Results Report

The WA Government has released the March 2023 Quarterly Financial Results Report highlighting a net debt decrease of $863 million in the first nine months of the 2022-23 financial year to be $28.3 billion. It’s now at its lowest level since 2014-15.

The operating surplus is sitting at $3.6 billion to March 2023, which is $1.9 billion lower than this time last year, and the general government revenue for the last nine months was $951 million higher than the same period last year. This is said to be a result of higher taxation collections and Commonwealth grants, but recorded lower dividends from public corporations.

The report highlighted the government expenses were also higher than the same period last year, by $2.9 billion. This is due to the roll out of the State Government Wages Policy; the $400 electricity credit in 2022; and higher spending on community services, health and road maintenance.

The current financial results indicate the State is set to meet the 2022-23 full-year forecasts that were released in this month’s 2023-24 Budget.

United States’ ‘debt ceiling’

Democrats and Republicans in Congress spent the past couple of months in a stalemate over how much the Federal Government can borrow. The recent debates were sparked following Treasury’s warning in January that the Government had hit its borrowing limit of $31.4 trillion – also known as the debt ceiling.

Congress has the ability to change the debt ceiling by passing legislation – which it has done on 78 previous instances since 1960 to avoid being forced to default.

On May 31, legislation negotiated by President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy passed the House, effectively deferring the Federal debt limit for two years.

On the flip side, it included two years of spending caps on the Biden Administration to satisfy Republican requests for compromise.

While the US is only one of two developed nations with a debt ceiling, international government officials have warned if it is reached, it would result in a ‘global downturn of unknown, but substantial severity’.

Bree Liddell More from author

Bree is Cannings Purple’s Government Relations Consultant, working with a diverse set of clients across the energy, resources, education and health sectors.

Qualified with a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts (Politics and International Relations) and Bachelor’s Degree in Science (Sport Science)(Nutrition), Bree is currently pursuing her Graduate Certificate in Public Policy.

Bree is skilled in strategic communications with the capability to review and analyse policies and procedures to deeper understand the government’s position, particularly identifying areas of opportunity for clients to engage government and create a working relationship.

With a broad range of working knowledge of the political system and internship experience in a state members office, Bree is perfectly placed to assist clients in navigating government process, policies and approvals.

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