Royalty rumbles rock Libs’ throne
WHETHER by accident or design, senior Liberals Liza Harvey and Sean L’Estrange this week added fuel to what was already a simmering issue: the leadership of the WA Liberal Party.
Despite claims by Liberal leader Mike Nahan to The Sunday
Times last month that it was his “intention to lead the WA Liberal Party to the 2021 election”, several Liberal sources are privately saying otherwise.
What I’m being told is that there will be a new WA Liberal leader before the end of next year, and that Nahan will willingly hand over the baton in 2018.
It is generally accepted that there are three contenders to replace Nahan — former deputy premier Liza Harvey and former Liberal-National government ministers Dean Nalder and Sean L’Estrange.
Harvey and L’Estrange, by sticking their heads up this week when they probably shouldn’t have, have set tongues wagging that they could well form a new Liberal leadership team, sooner rather than later.
In The West Australian this week, Harvey and L’Estrange publicly voiced their views that the Liberals should oppose the Labor Government’s gold royalty increase.
Harvey was particularly vocal, saying she was “irritated” that the Liberals appeared to be dragging their feet on coming to a position on the tax.
This was despite the fact that Nahan had claimed the Liberals would “not be rushed into making a decision”.
“I’m really irritated with it,” Mrs Harvey was quoted as saying.
“There are differing views in the party.
“In a perfect world we probably should have done this three of four weeks ago. “I think we should oppose it.” L’Estrange was quoted as saying: “I’m not supporting it.
“It’s a Labor broken promise tax hike and not a Liberal policy.”
Predictably, Harvey went into damage control saying: “He (Nahan) has absolutely unified support from the whole party.”
Nahan was soon after forced into declaring the Liberals would declare their hand this week in terms of their position on the proposed gold tax.
While the initial story has been about the gold tax saga, expect the sub-plot (Nahan’s leadership) to get more attention now.
For weeks, Liberals and journalists have privately been discussing Nahan’s leadership and the likely timing of his demise, and who would replace him.
Being Opposition Leader straight after an election loss is not normally a job anyone wants.
I clearly remember the 2005 State election aftermath, when the Liberals went through three leaders before settling on Colin Barnett in 2008.
Nahan has done an OK job as Liberal leader.
His major problem is that he was treasurer to Colin Barnett and therefore cannot escape criticism that the former Liberal-National government badly mismanaged the economy.
But the last few weeks have been particularly bad for Nahan.
Informed sources tell me Federal Liberals were furious with Nahan for saying the Liberals may mount a High Court challenge to try and get WA a fairer GST deal.
Nahan was also made to look average when WA Liberals, at State conference, passed a WAxit motion.
Nahan was against the motion, and the fact that it passed made his leadership look weak.
And now, you have the likes of Harvey and L’Estrange openly airing views that again make Nahan look weak.
It is well known Harvey would take the leadership if it was handed to her.
And in recent weeks, all the talk has been that L’Estrange was seeing himself more and more as potential replacement for Nahan.
Interestingly, Nalder this week decided against publicly airing his views on when, and if, the Liberals should oppose Labor’s gold royalty increase.
Maybe Nalder learnt the hard way in 2016 that if you stick your head up on leadership issues, you quickly get it cut off.
Joe Spagnolo Political Editor