Almost 18 months into his second term as Premier and Mark McGowan still has the Midas touch.
He is undoubtedly the most popular leader in the country and WA Labor is still able to rely on his star power to deflect any negative headlines.
And that’s a good thing, because those headlines are starting to come thick and fast as it becomes increasingly clear he’s surrounded by subpar talent in his ministry.
We’re confident our readers will be as outraged as us to learn that some of the State’s most notorious bikie inmates were granted special permission recently to gather at 2.30am to watch a soccer match on the TV. As Ben Harvey reports, this was a “who’s who of organised crime”.
The union rightly warned that a decision like this “gives the impression that the prison is actually run by criminal elements”. So what was Corrective Services Minister Bill Johnston’s response? Well, he said it was OK because “they will be able to watch sport at two in the morning when they are at home” after their release.
Sadly, it’s the kind of ignorant answer we’ve become accustomed to from Mr Johnston. His move recently to force 17 troubled teens from Banksia Hill Detention Centre to the adult Casuarina Prison where they’re housed alongside some of the State’s worst criminals has drawn widespread condemnation. It also backfired spectacularly within days with revelations the youths have already trashed their cells.
Mr Johnston should still be hanging his head in shame too for his glacially slow response to The West’s revelations last year about sexual harassment at our mine sites.
While the industry itself took note almost immediately of how significant the stories were, the office of Mr Johnston (also the Mines Minister) actively tried to obfuscate our reporting. And then when a landmark report on the issue was released in Parliament recently he didn’t even bother showing up.
His Cabinet colleague Alannah MacTiernan has also caused major headaches for Mr McGowan with her bewilderingly tone-deaf comments that an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease among Australian livestock could actually help drive down the cost of meat and dairy products for consumers.
There are understandably growing calls for her to resign from our agricultural industry. And Simone McGurk has lurched from one disaster to the next as Community Services Minister. From revelations of racism in her department to the shameful arrest of an Aboriginal mother for being an alleged whistleblower (no charges were laid) to settling a defamation case over comments she made about former WA Australian of the Year Tracy Westerman.
And now, Communities is again being less than transparent about its interactions with a Port Hedland mum accused of murdering her three children.
When pressed by this paper about how many times the accused came in contact with the department, it is rolling out the “ongoing police investigation” line to wriggle out of answers. Meanwhile, senior police want the information as badly as our reporters.