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McGowan’s feat huge … so is the challenge

Mark McGowan didn’t just scale Everest, he jumped right over the top of it.

Having used the mountaineering analogy to describe the task of winning 10 seats to take government, he has conquered at least 18, maybe more.

It is impossible to overestimate the scale of McGowan’s achievement. Or the size of the job ahead of him.

McGowan routed one of WA’s most substantial leaders, stared down a reborn charlatan who threatened to disrupt the result and pulled on the most daunting fiscal challenge that has ever faced a WA premier.

The anti-Labor wave that rushed in from Canberra and washed away his hopes four years ago came back with such force that it will give him far more backbenchers than ministers, a political problem in itself that further exposes an unaligned leader to factional infighting.

The Liberals will be reduced to little more than a rump for a term, mirroring the Queensland experience I predicted over a year ago.

Mark McGowan makes his victory speech after a landslide win for Labor.

The party will face something like McGowan’s Everest to get back into power — but at least it knows it can be done in these volatile times.

Its relationship with the Nationals — if that is not too generous a description — is busted and will probably only have a chance of short-term repair if Brendon Grylls loses his seat.

For all the hyperventilation over the One Nation preference deal, it was simply about beating Labor from a primary vote around 30 per cent.

Moralising aside, that was little different from the Nationals’ repeated preferencing of the Greens for similar electoral ends.

However, it damaged both sides of the deal and has echoes of what happened to the Australian Democrats when they fatefully got into bed with John Howard’s Liberals over the GST.

You can’t keep the bastards honest when you’re sharing a pillow.

Pauline Hanson has proved once again that sustained exposure of her inadequacies, her party’s flaky platform and its rag-tag bunch of disaffected candidates will cause its support to unravel.

To get less than 5 per cent of the vote after the massive free publicity she attracted right through the campaign — and opinion poll highs around 15 per cent — is humiliating and suggests she has entered the burn-out phase already.

Having been bitten by the One Nation snake and then the Palmer United snake and then the Pauline Hanson One Nation snake again, where will the idiots go next?

The Greens failed to pick up any of the anti-Barnett vote, despite the Roe 8 hysteria they desperately tried to whip up, and are slowly being exposed as economic vandals.

Regardless of the make-up of the Legislative Council, McGowan has won the right to implement the agenda he took to the election. But his major immediate problems are not ones that need legislation.

The debt projections Labor unveiled last week were pathetic and cannot stand. It was an admission of failure.

McGowan is going to have to cut spending hard if he is not to preside over the mountain of debt about which he complained so vociferously blowing out to $50 billion within a few years.

The media focus on Labor’s costings was on the questionable pledge to get the Budget back into annual surplus by 2019-20, overshadowing that it admitted debt would still rise to more than $39 billion by then.

He has promised more jobs, but one of McGowan’s first duties will be to sack the workers on the Roe 8 project. He will then be expected to move on to the public service where he has promised savings of $750 million by letting 2500 go.

And he will have to take on the public sector unions over his promise to cut 100 places from the Senior Executive Service and then cut the pay of the remaining 400 by 20 per cent.

An early indicator of McGowan’s ability to stand up to the union bosses who control Labor’s factions will be in the make-up of his Cabinet.

It has to be cut from 20 in Opposition to 17, but needs to accommodate incoming MPs like Alannah MacTiernan and possibly the former head of the powerful Australian Workers Union, Stephen Price.

As for Colin Barnett, in the short term the focus on his legacy will be debt. It will eventually be seen differently because he has built public facilities of lasting benefit to the State.

Barnett was never a popular Premier but, thankfully, he was also never a populist.

His fiercely independent personality was neither aloof nor arrogant, but it meant he was an imperfect politician who too often took the harder road. His loyalty to people like Troy Buswell, and others, exposed his government to damage.

But he was incorruptible and decent, something that will become clearer and more important as the clouds of this political cyclone pass.

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