The resignation of WA Premier Mark McGowan has caught everyone by surprise. After serving as a State MP for 26 years and Premier for six years, he has decided to quit politics, effective Friday. He says he is exhausted and burnt out.
The COVID years and being Premier and Treasurer appear to have taken their toll. As he made the announcement to the media, his wife was by his side, with a big smile. No doubt she is looking forward to a little more family time!
Mark McGowan deserves our thanks for his years of service to the state.
McGowan, who belongs to the ‘non-aligned’ (neither left nor right) section of the ALP commanded great moral authority in the party room after the landslide victory at the March 2021 state election that saw Labor win with an unprecedented majority – winning 53 out of the 59 seats in the Legislative Assembly and 22 out of 36 seats in the Legislative Council.
McGowan had the full support of the WA media which ran the mantra, “McGowan kept us safe from COVID.” His approval rating as premier peaked at 91% in September 2020 and the latest poll had him still enjoying a 63% approval rating. His presenting as a family man, often out on the hustings with his wife and children, resonated with many West Australians.
Part of McGowan’s legacy was that he used his moral authority to put the brakes on the dominant left faction which wanted to push its ‘progressive’ agendas of abortion to birth, copying the draconian Victorian ‘conversion laws’ and imposing LGBTQ+ ideology on faith-based schools.
The big question was: Who would be the next Premier?
The current Deputy Premier Roger Cook seemed the obvious choice, having served as Deputy Premier since 2017. The Health Minister, Amber-Jade Sanderson, who steered the Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation through the parliament also put up her hand for the role. Both were backed by the United Workers Union, which is the dominant force in the WA Labor Party. Both are from the left, with Sanderson being further left than Cook.
However, when the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union-aligned MPs backed Cook, effectively splitting the left’s support, it meant that the race would be tight. With the much smaller right faction backing Cook on the basis of the non-aligned Rita Saffioti becoming deputy, Cook had the numbers and resulted in Sanderson withdrawing from the race.
Rita Saffioti (Transport Minister) has proven to be a capable minister, steering the huge MetroNet project and serving as Minister for Planning. Like McGowan, Saffioti is non-aligned, and on social issues is more middle of the road than the left faction. Given the total dominance of the left in the Labor Party room and controlling the party machinery, on social issues we can expect a more ‘progressive’ agenda being pursued under the new leadership.
As we enter a new era of politics in WA, it is good to remember that the Lord is the one who controls all things. “The Most High Rules in the kingdom of men” (Dan 4:32) and He calls us to pray for all who are in authority.