Mark McGowan

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Mark McGowan

MLA
Mark McGowan headshot.jpg
McGowan in April 2014
30th Premier of Western Australia
Elections: 2017, 2021
Assumed office
17 March 2017
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor Kerry Sanderson
Kim Beazley
Deputy Roger Cook
Preceded by Colin Barnett
Treasurer of Western Australia
Assumed office
18 March 2021
Preceded by Ben Wyatt
Leader of the Labor Party in Western Australia
Assumed office
23 January 2012
Deputy Roger Cook
Preceded by Eric Ripper
Leader of the Opposition in Western Australia
In office
23 January 2012 17 March 2017
Premier Colin Barnett
Deputy Roger Cook
Preceded by Eric Ripper
Succeeded by Mike Nahan
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Rockingham
Assumed office
14 December 1996
Preceded by Mike Barnett
Other ministerial offices
Minister for Public Sector Management
Assumed office
17 March 2017
Preceded by Bill Marmion
Minister for Education and Training
In office
13 December 2006 23 September 2008
Premier Alan Carpenter
Preceded by Ljiljanna Ravlich
Succeeded by Liz Constable
Minister for the Environment
In office
3 February 2006 13 December 2006
Premier Alan Carpenter
Preceded by Judy Edwards
Succeeded by Tony McRae
Minister for Disability Services
In office
13 October 2005 2 March 2007
Premier Geoff Gallop
Alan Carpenter
Preceded by Bob Kucera
Succeeded by Margaret Quirk
Minister for Tourism, Racing and Gaming
In office
10 March 2005 13 December 2006
Premier Geoff Gallop
Alan Carpenter
Preceded by Nick Griffiths
Succeeded by Sheila McHale
John Bowler
Minister for the Peel and South West
In office
10 March 2005 23 September 2008
Premier Geoff Gallop
Alan Carpenter
Preceded by Norm Marlborough
Succeeded by David Templeman
Personal details
Born (1967-07-13) 13 July 1967 (age 54) [1]
Newcastle, New South Wales
Political party Labor
Spouse(s)
Sarah Miller
(m. 1996)
[1]
Children3
Residence Rockingham, Western Australia
EducationCasino High School
Coffs Harbour High School
Alma mater University of Queensland
Profession
Website www.markmcgowan.com.au
Military service
AllegianceFlag of Australia (converted).svg Australia
Branch/service
Years of service1989–present
Rank Lieutenant
Unit HMAS Stirling
Awards Commendation for Brave Conduct

Mark McGowan (born 13 July 1967) is an Australian politician who has been the 30th Premier of Western Australia since 17 March 2017, and the Leader of the Labor Party in Western Australia since 23 January 2012.

Contents

Born in Newcastle, New South Wales, McGowan attended Casino Public School and Casino High School. McGowan then went to the University of Queensland and worked as a legal officer for the Royal Australian Navy, serving at naval base HMAS Stirling, south of Perth. Settling in Western Australia, McGowan was elected as a councillor for the City of Rockingham from 1994, and was later elected to the Western Australian Legislative Assembly at the 1996 election, representing the district of Rockingham. In 2001, he was made Parliamentary Secretary to Premier Geoff Gallop, and later served as a Cabinet Minister in both the Gallop and Carpenter Governments from 2005 to 2008.

McGowan was elected as Leader of the Labor Party in Western Australia following the resignation of Eric Ripper, and became Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly. Although he led Labor to defeat at the 2013 election, he retained his position as leader, and embarked upon a "listening tour" of the state, pledging to restore Labor's credibility with voters. McGowan subsequently grew in popularity, and went on to lead Labor to a landslide victory at the 2017 election, winning the largest majority government in the state's history at the time. He was subsequently appointed the 30th Premier of Western Australia. [2]

Throughout 2020, McGowan led Western Australia's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which time he reached a record-breaking approval rating for an Australian Premier of 88%. At the 2021 election, McGowan led his party to an even larger majority, winning 53 out of 59 seats in the Legislative Assembly, the largest victory in terms of both vote share and proportion of lower house seats controlled in any Australian state or federal election since Federation. [3]

Early life and naval career

McGowan was born into a family of Irish descent in Newcastle, New South Wales, and was educated at public schools in Casino and Coffs Harbour, before obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1987 and a Bachelor of Laws in 1989 from the University of Queensland. He joined the Australian Labor Party in 1984, stating that he was inspired by the leadership of Prime Minister Bob Hawke. [4] In 1989, he joined the Royal Australian Navy and served at the naval base HMAS Stirling, reaching the rank of Lieutenant and was also employed by the Navy as a legal officer. In 1996, he was awarded a Commendation for Brave Conduct, for actions he took on service in 1995 for rescuing an unconscious driver from a burning car. [5]

Early political career

In 1994, after settling with his family in Western Australia, McGowan was elected to the City of Rockingham Council, and in 1995 was appointed Deputy Mayor. He was subsequently pre-selected to run for the Western Australian Legislative Assembly in the seat of Rockingham at the 1996 election, following the retirement of long-serving MP Mike Barnett.

At the 2001 election, Labor defeated the LiberalNational Government; new Premier Geoff Gallop chose to appoint McGowan as his Parliamentary Secretary. [6] McGowan was also responsible for chairing the state's ANZAC Committee, the group managing the Western Australia's 175th anniversary celebrations in 2004, and for chairing the Bali Memorial Steering Committee. [7] In January 2005, following the retirement of federal Labor Leader Mark Latham from politics, McGowan was criticised in some quarters for taking unapproved leave to travel to Sydney to lobby for Kim Beazley's return to the federal leadership; Gallop reprimanded McGowan and ordered him to return to Perth. [8]

Following Labor's win at the 2005 election, Gallop reshuffled his Ministry, and promoted McGowan to the role of Minister for Tourism, Racing and Gaming. [9] Later that year, following Gallop's retirement, McGowan was moved to the role of Minister for the Environment by new Premier Alan Carpenter. During his time in the Ministry, McGowan introduced major liquor reforms, including the introduction of small bars, created the Department of Environment and Conservation, and provided approval for the Gorgon Project. [10] [11] [12]

In December 2006, following the resignation of Ljiljanna Ravlich, Carpenter appointed McGowan to replace her as Minister for Education and Training. In this portfolio, McGowan oversaw the replacement of outcomes-based education with syllabus documents, re-established traditional forms of marking and reporting, and launched a renewed effort towards the attraction and retention of teachers. [13] [14] [15] [16]

In April 2008, McGowan was criticised by some for referring to ex-Labor MP John D'Orazio as "the worst ethnic branch stacker in the history of Labor in Western Australia"; both McGowan and Premier Carpenter apologised for the remarks. [17] McGowan later apologised to anyone who took offence to the remark. [18] The issue returned to the media spotlight when it was revealed that McGowan had had some dealings over fundraising with the controversial politician Brian Burke during the 2005 election. [19]

Leader of the Opposition

McGowan addressing a rally in 2014. NoSharkCull4.jpg
McGowan addressing a rally in 2014.

After Labor's defeat at the 2008 election, Alan Carpenter resigned as Leader of the Labor Party in Western Australia; McGowan was considered one of several contenders to replace him, but he chose not to run, instead supporting the eventual winner Eric Ripper, who was elected unopposed. McGowan did choose to contest the election for Deputy Leader, but lost to newcomer Roger Cook by 30 votes to 9. [20] Ripper appointed McGowan to the Shadow Ministry as Shadow Minister for State Development, Trade, Planning, Housing and Works, and was also appointed as Manager of Opposition Business in the Legislative Assembly.

On 17 January 2012, following declining performances in opinion polls, Eric Ripper announced that he would resign as Leader of the Opposition. At a caucus meeting on 23 January, McGowan was elected unopposed as Ripper's successor, becoming Leader of the Opposition. [21] [22] Despite an initial improvement in Labor's standing in opinion polls, Labor ultimately suffered a 5.4 percent swing against it at the 2013 election, losing five seats. Despite this, McGowan was not blamed for the loss, and was unanimously confirmed as party leader by his colleagues.

After Labor's 2013 defeat, McGowan launched a "listening tour" of the state, pledging that he would enact policy reforms to address the reasons for Labor suffering two defeats in a row. Soon after this process, opinion polls began to show increasingly large swings of support away from the second-term Barnett Government. By 2015, McGowan had reached a comfortable lead in polls as preferred Premier of Western Australia, and retained this position until the following election. [23]

Premier of Western Australia

At the 2017 election, McGowan led the Labor Party to one of its most comprehensive victories at either the state or territory level since Federation. [24] Labor won 41 of the 59 seats available on 55.5 percent of the two-party vote and secured a 20-seat swing, unseating seven members of Barnett's cabinet, including Nationals Leader Brendon Grylls. McGowan led WA Labor to its strongest performance ever, with the largest majority government in Western Australian history. [25] [26] [27] [28] His own margin in Rockingham swelled from an already comfortably safe 13.2 percent to 23.4 percent.

McGowan's win was built primarily on the strength of a dominating performance in Perth. Labor picked up a swing of 13.6 percent in Perth and took all but nine of the capital's 43 seats, accounting for almost all of its majority. According to Antony Green of ABC News, the 10-point swing Labor theoretically needed to win was not as daunting as it seemed on paper. Besides the one vote one value reforms in 2008 that allowed Perth to elect over 70 percent of the legislature, much of the Liberals' 2013 margin was built on inflated margins in Perth's outer suburbs. [26]

McGowan was sworn in by Governor Kerry Sanderson as the 30th Premier of Western Australia on 17 March 2017. [2] [29] Early in his premiership, McGowan moved to limit the number of pathways for foreign workers to enter the state and re-committed to terminating the controversial Perth Freight Link highway project, which had proved extremely unpopular in large parts of the state. [30] [31] McGowan also worked to expand Chinese investment in Western Australia, and criticised some politicians for calling attention to human rights in China. [32] [33] [34]

COVID-19 pandemic

Throughout 2020 and 2021, McGowan led Western Australia's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. McGowan acted early to close the state's borders to the rest of the country on 5 April. [35] In July 2020, businessman Clive Palmer claimed that the closing of the borders was unconstitutional and launched a legal challenge in the Federal Court. The case was defeated, and in response McGowan labelled Palmer an "enemy of the state". [36] [37] Shortly afterwards, McGowan's popularity in opinion polls dramatically increased, reaching a record high for a Western Australian Premier. [38]

In January 2021, McGowan criticised the New South Wales Government's response and attitude towards the pandemic, contrasting it with that of his own Government's response. [39] In March 2021, McGowan suggested that some internal Australian border controls could be continued after the pandemic, on the grounds that they had helped to keep illegal drugs out of Western Australia, but clarified later that he meant to suggest only an increased police presence at border checkpoints, rather than completely sealing the border. [40]

2021 election

In the lead up to the 2021 election, opinion polls suggested that the McGowan Government would be re-elected by a record majority, so great was the lead among opinion polls, with Labor approaching 70% in the two-party preferred polls, and McGowan maintaining a personal approval rating of 88%. [41] Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup took the unprecedented step of conceding the election more than a fortnight before it took place. [42] On 13 March 2021, McGowan led WA Labor to the biggest victory ever achieved by a political party at state government level since Federation, with a landslide result of 53 out of 59 seats, including all but one in Perth. [3] This margin beat the previous record set in 2017 for the biggest majority government in WA history. His own margin in Rockingham ballooned to 37.7 percent, making Rockingham the safest seat in the state.

Claiming victory, McGowan stated that the victory was "beyond humbling" and pledged that the Government would work to retain the support of the majority of Western Australians. [3]

Second term

McGowan announced his new cabinet on 18 March 2021. Among various changes, he opted to serve as his own treasurer, after Ben Wyatt, the previous one, retired at the 2021 election. The two other ministers viewed as possible candidates, Roger Cook and Rita Saffioti, had existing important roles that McGowan wanted them to continue with. Cook was health minister and thus had an important role in the state's COVID-19 response, and Saffioti was transport and planning minister, overseeing the government's signature Metronet project. Prior to 2001, WA premiers generally served as their own treasurers, but since then, the only premier to hold that position before McGowan was Colin Barnett briefly in 2010, 2012 and 2014. [43] [44]

McGowan announced the formation of a panel to examine potential reform of the Western Australian Legislative Council voting system soon after the 2021 election, after denying he would implement reforms to the Legislative Council voting system several times during the election. The panel was lead by former Governor of Western Australia Malcolm McCusker, and consisted of four electoral and constitutional law experts. McGowan and Electoral Affairs Minister John Quigley said the election of Wilson Tucker was a key reason for their change of mind. [45] In September 2021, McGowan announced the changes to be made to the voting system, including abolishing regions in the Legislative Council, and removing group voting tickets. [46]

Personal life

Since 1996, McGowan has been married to Sarah Miller, with whom he has three children. [47]

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Western Australian Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Mike Barnett
Member for Rockingham
1996–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Eric Ripper
Leader of the Opposition
2012–2017
Succeeded by
Mike Nahan
Preceded by
Colin Barnett
Premier of Western Australia
2017–present
Incumbent
Preceded by
Ben Wyatt
Treasurer of Western Australia
2021–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by
Eric Ripper
Leader of the Labor Party in Western Australia
2012–present
Incumbent