Mal Washer and Judi Moylan – True liberals in a conservative heartland

Dylan Caporn – Federal Politics (28th July 2011)

Today, two WA Federal MP’s announced they would not stand for re-election in 2013. Mal Washer (Moore) and Judi Moylan (Pearce) are set to retire along with Fairfax MP Alex Somlyay who announced his retirement last September.

Moylan and Washer have both been regarded as beacons of true liberalism throughout their reigns. Standing up for issues such as abortion, recreational drug use and fair treatment of asylum seekers.

Moylan, elected to the seat of Pearce in 1993, has spent most of her career on the backbench apart from a small stint as Minister for Family Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women between 1996 and 1998. She rose to national prominence in 2005 when she joined a backbench revolt lead by Petro Georgiou in opposition to mandatory detention of asylum seekers. They managed to achieve a compromise, with Moylan saying on 17 June 2005:

It’s a great outcome for asylum seekers and for a more humane, flexible, transparent detention policy, and that’s what we were looking for.

However, she is still vocal on the issue, espeically in relation to children in detention, saying just last week:

It is unthinkable that this practice persists in 2011 with more than 1,500 children still being detained.

Washer on the other hand, elected in 1998, has never moved from the back bench. Known as the ‘Doctor of the House’, Washer has been widely regarded for his advice on MP’s and health issues, offering medical advice to them all, no matter where they sat ideologically. Federal MP for Bendigo, Steve Gibbons tweeted after the announcement:

Dr Mal Washer The unofficial house [doctor.] Doesn’t matter to Mal if you’re the PM or the cleaner. Everyone is treated the same. Delightful bloke.

Washer has been considered one of the most small ‘l’ liberal members of the Liberal Party with his stances flying directly in the face of who was leading the party at the time.

During his time he has:

More recently, he backed the Gillard Government’s Plain Packaning Cigarette legislation before the Party had issued it’s position on the policy along with Alex Somlyay and Member for Hasluck, Ken Wyatt.

There have been rumours around Canberra for the last six months regarding both Ms Moylan’s and Mr Washer’s careers and that they were both considering retirement, however were stopped by other moderate members until they were able to replace them with similarly minded candidates.

So, this announcement can mean one of two things. Firstly that the moderates have found two suitable replacements, or Washer and Moylan have given up trying to find someone in the now heavily conservative state.

Unfortunately, I feel that it is the latter due to the now iron clad grasp that the conservatives have over WA. While I can only speculate about possibly replacements, the Liberals will have their eyes firmly set on getting Joondalup Mayor, Troy Pickard into the now vacant seat of Moore.

However, the final word must go once again to Member for Bendigo, Steve Gibbons who tweeted after the announcement:

Mal Washer & Judy Moylan will certainly be missed by the Libs, the House & the Nation.

UPDATE – The two Liberal candidates that will replace Washer and Moylan are Wanneroo councillor Ian Goodenough and former State Attorney General Christian Porter respectively.