WA Election: retiring Dawesville member Kim Hames reflects on 20 years in politics

WA Election: retiring Dawesville member Kim Hames reflects on 20 years in politics
WA Election: retiring Dawesville member Kim Hames reflects on 20 years in politics
WA Election: retiring Dawesville member Kim Hames reflects on 20 years in politics
WA Election: retiring Dawesville member Kim Hames reflects on 20 years in politics

HE was at one time the second most powerful man in WA, as Deputy Premier he held both the tourism and health portfolios, but after 20 years Liberal MLA for Dawesville Kim Hames has said goodbye to politics.

The Mandurah Coastal Times sat down with Dr Hames on the eve of the State Election, which would see his party ousted.

Dr Hames predicted Saturday’s Liberal loss and had some advice for members who would be entering politics for the first time and for Premier-elect Mark McGowan.

“I say to the new members, work hard, because people who take their seats for granted, as some will find, don’t get re-elected,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter how big your margin is or how good you think you are; if you don’t work hard to be part of the community, out you go.

“When the tide turns you go out.”

Political losses are not unfamiliar to Dr Hames; it took him three tries until he became the member for Dianella in 1993 and he did not become the member for Dawesville until 2005.

He lost the seat of Yokine in 2001 and remained outside of politics until his friend Arthur Marshall retired as the member for Dawesville.

“I hope my heir apparent is Zak (Kirkup) and I’m moderately confident he will win the seat,” he said.

It looks likely that Mr Kirkup will retain the seat of Dawesville for the Liberal party, despite an 11 per cent swing to Labor.

“It’s important for the party that Zak does win the seat, because if we lose the election, they will need to have their core base of people to become the next leaders,” Dr Hames said.

“You must have a strong opposition to keep the government accountable.”

Dr Hames thinks Mark McGowan will do a reasonable job as Premier, but had a warning for the Liberal party.

“If he does get in, we’ve seen what can happen from Brian Burke, who was probably ok for his first few years and then went right off the rails,” Dr Hames said.

Mr Burke was once the Premier of WA and following his retirement, the subject of the WA Inc Royal Commission.

He was charged with various offences, including travel expense rorts and stealing $122,585 in campaign donations.

Dr Hames has seen his own fair share of scandals as a politician.

“I lost my tourism portfolio following the issue over travel allowances,” he said.

“It was an error of computers, one computer saying one thing and the other saying another thing.

“We had the public sector commissioner investigate and it found that if anything they would owe me money.

“So we paid back the money quickly, but it was my fault; I’m the one who made a mistake, I wasn’t unfairly dealt with.”

However, the Burke scandal and his own experience led him to give this warning to his party.

“You need to make sure you’ve got a strong opposition to keep the government honest,” Dr Hames said.

“You’ve got to have people like Zak, who are the leaders of the future, still in the party to drive us forward.”

Dr Hames has sold his Perth home and will now split his time between his home in Mandurah and a farm in Donnybrook.

He feels he could not have done much more as a minister, and said he always felt more at home in the seat of Dawesville than he did in Perth.

“It’s been different here, the atmosphere is different, it’s like a big country town even though we all think it’s too busy now,” he said.

None of Dr Hames children are expected to follow in his footsteps.

“They’ve seen how much I was under attack all the time,” he said.

“You can’t do anything without people knowing who you are and there’s that huge level of public scrutiny.

“They talk about the death threats that have happened to a few Liberal members now and we’ve had things like that before.”

Dr Hames referred to the pressure politicians can experience.

“Those who have just been given death threats, imagine what it’s like for their families?

“I bet it’s happened to Labor in the past and we all love to hate politicians, myself included, it’s the Irish in us.

“But there’s those in the community who want us to be around and those people treat us with huge respect and friendship.

“The nastiness only comes anonymously and it’s rarely directly to your face.”

Dr Hames’ office is decorated with items that used to belong to his family, including Aboriginal artefacts that were his grandfather’s and a spinning wheel, which was his mother’s.

“My mother died at 53, she had heart surgery and didn’t see me become a politician,” he said.

“She said I had to be a politician or a lawyer because I used to argue so much.”

Initially, Dr Hames did not take his mother’s advice and became a doctor like his father.

His father saw him go into politics but Dr Hames said he never gave him any feedback.

Despite this, Dr Hames inherited his family’s right wing stance, but describes himself “as far left of the Liberal party as you could go and still be a Liberal”.

“My dad was to the right of whoever was as far right as you get, he thought if you couldn’t get a job, you couldn’t get social benefits, you work or you starve,” Dr Hames said.

“He said everyone has the capacity to work, everyone has a chance to earn an income, not recognising that there are plenty of people out there who would desperately love to work and they either don’t have the capacity or they’re raising children or whatever.

“I’m not like that.”