Mark McGowan (politician)

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The Honourable
Mark McGowan
Mark McGowan, shark cull protest (crop).png
32nd Leader of the Opposition
of Western Australia
Assumed office
23 January 2012
Premier Colin Barnett
Deputy Roger Cook
Preceded by Eric Ripper
Member of Parliament
for Rockingham
Assumed office
14 December 1996
Preceded by Michael Barnett
Personal details
Born (1967-07-13) 13 July 1967 (age 49)
Newcastle, New South Wales
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Sarah (née Miller)
Profession Legal officer, Royal Australian Navy
Military service
Allegiance Australia
Service/branch Royal Australian Navy (1989–96)
Royal Australian Naval Reserve (1996–)
Years of service 1989 –
Rank Lieutenant
Unit HMAS Stirling
Awards Commendation for Brave Conduct

Mark McGowan (born 13 July 1967) is an Australian politician who is the current Leader of the Opposition and leader of the Australian Labor Party in Western Australia.

Born in Newcastle, McGowan was educated in country New South Wales before attending the University of Queensland, where he resided at Emmanuel College. He subsequently worked as a legal officer for the Royal Australian Navy, serving at naval base HMAS Stirling, south of Perth. Remaining in Western Australia, McGowan served as a councillor at the City of Rockingham from 1994 until his election to the Legislative Assembly at the 1996 state election, representing the seat of Rockingham. After the 2005 election, he was elevated to the ministry, although he had served as a Parliamentary Secretary since the 2001 election. McGowan became opposition leader and leader of the Labor Party following Eric Ripper's resignation in January 2012, and led the party during its defeat at the 2013 election. He currently also holds several shadow portfolios in addition to his role as opposition leader.

Early life and naval career[edit]

McGowan was born in Newcastle and was educated at public schools in country New South Wales, 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.[1] In 1989, he joined the Navy and served at the naval base HMAS Stirling. In 1996, he was awarded a Commendation for Brave Conduct, for actions he took as a Naval Officer in 1995 in rescuing an unconscious driver from a burning car.[2]

Political career[edit]

In 1994, he was elected to the City of Rockingham as a councillor, and in 1995, he became Deputy Mayor. He was preselected to run for the seat of Rockingham at the 1996 state election following the retirement of long-serving MP Mike Barnett.

At the 2001 election, Labor defeated the previous LiberalNational government, and McGowan was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier.[3] He also chaired the ANZAC Committee, the committee managing the State's 175th anniversary celebrations in 2004 and the Bali Memorial Steering Committee.[4] In January 2005, following the retirement of federal Labor leader Mark Latham, McGowan was criticised for not telling Premier Geoff Gallop before taking leave to travel to Sydney with Kim Beazley, who was seeking the position. Gallop ordered him to return to Perth.[5]

Following Labor's win at the 2005 election, Gallop reshuffled the ministry, giving McGowan the Tourism portfolio as well as Racing and Gaming, Youth, and Peel and the South West.[6] In February, following Gallop's retirement, McGowan became the Environment Minister while retaining Racing and Gaming but losing all others—notably Tourism to Sheila McHale, Youth to David Templeman and South West to Norm Marlborough.

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.[7][8][9]

On 13 December 2006, following Marlborough's departure from the Carpenter ministry and Ljiljanna Ravlich's troubled run in the Education portfolio, McGowan became Minister for Education and Training and for the South West. In the Education portfolio, he oversaw the replacement of outcomes-based education with syllabus (scope and sequence) documents, re-established traditional forms of marking and reporting and launched a renewed effort towards the attraction and retention of teachers.[10][11]

In April 2008 McGowan came under fire when he referred to an ex-Labor MP John D'Orazio as an "the worst ethnic branch stacker in the history of Labor in WA".[12] McGowan later apologised to anyone who took offence to the remark.[13] McGowan was again in the media spotlight after it was revealed that he had dealings with Brian Burke during the 2005 state election. A copy of an email showed that he had consulted with Burke over fundraising.[14]

Following the defeat of the Labor Party at the 2008 state election and Carpenter's resignation as leader of the Labor Party, McGowan was one of several contenders to replace him. Ultimately, he did not contest, and Eric Ripper was elected unopposed; however, McGowan contested the deputy role, which he lost to newcomer Roger Cook in a 30–9 vote.[15] McGowan was awarded a place in the shadow ministry as shadow minister for State Development, Trade, Planning, Housing and Works and also managed opposition business in the Legislative Assembly.

Labor leader[edit]

McGowan speaking at a protest in April 2014.

On 17 January 2012, Ripper announced his resignation as state Labor leader. At a caucus meeting on 23 January, McGowan was elected unopposed as Ripper's successor.[16][17]

McGowan led Labor into the 2013 state election. Labor suffered a 5.4 percent two-party swing and a loss of five seats, including that of former leader Ripper. McGowan was not blamed for the loss, and stayed on as opposition leader.


Polling since the 2013 state election landslide has consistently shown a large swing away from the third-term Barnett Liberal government, with the latest Newspoll conducted from October to December 2015 and released in January 2016, revealing the government significantly trailing 47-53 two-party against the Labor opposition, representing a double-digit two-party swing of over ten percent since the 2013 election, with Labor's 33 percent primary vote increasing to a current 42 percent. Just prior to the 2013 election, Barnett was nominated Better Premier with a 21 percent lead on 52 percent, with an approval rating of 51 percent and a disapproval rating of 36 percent. Since then, McGowan has consistently led Barnett as Better Premier by several percent, with Barnett's approval rating consistently low, currently at 33 percent, with his disapproval rating consistently high, currently at 54 percent. McGowans rating's have been consistent, with his approval currently at 47 percent and his disapproval currently at 32 percent.[18][19][20][21][22]

Personal life[edit]

McGowan is married to Sarah McGowan (née Miller) and they have three children; Samuel, Alexander, and Amelia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Emerson, Daniel (19 January 2012). "Leader's style shaped by Hawke Labor tradition". The West Australian. 
  2. ^ "McGowan, Mark – Commendation for Brave Conduct". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  3. ^ "Six MPS appointed Parliamentary Secretaries". Government of Western Australia. 23 March 2001. 
  4. ^ "Bali Memorial Dedication Ceremony Finalised". Government of Western Australia. 7 March 2003. 
  5. ^ Bartlett, Liam (21 January 2005). "Politician says sorry". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 
  6. ^ "Government Gazette" (PDF). State Law Publisher. 10 March 2005. 
  7. ^ "New liquor laws to improve choice, flexibility for public and business". Government of Western Australia. 28 March 2006. 
  8. ^ "New agency to strengthen environment portfolio". Government of Western Australia. 23 May 2006. 
  9. ^ "$15b Gorgon Gas Project Gets Greenlight". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 12 December 2006. 
  10. ^ "OBE a 90s fad: McGowan". ABC Online. 12 December 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
    * O'Brien, Amanda (13 December 2007). "Revived syllabus kills off school fad". The Australian. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
    * "Back to basics as new K-10 syllabus unveiled". Government of Western Australia. 12 December 2007. 
  11. ^ "Scholarship campaign leaves no stone unturned". Government of Western Australia. 31 July 2008. 
  12. ^ "ABC News – "Ethnic branch stacker" a common phrase: McGowan". 10 April 2008. 
  13. ^ "Carpenter apologises for McGowan's ethnic slur". The West Australian. 10 April 2008. 
  14. ^ "ABC News – Carpenter defends McGowan over dealings with Brian Burke". 2 May 2008. 
  15. ^ "Ripper elected WA Labor Leader". 16 September 2008. 
  16. ^ "WA Opposition Leader Ripper resigns". 17 January 2012. 
  17. ^ Trenwith, Courtney (23 January 2012). "McGowan officially elected Labor leader". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  18. ^ Newspoll: 53-47 to Labor in Western Australia - The Poll Bludger 4 January 2015
  19. ^ Oct-Dec 2015 WA polling: Newspoll
  20. ^ WA Labor in election-winning position in latest Newspoll - ABC 4 January 2016
  21. ^ Newspoll: McGowan strong; Barnett’s landslide unlikely - The Australian 4 January 2016
  22. ^ Labor ahead of Liberals in Newspoll result for next WA election - PerthNow 4 January 2016

External links[edit]

Western Australian Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Michael Barnett
Member for Rockingham
Political offices
Preceded by
Eric Ripper
Leader of the Opposition
Party political offices
Preceded by
Eric Ripper
Leader of the Labor Party in Western Australia