|26th Premier of Western Australia
Elections: 1993, 1996, 2001
16 February 1993 – 10 February 2001
|Preceded by||Carmen Lawrence|
|Succeeded by||Geoff Gallop|
27 September 1947 |
Nedlands, Western Australia
|Political party||Liberal Party of Australia|
|Relations||Charles Court (father)|
Richard Fairfax Court AC (born 27 September 1947 in Nedlands), is a former Western Australian politician, serving as Premier of Western Australia from 1993 to 2001. A member of the Liberal Party of Australia, he represented the Perth-area electorate of Nedlands in the Western Australian Legislative Assembly from 1983 to 2001.
Court was born into a political family. His father, Sir Charles Court, was the previous member for Nedlands (1953–1982) and served as Premier from 1974 to 1982. His older brother Barry Court was president of the Pastoralists' and Graziers' Association, married Margaret Court, and became President of the Liberal Party of Western Australia in March 2008.
Richard Court was educated at Hale School and graduated from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1968. He subsequently spent a year as a management trainee at Ford Motor Company in the United States, and on his return to Western Australia, operated a number of businesses including food retailing and the manufacture, wholesale and retail of marine and boating equipment.
In March 1982, at a by-election upon the retirement of his father from politics, Court was elected to represent his father's seat of Nedlands, located in Perth's wealthy beachside suburbs, in the state legislature. His time as a government backbencher was short-lived, however, as the opposition Australian Labor Party and its charismatic leader, Brian Burke, won the 1983 state election. Court was elevated to the shadow frontbench in 1984, serving as the opposition spokesman for Resources and Industrial Development, Mines and Aboriginal Affairs. He became deputy leader of the Liberal Party in September 1987, serving under Barry MacKinnon, and became leader in 1992.
In February 1993, a state election brought the Liberal Party and their coalition partner, the Nationals, to power with a stable majority following revelations from the WA Inc royal commission examining deals made with businessmen such as Alan Bond and Laurie Connell by Labor governments during the 1980s.
The Court government was comfortably re-elected in 1996. The Liberals actually won a majority in their own right (29 seats out of 57) for the first time ever, but Court opted to retain the coalition with the Nationals. However, Court's popularity suffered in his second term as Premier due to scandals, including deals made between the government and the Premier's brother, Ken Court, as well as the finance broking scandal, where many elderly investors lost their savings and an inquiry found the Government ineffective and inefficient in managing the industry. Also important was the continued logging of old growth forests in the South West of Western Australia. A rejuvenated Labor Party, led since 1996 by Dr Geoff Gallop, won the state election on 10 February 2001 on a 13-seat, 7.07% swing — a shift in voter sympathies not seen since the 1911 state election.
Departure from politics
On 14 February, Court defied media predictions of his resignation by announcing he would stay for up to eight years. He refused to endorse his long-serving deputy leader and factional rival, Colin Barnett (Court is from the conservative wing of the WA Liberals, while Barnett is from the moderate wing), to continue in the role, even though other well-known contenders had lost their seats at the election. Political commentator Matt Price described the decision to stay on as "insanity", although allowed for the possibility Court's main reason for staying on was to thwart the plans of his "barely tolerated deputy" by buying time for another contender. Initially, Barnett did not nominate for any position ahead of the 21 February party-room ballot, but on 19 February, announced he would stand against Court for the leadership, saying that party renewal was necessary.
On the morning of the ballot, Liberal MPs and the public learned of a "reported backroom deal" brokered by Western Australian party president David Johnston to install federal MP Julie Bishop as state Liberal leader. Under this plan, Barnett and Court would both resign their seats. Barnett would have been offered Bishop's seat of Curtin, the safest federal seat in the Perth area. Bishop would contest the resulting by-election in either Nedlands or Barnett's seat of Cottesloe (both of which were within Curtin's boundaries, and are reckoned as comfortably safe Liberal seats), and Court would hand over the party leadership to Bishop. The plan was announced on the front page of The West Australian in a story by editor Brian Rogers, which reported that Barnett had been "sounded out about the plan". However, Barnett stated he "choked on his Weet-Bix" as he read details of the plan in the newspaper, describing it as "an act of treachery". Many other Liberal MPs had also not heard of the plan before the story. Despite this, Court won the ballot 17–13 against Barnett during a four-hour party-room meeting, with Dan Sullivan being elected as his deputy. By 23 February, the plan had to be scrapped when Bishop, who had never formally committed to the plan, rejected it. Court was now in an untenable position, and was forced to resign from parliament the next day, leaving Barnett to take the leadership unopposed in the ensuing party-room ballot.
On 9 June 2003 Richard Court was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia, entitling the awardee to the postnominal letters AC. In conferring the award, it was cited "for service to the Western Australian Parliament and to the community, particularly the Indigenous community, and in the areas of child health research and cultural heritage and to economic development through negotiating major resource projects including the export of gas to China furthering the interests of the nation as a whole."
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- "WA Liberal MPs shocked at backroom leadership deal". Australian Associated Press. 21 February 2001.
- Rogers, Brian (21 February 2001). "LIBERAL SHOCK, WA party calls in woman MP to take charge". The West Australian. p. 1.
- Southwell, Michael (22 February 2001). "News had Barnett choking on Weet-Bix". p. 7.
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- "The Bishop gambit". The Sydney Morning Herald. 23 February 2001. p. 12. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
- Reardon, David (22 February 2001). "Court thwarts deputy and anoints backbencher". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 4. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
- Shanahan, Dennis (23 February 2001). "Divided Libs sink Court's MP swap". The Australian. p. 1.
- Reardon, David (24 February 2001). "Court's humiliation complete". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 11. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
- Black, David; Phillips, Harry (December 2001). "Australian Political Chronicle: January–June 2001". Australian Journal of Politics and History. 47 (4): 564. ISSN 0004-9522.
- Australian Government (9 June 2003). "It's an Honour - COURT, Richard Fairfax". Retrieved 2008-02-09.
- "Former WA premier Richard Court named as ambassador to Japan". ABC News. 22 November 2016. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
Dr Carmen Lawrence
Dr Carmen Lawrence
|Premier of Western Australia
Dr Geoff Gallop
|Minister for Tourism
Dr Geoff Gallop
|Party political offices|
|Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia (WA division)