Upper House MP Sue Ellery poised to be replaced as Education Minister in McGowan’s impending Cabinet reshuffle
Upper House MP Sue Ellery is poised to be replaced as Education Minister in Premier Mark McGowan’s impending Cabinet reshuffle, with the senior Labor figure understood to have requested a change of portfolio ahead of her retirement from politics in 2025.
The two-decade veteran of Parliament has spent the past six years as Education and Training Minister, and in opposition was Labor’s shadow education minister from 2013.
The West Australian understands Ms Ellery — who has previously stated her intention not to contest the next election — will remain in Cabinet but has asked for a new challenge for her final two years in Parliament.
A special meeting of Labor caucus has been called for Tuesday to select the two new MPs that will join Mr McGowan in Cabinet to replace retiring Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan and demoted Water Minister Dave Kelly.
The new-look Cabinet is then likely to be unveiled on Wednesday.
When announcing his decision to step down from Cabinet on Thursday, Mr Kelly revealed he was acting at the request of the Premier and in the interests of boosting female representation in the ministry, which is currently comprised of 12 men and five women.
That strongly suggests both of the new faces will be female.
WA Labor rules require at least three ministers to be drawn from the Legislative Council, which all but guarantees first-term Upper House MP Jackie Jarvis — who co-owns a Margaret River winery — will be tapped by the Premier for Ms MacTiernan’s agriculture and regional development portfolios.
No other female backbencher can lay claim to a stronger set of credentials for the role.
Wanneroo MP Sabine Winton — parliamentary secretary to both the Premier and Deputy Premier Roger Cook — has firmed as the other likely winner over Balcatta MP David Michael.
While Mr Michael is the current Cabinet Secretary, and also a parliamentary secretary to Mr McGowan, his gender appears to have worked against him.
Both Ms Jarvis and Ms Winton — as well as Mr Kelly — are members of the United Workers Union, the left-leaning and dominant faction within WA Labor, which currently boasts six ministers.
While Ms MacTiernan is unaligned, she is viewed within the party as notionally of the right and the failure to replace her in Cabinet with another MP from the right — such as Mr Michael — is likely to ruffle feathers.
Ms Winton, a former school teacher, dedicated much of her maiden speech to Parliament in 2017 to the challenges facing the profession and looms as a potential replacement for Ms Ellery as Education Minister.
Another option is for Mr McGowan — a former Education Minister himself during the Carpenter Government — to hand the role to his close friend and former adviser Reece Whitby, the current Environment Minister.
Ms MacTiernan’s treasured Hydrogen Industry portfolio — created following the 2021 election — would be a sensible fit alongside Mr Cook’s State development role.
Despite coming under pressure in all four of his sprawling portfolios — corrective services, energy, industrial relations and mines and petroleum — the West Australian understands Bill Johnston is unlikely to shed any of his current responsibilities.