EIGHTEEN months ago Michael Sutherland was WA parliamentary speaker, keeping garrulous MPs in check with his rumbling baritone, but when the Voice called last week he was in a skivvy holding a bag of frozen peas to his knee.
“I’ve just had a knee replacement and can’t really do anything – it’s very frustrating,” he said.
After losing his Mt Lawley seat in the state election last year, Mr Sutherland threw himself into physical labour, subdividing a block he owned, but the 64-year-old’s knee imploded and now he’s marooned on the couch.
It’s given him time to plot how he’s going to rejuvenate the Liberal’s Mt Lawley branch, where he recently became president, marking a comeback of sorts from the political wilderness.
“The Mt Lawley branch of the Liberal party has always been an ‘independent’ branch and not beholden to a faction, it is the largest branch in in the Perth division,” Mr Sutherland says.
“It currently has some 70 members. It previously had 100 members when I was the MP.
“My aim is reach this number again. The branch is know for its ability to hold large functions with interesting speakers such as Peta Credlin.
“We welcome good discussion in a social atmosphere and keeping open minds.”
The Libs went through a period of neurotic introspection after being crushed by the Labor party at last year’s state election, but Mr Sutherland says it’s time for the party to get off the psychiatrist’s couch.
“The public does not want to hear Liberal Party politicians talking about themselves,” says the South African ex-pat.
“The party needs to focus on matters that are of importance to the electors, high power prices, jobs and financial security.
“Things are not easy for many in WA.
“The Liberals must differentiate themselves from Labor on economic issues.
“The party must set the agenda and not be distracted by peripheral issues run by Labor, the ABC and left lobby groups such as Getup.”
Mr Sutherland says he has kept in the loop since his defeat at the last election.
“I have, as an ex solicitor, been asked to serve on a committee to establish a new law school in Perth and have been on a number of trips both interstate and overseas,” he says.
“I am very involved in the Liberal Party and attend various lectures and talks at organisations of which I am a member.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK