Mark McGowan


The Honourable   Mark McGowan   MLA
McGowan in 2014
30th Premier of Western Australia
Elections: 20132017
Assumed office
17 March 2017
MonarchElizabeth II
GovernorKerry Sanderson
Kim Beazley
DeputyRoger Cook
Preceded byColin Barnett
Leader of the Opposition in Western Australia
In office
23 January 2012 – 17 March 2017
PremierColin Barnett
DeputyRoger Cook
Preceded byEric Ripper
Succeeded byMike Nahan
Leader of the Labor Party in Western Australia
Assumed office
23 January 2012
DeputyRoger Cook
Preceded byEric Ripper
Member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly for Rockingham
Assumed office
14 December 1996
Preceded byMichael Barnett
Personal details
Born13 July 1967 (age 53)[1]
NewcastleNew South Wales, Australia
Political partyLabor
Spouse(s)Sarah Miller   ​ (m. 1996)​ [1]
ResidenceRockinghamWestern Australia, Australia
EducationCoffs Harbour High School
Alma materUniversity of Queensland
ProfessionLawyer Politician
Military service
Allegiance Australia
Branch/serviceRoyal Australian Navy (1989–1996) Australian Naval Reserve (1996–present)
Years of service1989–present
UnitHMAS Stirling
AwardsCommendation for Brave Conduct

Mark McGowan (born 13 July 1967) is an Australian politician and, since 2017, the 30th Premier of Western Australia.

Born in Newcastle, McGowan was educated in country New South Wales before attending the University of Queensland. He subsequently worked as a legal officer for the Royal Australian Navy, serving at naval base HMAS Stirling[GR1] , south of Perth. Remaining in Western Australia, McGowan served as a counselor 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 a leader of the Labor Party and opposition leader following Eric Ripper’s resignation in January 2012 and led the party at its 2013 election defeat. While in opposition, McGowan held several shadow portfolios in addition to his role as opposition leader. McGowan led Labor to a landslide win at the 2017 election, and was sworn in by Governor Kerry Sanderson on 17 March 2017 as the 30th premier of Western Australia.

Early life and naval career

McGowan was born into a family of Irish descent in Newcastle, New South Wales and was educated at public schools in Coffs Harbour, 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. In 1989, he joined the Australian Navy and served at the naval base HMAS Stirling. In 1996, he was awarded a Commendation for Brave Conduct[GR2] , for actions he took as a naval officer in 1995 in rescuing an unconscious driver from a burning car.

Political career

In 1994, McGowan was elected to the City of Rockingham as a councilor, 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 Liberal-National government, and McGowan was appointed parliamentary secretary to the premier. He also chaired the ANZAC Committee, the committee managing the State’s 175th-anniversary celebrations in 2004, and the Bali Memorial Steering Committee. In January 2005, following the retirement of federal Labor leader Mark Latham, McGowan was criticized for not telling Premier Geoff Gallop before taking leave to travel to Sydney with Kim Beazley[GR3], who was seeking the position. Gallop ordered him to return to Perth.

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. 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.

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[GR4]  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.

In April 2008 McGowan came under fire when he referred to an ex-Labor MP John D’Orazio as “the worst ethnic branch stacker in the history of Labor in WA”. McGowan later apologized to anyone who took offence to the remark. 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.

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. 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

McGowan speaking at a rally in 2014.

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

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 consistently showed a large swing away from the second-term Barnett Liberal government, with the Newspoll conducted from October to December 2015 and released in January 2016, revealing that the government trailed the Labor opposition significantly, at 47–53 two-party—a double-digit two-party swing of more than 10 points 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-point lead of 52 percent, with an approval rating of 51 percent and a disapproval rating of 36 percent. Since then, McGowan consistently led Barnett as Better Premier by several percentage points, with Barnett’s approval rating consistently low.


At the 2017 state election, McGowan led WA Labor to one of the most comprehensive victories on record at the state or territory level since Federation. Labor went on to win 41 of the 59 seats available on 55.5 percent of the two-party vote and a 20-seat swing, unseating six members of Barnett’s cabinet, including Nationals leader Brendon Grylls. Labor also unseated a seventh minister, who sat in the Legislative Council. Not only was this WA Labor’s strongest performance ever in terms of both seat count and percentage of seats controlled, but it is the largest majority government in Western Australian history.

McGowan’s victory was due in large part to a massive swing in Perth. Labor had gone into the election holding 17 of the capital’s 43 seats. However, according to the ABC’s Antony Green, many of the Liberals in Perth’s outer suburbs sat on inflated margins. Green concluded that for that reason, the 10-point swing Labor needed to make McGowan Premier was not as daunting as it appeared. Many of those seats fell to Labor on swings of over 10 points; overall, Labor took 34 seats in Perth on a 13.6-point swing.

He was sworn in by the Governor and became the 30th premier of Western Australia on 17 March 2017. Early in his premiership, McGowan promptly moved to limit the number of pathways for foreign workers to enter the state and re-committed to terminating the controversial Perth Freight Link [GR5] highway project.

McGowan has worked to expand Chinese investment in Western Australia and has criticised other politicians for calling attention to human rights in China.

In 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic McGowan closed the state’s borders on 5 April. In July 2020 businessman Clive Palmer claimed that the closing of the borders was unconstitutional and launched a legal challenge in the Federal Court. In response McGowan labelled Palmer an “enemy of the state“. Shortly afterward McGowan’s popularity increased to record highs in Western Australia. In January 2021 McGowan was critical of New South Wales’ response to the pandemic, drawing further attention to the fact McGowan himself grew up in NSW.

Personal life

McGowan is married and has three children[GR6] .

 [GR1]HMAS Stirling is named after Admiral Sir James Stirling (28 January 1791 – 23 April 1865). Stirling, a Royal Navy officer and colonial administrator, landed on Garden Island, Western Australia in 1827 and returned as commander of the barque Parmelia in June 1829 to establish and administer the Swan River Colony in Western Australia. He was the first Governor of Western Australia, serving between 1828 and 1838.

The planning of Stirling began in 1969 when, after it was decided to create the Two-Ocean Policy, a feasibility study into the use of Garden Island as a naval base was begun. The 4.3 km (2.7 mi) causeway linking the island with the mainland was completed in June 1973. Construction of the wharves and workshops began in early 1973 and accommodation in 1975 with the facility, including the new Fleet Base West, being formally commissioned on 28 July 1978.

The first major unit to call Fleet Base West home was HMAS Stuart, having first been assigned to Stirling in 1984 for several years and, after refitting in the east, again in 1988 until decommissioning in 1991. The first submarine to be based at Stirling was HMAS Oxley in 1987. Later, the headquarters of the Australian Submarine Squadron was relocated there in 1994.

Stirling has expanded significantly within its existing boundaries and is the largest of the RAN’s shore establishment, with a base population of approximately 2,300 service personnel, 600 defence civilians and 500 contractors. Amenities included berthing and wharves, vessel repair and refit services, a ship-lift, and a helicopter support facility, as well as medical facilities, fuel storage and accommodation. The base also hosts the Submarine Escape Training Facility – one of only six in the world and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere.

 [GR2]The Commendation for Brave Conduct is a bravery decoration awarded to Australians. It is awarded for an act of bravery that is worthy of recognition. The Commendation for Brave Conduct was created in February 1975. The decorations recognise acts of bravery by members of the community who selflessly put themselves in jeopardy to protect the lives or property of others. It is ranked fourth in the Australian bravery decoration in the Australian Honours System

 [GR3]Kim Christian Beazley AC (born 14 December 1948) is an Australian politician who is currently Governor of Western Australia. He was previously Deputy Prime Minister of Australia from 1995 to 1996, Leader of the Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition from 1996 to 2001 and 2005 to 2006, and Ambassador to the United States from 2010 to 2016. He served in multiple roles in the Hawke and Keating Governments from 1983 to 1996.

Beazley was born in Subiaco, Western Australia, the son of politician Kim Beazley. He studied at the University of Western Australia and Balliol College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. After a period as a lecturer at Murdoch University, Beazley was elected to Parliament at the 1980 election, winning the Division of Swan. Prime Minister Bob Hawke appointed Beazley to the Cabinet following Labour’s victory at the 1983 election, and Beazley served as a minister continuously through to the party’s defeat at the 1996 election. His roles included being Minister for Defence from 1984 to 1990, Leader of the House from 1988 to 1996, Minister for Finance from 1993 to 1996 and Deputy Prime Minister from 1995 to 1996.

After Labour’s 1996 defeat, Beazley was elected unopposed as Labor Leader, replacing Paul Keating. Despite winning the popular vote at the 1998 election, Beazley could not win enough seats to form government, and after a second defeat in 2001, he resigned the leadership. He attempted twice to return to the leadership, doing so in 2005 after Labor lost the 2004 election, but was successfully challenged by Kevin Rudd in December 2006 following poor opinion polling. Beazley retired from Parliament at the 2007 election, which Labor won, and was appointed as Ambassador to the United States. Beazley held this role until 2016, before being appointed Governor of Western Australia by Premier Mark McGowan in 2018.

 [GR4]The Minister for Education and Training is the member of the Government of Western Australia responsible for maintenance and improvement of Western Australia‘s system of education, and is answerable to the Parliament for all actions taken by the Department of Education under their authority. The holder of the office is usually an elected member of parliament from the ruling party or coalition, presently Sue Ellery of the Labor Party.

Until the Daglish Ministry in 1904, when the role was separately established, the responsibility for Education generally lay with the Colonial Secretary.

 [GR5]The Perth Freight Link was a proposed $1.9 billion project in Perth, Western Australia to improve the road freight link between Kewdale and Fremantle Harbour. The project was announced by the state government in May 2014, but was cancelled following a change of government at the March 2017 state election.

The proposal included multiple stages: a five-kilometre (3.1 mi) extension of Roe Highway to Stock Road (Roe 8); a second stage linking Roe 8 to Stirling Highway, bypassing fourteen sets of traffic signals (Roe 9); and a final stage connecting into the Port of Fremantle. The plan included mandatory GPS tracking of all vehicles over an undisclosed size or weight with a charge per kilometre being applied for vehicles travelling along the route between Muchea and North Fremantle. The extension would have taken the highway from its current terminus at Kwinana Freeway approximately five kilometres (3.1 mi) further west through the Beeliar Wetlands to Stock Road, near Forrest Road in Coolbellup. The proposed route was along or within the vicinity of an existing road reserve in the Perth Metropolitan Region Scheme. h The project’s environmental assessment by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) along with the approval of the development by WA Government Minister Albert Jacob was ruled invalid by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on 16 December 2015. On 30 March 2016 Greg McIntyre QC, acting for Corina Abraham, lodged writs in the Supreme Court of Western Australia, alleging that Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Peter Collier and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs cultural committee denied procedural fairness when it failed to consult her. On 24 August 2016 the Supreme Court dismissed Abraham’s challenge. The Save Beeliar Wetlands group tried to challenge the highway in the High Court, but the court dismissed the challenge on 16 December 2016, saying there wasn’t sufficient grounds for a challenge.

Construction began in late 2016, following the signing of the contract to build Roe 8 by the Liberal state government. Opposition to the project continued, with protests and a second senate inquiry. The freight link was an election issue in the 2017 state election. The McGowan Government scrapped the entire project after winning office.

Mr McGowan has been married to his wife Sarah since 1996 and they have three children — Samuel, Alexander and Amelia — as well as a poodle cross named Georgie. For this weekend’s election, his parents, Dennis and Mary, have crossed the Nullarbor in their caravan to support their son in the election.

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