Roger Cook Is Taking Over From Mark McGowan as WA Premier — So, What’s His Deal?

An image showing the new premier of WA, Roger Cook

So, Western Australia is getting a new Premier. After six years in power, Mark McGowan stepped down in a surprise resignation last week, saying that he was basically just done with the whole shebang.

“The truth is I’m tired, extremely tired. In fact, I’m exhausted,” the outgoing WA leader said. Aren’t we all, Mark?

The move prompted a sudden scramble within the ranks of the WA Labor Party as pollies vied for the sudden vacancy at the top. One man, after a brief tussle with the WA Health Minister, Amber-Jade Sanderson, emerged victorious: Roger Cook.

Cook was something of a natural choice, having occupied the role of Deputy Leader for the past 15 years. It was about time he got his moment to shine.

So, what does this mean for the great Republic of Western Australia? Who exactly is Roger Cook, and what’s his whole deal? Here’s what you need to know.

Why Did Mark McGowan Retire?

McGowan has been in politics for nearly 30 years. The 55-year-old has been the MP for Rockingham, the Leader of the Opposition, and then the Premier in 2017. He’s overseen two state elections, led the state through the COVID-19 pandemic, and been personally sued by none other than Clive Palmer.

As above, he said he’s pretty much done with the whole thing. He described the pandemic as “all-consuming.” This was exacerbated by the fact that WA kept its borders shut for so much longer than the rest of the country.

For that, McGowan got some pretty serious backlash. In 2021, his family were considering moving out of their home after increasingly serious death threats were made against him.

“I’m convinced WA Labor can win and will win the next election in 2025. But I just don’t have the energy or drive that is required to continue in the role as premier,” McGowan said.

Ben Harvey, The West Australian’s Chief Correspondent, assesses that McGowan has pretty much spent 30 years having political arguments and that it’s amazing the pressures have taken this long to bite.

Who Is the New Premier of WA?

So, McGowan’s gone, and Cook is in.

Most West Aussies would recognise Cook as the guy helping with the health updates during the pandemic.

He’s a career politician, having established the WA branch of the National Union of Students while at University, before winning the seat of Kwinana in 2008. Ten days later, he found himself elected to deputy party leader, a position he has held ever since.

Is WA Premier Liberal or Labor?

Cook, like his predecessor, is a through-and-through Labor member.

Labour have held WA since 2017, booting out the Liberal-National Coalition after eight and a half years.

A member of the Labor Left faction of the WA Labor Party, and supported by the United Voice and the Manufacturing Workers’ trade unions, Cook is expected to be a more left-wing player than McGowan, who remained unaligned.

How Old Is Roger Cook?

Roger Cook is 57 years old, two years older than McGowan.

Born in 1965 in Cottesloe, WA, Cook is the youngest of seven children. He studied Public Administration at Murdoch University before completing an MBA at Curtin.

Roger Cook Children

Cook married Carly Lane in 2010 and has two children, Tobias and Isabelle, from a previous marriage.

Is Roger Cook Aboriginal?

Cook is not Aboriginal and has claimed no Indigenous heritage. However, he has always strongly championed the rights of First Nations people over the course of his career. Additionally, his wife, Lane, is a proud Murri woman.

In 2000, he joined the group Australians for Native Title and Recognition, has worked for the former chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Native Title and the Indigenous Land Fund, and worked for the Aboriginal Native Title Working Group.

In his inaugural speech in WA Parliament, Cook spoke to the injustices suffered by Indigenous people and, in 2020, strongly defended his wife for attending a Black Lives Matter protest when mass gatherings were being discouraged.

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