“To my wife Sarah and children Samuel, Alexander and Amelia — this award and acknowledgement belongs to you.”

Credited with safeguarding the State’s people and its economy against the worst worldwide pandemic in 100 years, it’s no surprise to see McGowan’s name grace the prestigious list, says Curtin University professor and political commentator John Phillimore.

“It was clearly a high-pressure environment, and he clearly dealt with the pressure well and was rewarded at the ballot box, but objectively, you’d also have to say he did a good job,” Phillimore, who is also the head of the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy, said.

“While Western Australia had some inbuilt advantages, both fiscal and in isolation advantages in terms of having a pretty strong economy and strong budget, he helped retain that by closing the state off from the outside world.

“But he didn’t close the outside world completely… the mines kept going, and the royalties kept going, and the economy kept ticking along.”

With a traditionally Labor-led pro-development agenda and the promise of a strongly sought-after expanded rail system in Metronet, McGowan took his party to power in 2017 with a huge swing against long-time Liberal Premier Colin Barnett and again in 2021 in an extraordinary landslide victory, winning 53 of the 59 seats in the state’s lower house.


“Also remember [that] for most of his period as head of government, from 2017 to 2023, all but the last year he dealt with Liberal prime ministers and Western Australia actually did pretty well in terms of infrastructure funding and the GST deal,” Phillimore said.

“Whether or not some people agree, from a West Australian perspective, he definitely increased the national profile of the state, and he clearly helped the Albanese Government having a big swing in 2022.

“So all those things, from pure politics all the way through to economic, social and health type outcomes he can look back reasonably proudly on his career.”

But it hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine.

Phillimore said the destruction of the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge rock shelters in WA’s Pilbara and unresolved issues in the juvenile justice system had been stand-out black marks on the state under McGowan’s leadership.

“All governments, especially the longer they stay in, are going to accumulate problems — hospitals, schools, police, all those things,” he said.

“No doubt it could have gone backwards at the next election, but he went out on a high and left a pretty good legacy for his successor.

“I think a lot of leaders leave it too late, but in this case, he’s not outstayed his welcome, and has left [Premier] Roger Cook every chance to succeed, but there are always going to be problems.