Colin Barnett ‘I gave it my best shot’

Colin Barnett has reflected on his time as WA’s Premier of Western Australia saying he gave it his best shot.

Following a massive swing against the government which has seen many government MPs lose their seats the Premier conceded the Labor party would form the next Western Australian government.

“They have had an emphatic and convincing victory” Barnett said. “I do sincerely congratulate them and I wish them well to provide good government to the people of Western Australia.”

“Time was probably the factor,” Barnett said admitting that there were many issues in the campaign that voters did not connect with.

The Premier said his heart went out to all the Liberal MPs who had lost their seats.

Barnett said he had made some commitments to himself when he became Premier eight and half years ago.

“The one I made to myself was that I would always give it my best shot. Now maybe that wasn’t good enough, but I can assure you I have given it my best shot in every sense.”

The Premier said he was proud of his government for being pro-development, being a caring government and being a government of integrity.

Barnett told reporters last week that he would go to the backbench should he fail to achieve a third term as Premier. It is expected that he will eventually retire from politics bringing about a by-election for his safe Liberal seat of Cottesloe.

Deputy leader Liza Harvey had been the presumptive successor to Barnett had the Liberals won the election, but the crushing defeat, that has some political analysts predicting that the Liberals might only retain 12 seats in the lower house, might see a variety of aspiring leaders throw their hat into the ring.

Alongside Police Minister Liza Harvey, Dean Nalder who unsuccessfully attempted to take the leadership from Barnett in 2016 is a prospective candidate.

Also in the running will be Joe Francis, Minister for Emergency Services, Veterans, Fisheries and Corrective Services. Francis confirmed to radio station 6PR that he had been having conversation with Liberal power brokers about a leadership tilt. The MP admitted that first he’d need to keep his seat in Jandakot, where he facing a substantial swing to the Labor candidate.

The Accidental Premier

Colin Barnett already had a high profile position in political and business circles in Western Australia when he entered parliament in 1990.

The Executive Director of the Western Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry became the member for Cottesloe via a by-election caused by the retirement of former Liberal leader Bill Hassell.

Not long after entering politics he was appointed to the shadow ministry by leader Barry MacKinnon, and when Richard Court took over as leader, Barnett served as his deputy.

Barnett served as a Minister in the Court government from 1993 until their defeat in 2001. During this time he held various Ministerial positions including Resources Development and Energy and later, Minister for Education and Minister for Tourism.

After the Court government was defeated at the 2001 election Barnett became the Leader of the Opposition, taking the party to the 2005 poll. His elaborate plan to build a canal to transport water from the Kimberly to the metropolitan area was not a hit with voters, and saw the Gallop government returned for a second term.

Taking responsibility for the election loss Barnett resigned as leader and Matt Birney took over. For the first time in his political career Barnett was on the back bench.

In 2008 he announced he would retire from politics. While Barnett sat on the back bench the party went through a number of leaders, first Birney, then Paul Omodei, a finally Troy Buswell. In August 2008, following a series of controversies, Troy Buswell resigned as leader. Barnett returned to the position of Opposition Leader.

Just days after Barnett returned to the Opposition Leader position, Labor premier Alan Carpenter called an election. Barnett has often spoken about his surprise when the result was a hung parliament. The Liberals won the election when they managed to put together a partnership agreement with The Nationals to form a government.

At the 2013 state election the Liberals had a convincing win and gained enough seats to govern in their own right, although they maintained their partnership with The Nationals.

During his time in parliament Barnett lead a campaign to increase the age of consent for homosexual men from 16 to 18. The law had been changed from 21 to 16 by the Jim McGinty / Giz Watson reforms brought in under the Gallop government. Barnett fought to have the age limit increased.

The Liberal party argued that the lowering the age of consent from 21 to 16 had not taken into account the risk of predatory and exploitative older men.

In 2002 the Liberal party  ‘Family First – Defining the Difference’ statement which was published when Mr Barnett was Leader of the Opposition described the gay and lesbian law reforms as highly socially divisive legislation that undermines families and their important role in society.

The position statement outlined the party’s opposition to allowing homosexual couples to adopt children. At this time the party was also against single women or lesbians having access to IVF treatment.

Allowing any mention of homosexuality in school was also off the agenda in 2002, and the Liberals announced their intention to deny access to the family court. The statement read, “The Liberal Party does not support homosexual couples having access to the Family Court”, suggesting that homosexual couples should deal with property disputes through the civil courts instead.

The Premier also unsuccessfully tried to introduce stop and search laws in Western Australia. Southern River MP Peter Abetz voiced support for the proposal noting that similar laws introduced by Adolf Hitler in Germany had been successful. Barnett said that Abetz had made a good point when he referred to Hitler.

More recently the Premier has voiced support for civil unions for same sex couples, but has stated that his personal view is marriage only be available for heterosexual relationships.

The Premier delivered a damning condemnation to his federal counterparts when he voted in favour of a motion  criticising the Abbott government’s decision to hold a plebiscite on the issue of same sex marriage.

Barnett said a free vote was a better option and declared that his colleagues in Canberra should just do their job.

“I do not want to see this issue go to a plebiscite.” Barnett said.  The Premier said federal MPs should accept their responsibilities and deal with the issue.

OIP Staff