Former WA premier Colin Barnett is today set to announce he is leaving politics, nine months after a heavy election defeat brought his eight-and-a-half-year reign in the top job to an end.
Mr Barnett is expected to announce his intention to leave on ABC Radio Perth this morning.
His decision to step back will bring to an end a career in WA politics that began in 1990, during which he served in a handful of senior ministries that culminated in one of the longest premierships in the State’s history.
Mr Barnett says the McGowan government is trying to erase his legacy. (ABC News: Andrew O’Connor)
Mr Barnett has also placed an advert in the local Post community newspaper today thanking his electorate for its support over the years.
His resignation will spark a by-election in the ultra-safe seat of Cottesloe, which is located in the heart of the affluent Perth western suburbs. The Liberals have held the seat continuously since it was created in 1950.
The 67-year-old’s future has been the subject of constant speculation since the Liberals’ March election wipe out, with many hopefuls vying for preselection once the blue ribbon seat became available.
The ABC revealed yesterday that Emma Roberts, a senior lawyer with a major resources company, recently met Mr Barnett about becoming a candidate for the plum seat, although many other prominent names have also been rumoured to be interested.
Mining executive Emma Roberts has been touted as a front-runner to replace Colin Barnett in the seat of Cottesloe. (LinkedIn: Emma Roberts)
A mixed political legacy
Colin Barnett’s political career
- August 1990: Elected member for Cottesloe in a by-election
- May 1992: Appointed deputy opposition leader
- February 1993: Helps Richard Court defeat the three-term Labor government to return the Liberals to power
- February 1993: Appointed to cabinet as minister for resources development and energy. Later adds education portfolio
- February 2001: Returns to opposition after Geoff Gallop’s Labor wins election
- March 2001: Appointed opposition leader and opposition treasury spokesman
- March 2005: Loses election and replaced by Matt Birney as opposition leader
- November 2007: Announces plan to retire from politics at 2008 state election
- September 2008: Appointed opposition leader unopposed after Troy Buswell’s resignation to defeat Alan Carpenter and become premier of WA
- March 2017: Loses election to Mark McGowan’s Labor by a landslide
Only four people served as WA premier for longer than Mr Barnett, whose time in the top job saw rapid growth in the state’s mining industry before a heavy economic slump in later years.
Mr Barnett’s Liberal-National alliance government invested heavily in health infrastructure, spending billions on new hospitals across the state.
The Barnett Government also spent big on infrastructure designed to change the face of the city, with Perth Stadium, Elizabeth Quay and the city link all projects commenced on his watch.
But opponents criticised him heavily for his management of WA’s economy and finances while premier, with the State facing multi-billion-dollar deficits and a mounting debt bill when he left office.
Political analyst Peter Kennedy said Mr Barnett’s legacy was mixed.
“He left government with a record deficit and record debt,” Mr Kennedy said.
“But the major hospitals, the stadium and Elizabeth Quay, they will be assets for the state for years to come.”
Prior to serving as Premier, Mr Barnett was deputy Liberal leader and a senior minister in the Court government from 1993 to 2001.
He also led the Liberals to the 2005 election but was defeated, with his controversial Kimberley canal proposal seen as a significant factor in that result.