Colin Barnett

The Honourable
Colin Barnett
29th Premier of Western Australia
Elections: 2008
Assumed office
23 September 2008
Governor Ken Michael
Malcolm McCusker
Preceded by Alan Carpenter
Treasurer of Western Australia
In office
27 April 2010 – 14 December 2010
Preceded by Troy Buswell
Succeeded by Christian Porter
Leader of the Opposition of Western Australia
Elections: 2008
In office
6 August 2008 – 23 September 2008
Preceded by Troy Buswell
Succeeded by Eric Ripper
In office
26 February 2001 – 9 March 2005
Preceded by Richard Court
Succeeded by Matt Birney
Member of the Western Australian Parliament
for Cottesloe
Assumed office
11 August 1990
Preceded by Bill Hassell
Personal details
Born 15 July 1950 (1950-07-15) (age 61)
Nedlands, Western Australia
Political party Liberal Party
Alma mater University of Western Australia
Profession Economist

Colin James Barnett (born 15 July 1950), Australian politician, is the leader of the Western Australian Liberal Party, the 29th and current Premier of Western Australia since the 2008 election and served as the Treasurer of Western Australia in 2010. He was sworn into office by Governor Ken Michael on 23 September 2008.[1] Prior to becoming Premier, head of the Western Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a lecturer in economics at Curtin University, a Minister in the Court government (1993–2001) and Opposition Leader (2001–2005). From 27 April 2010 Colin Barnett held the Treasury Portfolio after the resignation of former Treasurer Troy Buswell. In a cabinet reshuffle he handed the portfolio to Christian Porter later that same year.[2]


Early life

Barnett was born in Nedlands, an inner western suburb of Perth, on 15 July 1950. He was educated at Nedlands Primary School and Hollywood Senior High School—the same school attended by former federal Labor Leader Kim Beazley.[3] He began studying geology at the University of Western Australia, but switched to an economics course from which he graduated with an honours degree and later a masters degree. In 1973, he became a cadet research officer for the Australian Bureau of Statistics in Canberra, being promoted to senior research officer before returning to Perth in 1975 to become a lecturer in Economics at the Western Australian Institute of Technology (later renamed Curtin University of Technology).[4]

In 1981, he was seconded to the Confederation of Western Australian Industry, becoming the founding editor of their publication, Western Australian Economic Review. He was later appointed their chief economist, and served with them until 1985, when he became the executive director of the Western Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.[5]


Court government and Opposition Leader

In 1990, he was elected to the Western Australian Legislative Assembly for the seat of Cottesloe, and was immediately promoted to the Opposition front bench. In 1992 he was elected Deputy Leader of the Opposition. After the 1993 state election which saw the Liberals take power under Richard Court, Barnett became Minister for Resources Development and Energy and later, Minister for Education and Minister for Tourism in the Court-Cowan Ministry. He was also the Leader of the House in the Legislative Assembly and remained deputy leader of the Liberal Party. He was generally regarded as a competent and successful minister, and was associated with a number of important resource development projects.[6]

The Court government was defeated at the 2001 election. Outgoing Premier, Richard Court, attempted to install federal MP Julie Bishop as new leader of the opposition. After this effort failed, Barnett became leader of the Liberal Opposition.

At the 2005 state election, Barnett, proposed the construction of a canal from the rivers of the Kimberley Ranges in northern Western Australia to Perth to meet Perth's growing water supply problem. The proposal was costed by Barnett at A$2 billion, however it soon emerged that no feasibility study or detailed costings had been done.[7] Some experts put the cost as high as A$5 billion. The Prime Minister, John Howard, refused to commit federal funds to the project. He released the policy costings only a few days before the election, when a A$200 million error in the costings document was discovered.[8] When the Gallop government was returned with its majority intact, Barnett accepted responsibility for the defeat and resigned the Liberal leadership.[9] On 9 March 2005 Liberal MPs elected Matt Birney, the member for Kalgoorlie, as Barnett's successor.

Following his resignation as leader Barnett remained on the backbench and in November 2007 announced that he would retire from politics at the next state election, at that stage due by May 2009.[10]


On 4 August 2008, Troy Buswell resigned as Opposition Leader and two days later Barnett was re-elected unopposed to the Liberal leadership despite the fact that he had previously announced his retirement and Deidre Willmott (who would subsequently be appointed as his Chief of Staff) [11] had been endorsed in his electorate. On 7 August 2008, Premier Alan Carpenter called an early election for 6 September 2008. Barnett led the Liberal Party to the election, which saw a significant swing away from the incumbent Labor Party, leading to a hung parliament. On 14 September 2008, the National Party agreed to support the Liberal Party as a minority government,[12] and Barnett was sworn into office on 23 September 2008.

As Premier, Colin Barnett became the leader of the only opposed state towards Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's key Health reform policy deal at the April 2010 COAG meeting. Barnett at the time led the only Liberal State Government in Australia, while all others states were led by Labor Governments. The reasoning for Barnett's strong opposition towards the reform was because it would require the State Government's to forfeit 30% of their GST revenue. Barnett had already been angered that Western Australia was given a decreased 7.1 percent amount of the GST revenue (lower than last year's revenue amount of 8.1 percent)[13] while Western Australia is a state that will be heavily relied upon for the nation's economic growth due to its booming resource sector. Western Australia therefore would be heavily dependent on GST revenue to fund major resource sector projects although they would not be supported by GST revenue, thus becoming extensive expenditure for the state.[14]

Barnett believes that if Western Australia handed over 30% of the only GST revenue it receives it could eventually lead to the federal government being able to acquire 100% of the state's GST revenue. The reaction of Colin Barnett towards the health reform has been considered by political writer Peter van Onselen as a preservation of the states' rights.[15]

Controversial Policies

In October 2004, Barnett led a campaign to re-criminalise homosexuality for anyone under the age of 18. This policy was met with fierce criticism from the community and was opposed by all other parliamentary parties, including the Nationals.[16]

In October 2009, Barnett announced a series of new policies relating to drug legislation including a repeal of the Cannabis Control Act 2003.[17] The previous laws were formulated by Geoff Gallop's drug summit, taking input from experts such as academics, police, social workers, lawyers, medical professionals and members of the public.[18] Barnett has stated it is his intention to overturn these laws because of his beliefs and stated that the drug summit members made a mistake introducing them[19] and that cannabis was a "gateway drug".[20] To help with the enforcement of this new policy, Barnett also supported legislation to give police the power to search and seize property without any suspicion or belief that a crime has been committed.[21] A Liberal parliamentarian, Peter Abetz, voiced support for these laws in parliament by drawing reference to the work Adolf Hitler did to bring security to Nazi Germany.[22][23] Barnett stood by Abetz's statements, saying he was making a valid point.[24]

See also

  • Barnett Ministry
  • Next Western Australian state election


  1. ^ Barnett sworn in as WA's 29th Premier, The West Australian, 23 September 2008
  2. ^ Quinn, Russell: WA business happy with cabinet reshuffle, Perth Now, 14 December 2010.
  3. ^ Carpenter, Alan: New western suburbs college opened, Government of Western Australia, 26 October 2001.
  4. ^ Cameron, Eoin: Behind the names on the ballot sheet, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 27 August 2008.
  5. ^ Who's Who in Australia 2007. North Melbourne: Crown Content Pty Ltd. 2007. p. 198. ISBN 1-74095-130-1. 0810-8226. 
  6. ^ Barrass, Tony: Burke and the boom give Barnett a shot, The Australian, 7 August 2008.
  7. ^ O'Donnell, Mick: WA super canal to cost more than $2 billion, The 7.30 Report (ABC), 3 February 2005.
  8. ^ Stanley, Warwick: How Colin Barnett has turned Liberal forturnes round, The Sunday Times, 4 September 2008.
  9. ^ Colin Barnett resigns as Opposition leader, AM (ABC Radio), 28 February 2005.
  10. ^ Barnett to quit politics, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 27 November 2007.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Nationals hand WA election win to the Liberals, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 14 September 2008.
  13. ^ Angry Barnett lashes Rudd over GST cuts, 26 February 2010
  14. ^ O'Brien, Amanda. "COAG ended up like Labor meeting: Colin Barnett", The Australian, 22 April 2010.
  15. ^ van Onselen, Peter. "Barnett's prescription for keeping states' rights intact", The Australian, 21 April 2010.
  16. ^ "Western Australia Liberals Will Recriminalise Homosexuality". Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  17. ^ "Premier Colin Barnett to introduce tougher marijuana legislation | Perth Now". 11 October 2009.,21498,26194663-2761,00.html?from=public_rss. Retrieved 2010-07-11. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ 11 August 2008 10:00PM (11 August 2008). "WA Liberals vow to crack down on cannabis | Perth Now".,21598,24170702-5017009,00.html. Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  20. ^ "PM - WA Liberals want to reintroduce criminal sanctions for marijuana use". Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  21. ^ 12 October 2009 12:00AM (12 October 2009). "Police empowered for West's drug war". The Australian. Retrieved 2010-07-11. 
  22. ^ "Hitler cited over stop and search laws - ABC Local - Australian Broadcasting Corporation". 11 November 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-14. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "The West Australian". Retrieved 2010-06-14. 

External links

Parliament of Western Australia
Preceded by
Bill Hassell
Member of Parliament
for Cottesloe

Party political offices
Preceded by
Richard Court
Leader of the Liberal Party in Western Australia
Succeeded by
Matt Birney
Preceded by
Troy Buswell
Leader of the Liberal Party in Western Australia
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Court
Leader of the Opposition of Western Australia
Succeeded by
Matt Birney
Preceded by
Troy Buswell
Leader of the Opposition of Western Australia
Succeeded by
Eric Ripper
Preceded by
Alan Carpenter
Premier of Western Australia

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