Colin Barnett rallies the heritage troops at John Curtin lecture

Colin Barnett at a recent lecture.
Colin Barnett at a recent lecture.

FORMER premier Colin Barnett called for long-term preservation of the heritage Sunset Hospital in Dalkeith when giving the sixth annual Curtin Family Home lecture at the Grove Library in Peppermint Grove last night (November 7).

“Sunset will be preserved and not altered if western suburbs people get involved,” Mr Barnett said, in his first public appearance in his former Cottesloe electorate since retirement last year.

However, other than saying “others have intentions for Sunset”, he would not say who is interested in the site, which he grew up near during the 1950s and 60s.

The National Trust-organised lecture is named after WWII Labor prime minister John Curtin whose 1923 home in Jarrad Street, Cottesloe it is now preserved by the Trust.

Mr Barnett, a Liberal on the other side of politics, said Labor correctly claimed Curtin as a hero after he brought Australian troops back from Europe to fight against Japan.

The change returned Mr Barnett’s father Jim, who was a Rat of Tobruk with the 2/32rd Infantry Battalion before he went on to serve in Borneo and New Guinea.

“Afterwards, Dad’s slouch hat was his gardening hat and his kit bag was his fishing bag. A gaping scare on his shoulder was a constant reminder to a small boy of a bullet at the Battle of El Alamein that went in on one side and was taken out on the other,” Mr Barnett said.

John Curtin’s death in 1945 sparked a by-election, which was the first contested by the newly-formed Liberal Party represented by lawyer Donald Cleland and Labor’s Kim Beazley, the father of WA Governor Kim Beazley.

“Somewhat surprisingly, Cleland did better than expected in the Fremantle end of the electorate and Beazley id better in the western suburbs end,” Mr Barnett said.

Cleland’s wide, Dame Rachel, would stack the Liberal’s local branch and save Mr Barnett from an attempt to remove him from the seat in the mid-1990s.

Mr Barnett said, after advice, he had stopped writing a memoir and his political diaries may go to the State Library.

He said he would take up an adjunct professorship at the University of WA and would like the Perth Children’s Hospital and not the Stadium to be remembered in the future.