Exclusive: Colin Barnett could stay on as Cottesloe MLA if he hands over leadership

Former Premier Colin Barnett.
Former Premier Colin Barnett.

PREMIER Colin Barnett has said he could stay on as Cottesloe’s MP even if he decides to step down as premier at some point during a third term.

“What I’ve said is I’ll step down as Premier – I didn’t say I’d step down as member for Cottesloe,” Mr Barnett told the Western Suburbs Weekly yesterday.

“That’s another consideration.”

Asked to confirm leaving the leadership but staying an MP, he said he could not make any predictions but all he had ever talked about was stepping down as Premier.

This election is Mr Barnett’s third tilt at the State’s top job after a surprise win in 2008, and he has seen five changes of prime minister.

They include Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who all created uncertainty by going to the backbenches after the leadership role.

Mr Barnett denied he could recreate that uncertainty.

“I’m standing for election for Cottesloe. My position as Premier is the one I’m prepared to discuss,” he said.

He still favoured deputy leader Lisa Harvey having about two years as premier or party leader, depending on the election’s outcome, before the 2021 poll.

Asked if he’d like a woman to replace him in Cottesloe, Mr Barnett said any eventual candidate would be a matter for his Liberal party’s selection committee.

“I’m going to be around for a good while yet,” he said.

Success of his proposed 51 per cent sale of Western Power for a mooted $11 billion, potentially providing $3b for any Liberal leader to spend on schools and infrastructure, would not trigger his departure.

“Western Power is a financial necessity, but Western Power is not my burning ambition,” Mr Barnett said.

He said his interest was leading WA through a changing economy with a mature mining industry, and developing agriculture, tourism and science.