Former Premier Colin Barnett reflects on legacy as he rides into Cottesloe sunset

Colin Barnett leaves his 27-year politics career having changed WA and leaving others divided on the cost of his legacy. Picture: Andrew Ritchie.
Colin Barnett left his 27-year politics career having changed WA and leaving others divided on the cost of his legacy. Picture: Andrew Ritchie
Colin Barnett leaves his 27-year politics career having changed WA and leaving others divided on the cost of his legacy. Picture: Andrew Ritchie. Colin Barnett left his 27-year politics career having changed WA and leaving others divided on the cost of his legacy. Picture: Andrew Ritchie

LIFE after politics appears relatively open-ended, apart from a desire to continue work to establish a wildlife and national park, for Cottesloe MLA and premier of eight years Colin Barnett.

“I’m never going to be a lobbyist, and who knows, I might get involved in something, but I’ve got no definite plans, but probably something in the business world and community charities,” Mr Barnett said.

After 27 years as local member his final day will be Australia Day.

His list of what he has orchestrated for the electorate includes building Shenton College and Swanbourne Primary School, the Servetus Street section of West Coast Highway, underground power and the redevelopment of central Claremont.

“When I became Premier I was determined to get on with decisions, and get on with whatever was needed,” he said.

However, controversy dogged him even on the streets of the blue-ribbon seat, including the 1990s’ furore over development of the Leighton Beach marshalling yards, argument on developing Cottesloe Beach that led to a permitted 6-8 storeys, and council mergers, for which he still sees a chance in the area.

“If all the acrimony was taken out and you asked the people of Cottesloe and Claremont, I think they would say ‘yes’,” he said.

For WA, while he takes pride in the large resource developments such as Wheatstone and Gorgon gas projects, it is the reform of early childhood and kindergarten education, which he said still leads Australia, and creation of the Kimberley marine park, which he holds dear.

“And the changes to Perth, sinking the railway, Yagan Square, Elizabeth Quay and the stadium, they have all transformed Perth into a modern city,” he said.

He spent part of the Christmas break building a rock retaining wall at his Toodyay hobby farm but said he would continue to live in the Cottesloe electorate.

He would like to continue working privately to promote the open plains zoo in the Perth Hills that featured in later part of his government, make the Abrolhos Islands a national park and protect Burrup Peninsula rock art.

Speculation on a pending decision on his successor in the seat was dismissed as the role of his Liberal Party’s pre-selection committee.

“It has to be someone who is here for the long-term, who can rise through the ranks to be premier or a senior minister,” he said.

He will fulfil a long-standing promise to start the Rottnest Channel Swim as a private citizen in February.

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