Opinion: farewell to Colin Barnett, a man pivotal to WA’s new-school economy

Colin Barnett.
Colin Barnett.

WESTERN Suburbs Weekly reporter Jon Bassett reflects on the end of the political career of Colin Barnett, including their irregular meetings for the ‘15 minutes with Colin Barnett’ column.

FOR a man pivotal to a new-school economy in WA, Colin Barnett was old school behind his electorate desk without computer, where briefing papers laid out in columns had handwritten notes and instructions.

Council mergers, the shark cull, beach high rise, the Perth Freight Link (PFL) and redeveloping the SAS’s Seaward Village dominated the past seven years of meetings.

Spend too much time asking for Mr Barnett’s opinion about the cost of new pavements in Peppermint Grove, or merger arguments being ping-ponged around by the 356 councils* in his electorate, and his tiredness with the topics was apparent.

Constant bickering over mergers annoyed everyone, but with Peppermint Gove holding out it was always going to fail in this part of the western suburbs.

“What’s this f**king crap?” Mr Barnett said once, slamming down a newspaper’s front page about an over-hopeful challenging candidate before the 2013 election.

Towards the end of the shark cull word came through he was unhappy again.

The subject of the ire was this newspaper’s front page when it went out to sea with anti-shark cull activists in a freezing rubber boat, after, and let’s not shilly-shally here, basically an anti-cull stance in editorials.

When the PFL showed up, the newspaper connected greater Fremantle Port operations with more trucks going north on Curtin Avenue through Cottesloe, but Mr Barnett stuck to his guns despite the solid argument a modern WA economy needed a modern new port instead.

Allies are always good, and he trod the difficult dual-role of local MP and premier to support soldiers and their wives when Federal bureaucrats came up with a cock-eyed, and eventually failed, plan to sell part of Seaward Village.

Despite some nervous moments, being able to tackle the big issues with Mr Barnett will be missed.

It is hoped whoever replaces him realises Cottesloe can be more than an enclave for the comfortable, and be a leading suburb in planning, coastal adaptation and tourism.

* Editor’s note: Cottesloe, Claremont, Mosman Park, Peppermint Grove and Fremantle councils are in the Cottesloe electorate.

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