FORMER premier Colin Barnett has given his first expansive comments on the new Government since his election loss, telling parliament all the “preconditions” exist for another WA Inc.
In his first speech as the backbencher for Cottesloe since losing office, Mr Barnett took umbrage at Labor MP Ben Wyatt’s description of him during the campaign as a “despicable little man”.
“This particular despicable little man is not finished yet,” he said.
During the short speech to the Legislative Assembly Mr Barnett sketched his prominence in WA’s history as an economist, the second longest serving premier behind David Brand and leader or deputy leader of the Liberals at every election since 1993, saying he had been observing the State for a long time.
“We all know what happened in the 1980s. There was in the 1980s an arrangement, a relationship between various prominent people in business at the time and the government of Brian Burke, Peter Dowding and Carmen Lawrence,” he said.
“That period ended up in what came to be known as WA Inc. A premier and a deputy premier went to jail.”
Mr Barnett said the next Labor administration under Geoff Gallop and Alan Carpenter lost four ministers after inquiries by the Corruption and Crime Commission and a fifth resigned over a shares conflict of interest.
“The only point I want to make — and I am not predicting that history will be repeated, indeed I hope that history is not repeated — but from that perspective of over 40 years, the one thing that is very clear to me is that the preconditions for what happened in the 80s and the early part of this century exist today,” he said.
“The preconditions from the 1980s of a particular government, a Labor government, a particular characteristic of the business community of the time, and a typical characteristic of the media of the time are today replicated in Perth, Western Australia.”
Mr Barnett did not elaborate on the characteristics of the current business community and media he was referring to.
“I am simply saying, because no one else will say it and no-one will report it, that the ingredients are there.”
Mr Wyatt described Mr Barnett’s speech as “uncomfortable” and “bizarre, arrogant and out of touch.”
“The former premier after suffering the size of defeat (he has) now sees some kind of vast conspiracy from the entire political, media and business world of WA against him,” he said.
“I’ve watched the former premier come in here time and again embrace the warm shroud of victimhood, usually under the most scurrilous of circumstances.”
Mr Wyatt said Mr Barnett’s speech amounted to a claim that “somehow by mistake I was defeated and WA descends into some kind of corruption hell because the member of Cottesloe is no longer premier”.