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'Ruthless' Barnett suggests influencing preselection for Hillarys


Darren Brown

The Colin Barnett who believes good governance should take priority above all else has made a number of controversial ...

The Colin Barnett who believes good governance should take priority above all else has made a number of controversial decisions and executed them in the most ruthless, and sometimes even inhumane, way, writes Darren Brown.

Premier Colin Barnett is a complicated man. 

On one hand, he is an intelligent and thoroughly decent guy. He has an obvious passion for governance and although many of those who know him well would confess that he is more comfortable behind a desk than a microphone, he genuinely values the Office of the Premier with great esteem and works hard to be the statesman he believes is required for the job.

But then there's the imperfect reality of politics which often squeezes him so tightly, something far from statesman-like pops out of the socially awkward savant.

Rob Johnson.

Rob Johnson.

Take, for example the way he manages his human resources.

The Colin Barnett who believes good governance should take priority above all else, has made a number of controversial decisions and has executed them in the most ruthless, and sometimes even inhumane, way. That lack of humanity is indicative of his dogmatic, yet somewhat commendable, personal view that politics should be more about the policy than the person managing it. Ironically, that very same ethos is the strongest argument against Mr Barnett being the right man to lead the Liberal Party.

While he understandably doesn't like being labelled 'arrogant' or branded 'the Emperor', his often heavy-handed approach to the implementation of tough decisions has well and truly given both terms an unfortunate level of credibility. Strangely for such a politically astute mind, the Premier appears to have not yet grasped the fact that the hostile response he sometimes elicits is less to do with the decision and more to do with the way it was implemented.

A case in point is the way Mr Barnett made public his decision to remove former police minister and genuinely nice guy, the Hon Rob Johnson from Cabinet in 2012. 

Without discussing the merit or otherwise of that specific decision, any reasonable person would acknowledge that the process of demoting someone from any position, even in the corporate world, and making that decision known is never going to be easy. Politically speaking, such a decision has to be justified and explained to the public, ideally conceding that the tax-payer has been paying an under-performer for any amount of time. 

Mr Barnett seems fairly adept at managing the latter issue, but where his rigid policy-before-personality ethos fails him is in considering how not only the decision, but the method in which it is executed, will impact the person being sacked. For most of us, it's obvious that even the most sensitive process could leave the individual feeling aggrieved and humiliated. 

For those with both humanitarian and political sensitivities, it isn't hard to see that an angry friend is probably worse than a typical enemy.

So it's difficult to understand how Mr Barnett didn't foresee the then-police minister becoming an angry friend after he chose to make his decision known that Mr Johnson was to be sacked from Cabinet - while he was in a plane en route to a meeting with his Ministerial counterparts from around the country.

How could anyone not feel humiliated and aggrieved when being chased through an airport by journalists bearing the news that the public had been told of your demotion while you were at 30,000 feet?

But in this case, that's not where the consequences of Mr Barnett's lack of sensitivity ends.

Given the circumstances that befell Mr Johnson, many of us would have undoubtedly reacted with overt anger and a passionate desire for revenge. While there's no doubt the Hillary's MP has become far less compliant since his public humiliation, there is also no doubt that his long association with the Liberal Party and Colin Barnett in particular, has given him an enormous amount of information that he has chosen not to use against the Premier or broader Party to date.

Even though that is a fact and a fairly obvious threat to the future of the Barnett Government, this segment of an interview the Premier did with Radio 6PR's Gary Adshead last week proves he still doesn't have the slightest regard for the feelings of his colleague:

Adshead: “Alright, just before we let you go, just finally, Rob Johnson.  I know you said don’t sweat the small stuff this week in relation to the issue of Rob Johnson in the party room, should he be expelled.”

Colin Barnett: “Look, you know, I’m a bit disappointed in some of the things that Rob’s done, but he’s been a Minister in the Richard Court Government and this Government and he’s done some good things as a Minister.  He seems to be a bit grumpy now and a bit disconnected, but, you know, that’s usually the way in politics....I just hope Rob is a bit more of a team player.”

Gary Adshead: “Will pre-selection sort that out?”

Colin Barnett: “...I don’t think Rob’s in a state of mind to take my advice, but some, you know, some people in the Party might listen to me."

For a Premier whose lack of sensitivity humiliated both Kate Lamont, the high profile businesswoman he wanted to be pre-selected for the safe Liberal seat of Churchlands prior to the 2013 election and Sean L'Estrange, the person the Liberal Party chose to prioritise over Mr Barnett's personal recommendation, it's clear that he has yet to learn anything about the value of building good personal relationships.

3 comments so far

  • Two points. First, are you not the person that worked for Barnett and left under certain circumstances that may have you not so happy even though it was self inflicted?- Sour grapes? Second, Barnett was quite astute about promoting Lamont as the one for Churchlands but the branch put in another who was elected in the Lib safe seat and that MP is bloody useless and is simply along for the ride and the fat cheque - a waste of a good opportunity to put someone in that is a go getter.

    Date and time
    June 22, 2014, 1:15PM
    • Sorry but what a biased useless and one sided comment! Do we really need to be subjected to such bland LNP propaganda?? Let the truth be known, Barnett is corrupt, incompetent and extremely arrogant, from his 30 million dollar castle, to the waste of taxpayers money for his employers Woodside et al to the loss of our AAA rating, the massive mountain of debt that will see our grandchildren still trying to pay off, the corrupt way in which a private billionaire is assisted, even has a stadium built to assure more customers?? The worlds highest gas and electricity rates, cuts to education, the health care system and welfare. The Elizabeth quay will be WA's biggest disaster yet. So please let's name a spade a spade and make everyone in WA aware how important it is to get rid of this arrogant, corrupt imbecile.This has without a shadow of a doubt been the worst ever Premier in WA's history. I would love to see a Royal Commission Established by the incoming administration to deal with Colon Barnetts handling of our tax dollars. WA was established initially as a totally corrupt British colonial penal outpost and it hasn't changed very much since then.

      Arthur Insidious
      Date and time
      June 22, 2014, 1:22PM
      • He has stuck by his man Troy though, so he cant be all that bad lol...the bra snapping, chair sniffing, money wasting, drunk driving, irresponsible ex minister for everything who has achieved nothing...a shining light for the Lieberal party. Its no wonder the Emperor stood by him, he could see that Troy is just like him. Just another lying manipulator who is only there for himself.

        The Emperor of Arrogance
        Date and time
        June 22, 2014, 5:06PM

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