Premier Colin Barnett has backflipped on plans to introduce sweeping industrial relations changes, prompting claims he's running scared on the issue.

In December, lawyer Steven Amendola handed down his review into the state's IR system, which consisted of 193 recommendations, including introducing individual workplace contracts.

The review also suggested overhauling the WA Industrial Relations Commission and increasing the number of small businesses exempt from unfair dismissal laws.

Despite then-commerce minister Bill Marmion's previous announcement that the government would implement "a range of recommendations" in the second half of this year, Mr Barnett said those plans had been axed.

But the premier refused to say why.

"We're basically not doing that ... we're just not going down that path," he told reporters.

The Amendola Review, commissioned in June 2009 by then-commerce minister Troy Buswell, blew out from an initial cost of $500,000 to $850,000.

When Mr Barnett was asked why the WA government had spent so much money on a review it would not implement, he replied "good question".

The WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry said Mr Barnett's decision to abandon the reform was a "wasted opportunity", and the state should surrender its industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth.

"In the absence of reform of the State system, this is the only course of action that will save employers in WA from the burden of industrial laws that are bad for business," CCI industrial relations policy manager Macia Kuhne said.

"There are State awards that are more than 30 years old, they are long and complicated and do not meet the needs of modern, small businesses.

"It is frustrating that so much time and taxpayers' money has been spent on an ultimately fruitless exercise."

Opposition IR spokesman Fran Logan said Mr Barnett had seen the political damage suffered by the Howard government due to its IR reforms, and was scared to do the same.

"Under Barnett's leadership, it was never going to be implemented, because he's scared of a blue," Mr Logan told AAP.

Mr Barnett was also a senior minister in the Richard Court government when it brought in controversial IR laws that restricted union access to worksites and compulsory secret union ballots.

"The premier is looking at what's happened in the past and at his own previous period in office," Mr Logan said.

"The Howard government was brought down by bad IR reforms, the Court government was brought down by bad IR reforms and he doesn't want to be in the same boat."

Last week, former federal workplace relations minister Peter Reith criticised Mr Barnett for not tackling industrial relations reform or trying to curb "militant unionism in the construction industry".