28/06/2012 - 09:08

Government needs to lift its game: Barnett

28/06/2012 - 09:08


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Three new ministers have been elevated to state Cabinet and two have been demoted after Premier Colin Barnett took the opportunity, forced on him by Christian Porter's shock decision to step down, to renew his team ahead of next year's election.

As expected, Troy Buswell has resumed his old job of Treasurer and MLC Michael Mischin has been promoted to Attorney General.

Scarborough MLA Liza Harvey will take on the portfolios of Police and Road Safety while Murray-Wellington MLA Murray Cowper has been named as Minister for Training and Workforce Development.

Those promotions follow the demotion from Cabinet of controversial police minister Rob Johnson and education minister Liz Constable, who is due to retire at the next election.

The highly regarded Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore, who is also due to retire at the next election, has retained his position in Cabinet.

Mr Barnett said the decisions were his own and accepted full responsibility for the ministerial changes, citing his main reason as the need for a new face to his cabinet going into the next election.

“I don’t believe we have an easy victory ahead, we are a minority government and need to lift our game going into the next election,” he told a press conference.

He denied any internal party pressures to let Mr Johnson go early.

In other changes announced today, former school teacher Peter Collier will take on the Education portfolio and will retain the Energy and Indigenous Affairs portfolios.

Terry Redman will become Housing minister and continue as Agriculture, Food and Forestry minister.

The reshuffle follows the shock announcement earlier this month that Bateman MLA Christian Porter had decided to step down from his Treasurer and Attorney-General portfolios for a tilt at federal politics.

Mr Barnett said, “I think we lose nothing in terms of Mr Buswell taking Mr Porter's position.

“I have full faith in Mr Buswell, he is hard-working, has a great intellect and an instinctive feel for the economy.”

When asked about Mr Buswell’s public image, Mr Barnett said these issues arose before Mr Buswell was a minister and that he judged people on their job, not their private life.

When asked if Mr Buswell had room to make any more mistakes Mr Barnett said: “He won’t, I will ride him harder than Black Caviar was ridden”.

Deputy Premier Kim Hames will become leader of the house in the legislative assembly.

Three new parliamentary secretaries were also appointed today; Riverton MLA Mike Nahan, Jandakot MLA Joe Francis and Ocean Reef MLA Albert Jacob.

Mr Barnett said the new ministers would be sworn in by the Lieutenant-Governor tomorrow, while other changes would be put in place over the following days.

He thanked Ms Constable and Mr Johnson for their contribution to state politics.

"Liz Constable has played an integral role in this government, and I thank her for her enormous support," Mr Barnett said.

"Dr Constable has presided over a period of significant reform, with the implementation of Independent Public Schools, the move of year 7's to high school and a range of early childhood initiatives.

"As police minister, Rob Johnson has been passionate about supporting frontline police and has significantly improved community safety in this state."

“Mr Johnson was 100 per cent responsible for the allocation of all speed and red light camera revenue going towards road safety”.

The premier said Mr Johnson "would not be pleased" by his demotion to the back bench but it was "time for a change, time to move on".

He denied he was forced to sack the unpopular police minister ahead of the election - saying the press had given Mr Johnson "a hard time" - but admitted there had "been some issues".

"We need to present to the West Australian public a structure of cabinet which is based on (what) we will take to the election and, if we are re-elected, what will be the core of a new Liberal-National government," Mr Barnett said.

The premier also denied a deal had been done with Mr Johnson to appoint him as house speaker.

"Rob would like to be speaker - I don't think there's any secret about that - but there's no agreement or deal (in return for him)," Mr Barnett said.

On Mr Buswell's return - which some political pundits say highlights a lack of depth of talent in the Liberal Party - the premier said there was "room for characters in politics".

"There is no doubt that Troy Buswell has a great intellect, a great capacity for hard work and a great capacity for making decisions that are resolving issues," he said.

"He has had a few issues in his career - those were primarily before he was a minister and in a time of opposition.

"I think Troy, as treasurer, has an instinctive feel for the economy - something that's not very common in politicians."


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