06/08/2008 - 11:35

Willmott steps aside for Barnett

06/08/2008 - 11:35

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Liberal member Deidre Willmott has announced she will step aside as the endorsed candidate for the seat of Cottesloe as new leader Colin Barnet indicated he will revisit plans for a water canal from the Kimberley to Perth.

Willmott steps aside for Barnett

Liberal member Deidre Willmott has announced she will step aside as the endorsed candidate for the seat of Cottesloe as new leader Colin Barnet indicated he will revisit plans for a water canal from the Kimberley to Perth.

At a party room meeting this morning, Mr Barnett was elected unopposed as the Liberal Party's fifth leader since the 2005 election.

Mr Barnett's re-election as the Liberal Party leader has left Ms Willmott seat-less with the party now trying to find the former Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA policy director another seat, after she rejected an offer to run in Nedlands.

Ms Willmott said she wanted to see the Liberals go to the election as a united party.

Ms Willmott had previously agreed to be endorsed as the Liberal candidate for Cottesloe on the expectation that Mr Barnett would retire at the next election.

Mr Barnett said today he would do all he could to help Ms Willmott find another seat.

Mr Barnett has represented Cottesloe for 18 years and held several ministries in the government of Richard Court.

He said if the opposition lost the next election, likely to be called this year, he would talk to his colleagues about his future in the blue-ribbon beachside seat.

Mr Barnett, who is known to be unpopular with some Liberal MPs, said he had not made any demands in accepting the leadership, adding that the party room had agreed to work together "as a united group".

He said he would consult with Liberal MPS over the next 24 hours on the allocation of shadow portfolios.

Meanwhile Mr Barnett has not ruled out plans to build a canal from the Kimberley to Perth, as part of the policies he will take into the next election.

He was widely blamed for the opposition's loss at the 2005 election after making an uncosted pledge to build the canal.

Mr Barnett took responsibility for the gaffe and quit the leadership shortly after the Gallop government was returned with its majority intact.

Mr Barnett said today that since the last election water has become the most important issue for Australia.

"Let me say that at the time of the last election I made a mistake in the way the issue was handled," Mr Barnett told reporters at his first press conference as the reinstated Liberal leader.

"But can I also say that since the last election water has become the most important issue for Australia, indeed many parts of the world.

"WA, unlike other states, has the capacity to develop an integrated water supply system to provide water security for this state for another 100 years."

Asked if that meant the multi-billion-dollar, 3,700km covered canal was back on the Liberal agenda, Mr Barnett said any major project needed to be "a long-term, well thought out, well costed and considered project".

"But we can do this," he said.

"It's time in WA for some genuine big thinking, some big thinking, some forward thinking, because this generation right now is in a unique period of prosperity that we've enjoyed in recent years.

"There is a responsibility on this generation to provide for future generations. This is the time to do it and water is one of the key issues."

Mr Barnett said the canal plans had "probably been too much, too quickly, for people to absorb."

But he indicated they were still firmly on his agenda.

"In WA we happen to have one of the world's greatest water resources, and we should use that for the state," he said.

"In the last 50 years the Pilbara has underpinned our development in the mining and resources industries. In the next 50 years the Kimberley will be just as important."

 





 

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