Liberals cop more flak for Perth by-pass

The Liberal party's decision to not bother fighting for the federal seat of Perth has unsurprisingly drawn criticism from Labor but also from within.

State director Sam Calabrese told members on the weekend the Liberals would instead focus on contesting the by-election for the state seat of Darling Range, vacated by disgraced Labor-turned-independent Barry Urban.

Federal Liberal ministers Julie Bishop and Mathias Corman have backed the decision, writing off Perth as a Labor stronghold.

On Tuesday, federal Labor MP Matt Keogh took aim at the prime minister, saying he was "running away".

"If Malcolm Turnbull was serious about making Western Australia a priority, he and his Liberals would be fielding candidates in the by-election coming up in just a few weeks," Mr Keogh said.

Outspoken former Liberal state premier Colin Barnett said it was "the wrong decision" not to contest Perth and he was "very disappointed".

"How can a major party not contest a capital city and a seat that's been held by the Liberals previously?" he told ABC radio on Monday.

Mr Barnett believes keeping the party's powder dry for next year's federal election is a poor argument.

WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith has also labelled the decision "nonsense", saying the Liberals were giving Labor a free kick.

The Liberals could reclaim Darling Range, which the party held for more than 50 years before Mr Urban won with a 5.8 per cent margin in Labor's historic victory last year.