Liberals-Nationals at flashpoint

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Terry Redman and the Premier are at odds.
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Relations between the conservative partners in the Barnett Government have hit a new flashpoint in the wake of the Vasse by-election, with Nationals leader Terry Redman defying calls from Premier Colin Barnett to co-operate more closely to fight the real enemy - the Labor Party.

And in a rare public expression of frustration, Liberal Party State director Ben Morton lashed the Nationals' strategy of running in every seat in country WA as "stupid" and "crazy".

Mr Redman and Mr Barnett claimed moral victories yesterday from a result that saw Libby Mettam withstand a 13 per cent swing to retain Troy Buswell's old seat for the Liberals. The Nationals registered a record 28.5 per cent primary vote in the seat.

Ms Mettam won the seat 53.4 per cent to the Nationals' Peter Gordon 46.6 per cent on a two-party preferred basis, a lead of 1347 votes out of 19,523 counted.

"We came within a whisker of getting the seat," Mr Redman said. "We'd love to have got the seat but we're not disappointed at all with our performance.

"It's a very good outcome."

Mr Barnett said: "I regard this as a very convincing result for the Liberal Party, an absolutely convincing result. I don't think the National Party can celebrate their vote. I believe they thought they could win this seat. They fell well short."

The Premier said the Nationals and Liberals should in future limit competing against one another where it was "not necessary".

"It uses up valuable resources, both people and financial," he said. "The Nationals running in Vasse, which they're entitled to do, cost everyone a lot of time and a lot of money - and the result is the same."

Mr Morton went further, saying: "I think it is stupid. I think it's crazy. I think we've spent money and I think they've wasted money. We've spent money and won, we're delighted. They've spent a lot of money and lost - money they don't have.

"The enemy is Labor, it should be Labor, and I think it's stupid. We won and we won well."

Mr Redman was unapologetic about the strategy, saying the result in Vasse showed no country seat was safe.

Mr Barnett said 37-year-old Ms Mettam was a "refreshing new face in WA politics".

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