UPDATE: 11.30am Christian Porter has walked away from State politics saying he never sought to fuel expectations he would be the State’s next Liberal Premier.
Mr Porter formally announced he would contest preselection for the Federal seat of Pearce, and as a consequence, had immediately resigned his State portfolios of Treasurer and Attorney-General.
“This is a decision that I have been grappling with for some time,” Mr Porter said.
“It’s not a decision where I’ve had the luxury of canvassing a wide variety of views.
“In fact, until the decision was made last weekend the only people I had discussed the issue with were my wife and the Premier.
“Some people ultimately will understand why I’ve made this decision, other people will find it a difficult decision to understand.
“By way of explanation … I’ve made a determination after four years in politics that if you’re going to make a career commitment to politics, and sometimes politics can be quite tough, you’ve got to be absolutely certain that you’re living your own version of your own career and not someone’s expected version of your career.
“I’ve learned a few things about myself over the last four years, the things that I’m good at, the things that I’m not so good at, the things that I’m most passionate about.
“And I’ve come to a view, which I cannot shake now, that I could make a contribution to the advancement of a number of very important issues, issues that I’ve come to feel very strongly about, and issues which I think are absolutely critical to the State of WA and to the entire country.
“And I’ve also formed the view that my greatest chance of making any kind of impact with respect to those issues is in a Federal Parliamentary setting.”
Mr Porter said he was bound by longstanding party rules that prohibited candidates from commenting on the preselection process, rules he intended to respect.
“I have had to resign my portfolios. That is a difficult thing to do. And to say I do that with sadness is an understatement, but that’s the appropriate thing to do in these circumstances.
Widely viewed within and outside the Liberal Party as the natural successor to Premier Colin Barnett, Mr Porter said those assumptions were not ones he necessarily shared.
“There are a range of expectations about what my career might look like, which were assumptions about the future, assumptions I didn’t necessarily hold,” he said.
“And I’ve got to say that they were expectations that, privately with anyone in the media or my own party, I’d never done anything to fuel those expectations.
“I’d never done anything to fuel those expectations publicly or privately and those expectations clearly existed.
“But I think in this game you have to be absolutely honest with yourself.
“If you’re going to commit to politics you’ve got to make sure you’re committing on your terms in the way you think you can make the most meaningful contribution.”
Mr Porter acknowledged his decision, which he explained to the Liberal party room this morning, would not be universally greeted.
“I think that there is a degree of understanding among my party room colleagues about this decsision, and I would expect some degree of support,” he said.
He rejected suggestions he was quitting because he thought the Government could lose the next election.
“One of the reasons this has been so personally difficult is I think this has been a very good Government, it will continue to be a good Government.
“I think its electoral prospects of success are strong.”
Mr Porter acknowledged the decision would not be universally supported by his State colleagues but said he hoped no one “begrudged” him to opportunity to follow his own path.
“Not every person to a man or woman in my own party will perfectly understand this decision,” he said. “I expect there will also be a lot of people who do understand the decision.
“What I would also hope is there is some recognition that I have worked very hard for this Government, worked very hard to produce good outcomes, to produce stable governance.
Mr Porter said Mr Barnett “would have preferred me to stay” but added the Premier had been “unbelievably generous and supportive and he was both those two things throughout this decision.”
“In the end he advised me to trust my instinct and if it was important personally to do I would likely regret not doing it,” Mr Porter said.
“Whilst he might have hoped for a different outcome, he’s been amazing.”
Mr Porter described speculation the pair had come into conflict over an agreement for Mr Barnett to hand over the premiership after the next election was “nonsense”.
Mr Porter said he had grappled with the decision for about four months.
He rejected the suggestion his departure would leave the Government front benches bereft of talent.
“I think one of the hallmarks of this Government is people have been able to adapt and become senior ministers quickly and do the job competently, grow and learn.
“There’s plenty of talent in this party, there’s no doubt in my mind. People grow and adapt, that’s one of the strengths of the Government and I see no reason why that won’t continue.”
Asked if he thought his resignation would increase or lessen the Barnett Government’s chances of winning the election, Mr Porter would not be drawn directly.
“It’s a strong Government with strong electoral prospects. There’s work to be done, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
“No individual is indispensible to the Government or pivotal to the Government’s chances and they’ll do very well I think.”
Federal deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop told ABC radio she assumed Mr Porter would remain in State politics, but she was not surprised by his decision to make a tilt at Canberra.
“I knew he was interested in Federal politics,” she said.
“Indeed he was a very keen student of politics when he was a young lawyer. I knew that he came from a family of people deeply interested in politics – his father Chilla Porter was a stalwart of the Liberal Party.
“He was brought up to believe that going into public office was a higher calling and I think he’s demonstrated that by the work that he’s done at a State level.”
Ms Bishop said being labelled a “rising star was often not the most useful moniker you can attract”.
“People do have expectations,” she said.
“I think the point he’s making is that he wants to contribute in his own way in a field where he believes he can make the greatest contribution.”
Asked if Mr Porter was a potential future Federal Minister she said he was a component State Minister in the Barnett Government.
“He’s a highly talented person and should he be pre-selected I would expect him to have a bright future in Federal politics,” she said.