Christian Porter has explained his dramatic resignation as WA Treasurer and Attorney-General by revealing it was never his desire to become the next State premier.
As the shell-shocked Barnett Government came to terms with the departure of its heir-apparent, Mr Porter said some senior Liberal Party people had jumped to wrong conclusions about him.
"I've got to say to you all that there are a range of expectations of what my career might look like, which were assumptions about the future that I didn't necessarily hold," he told reporters after announcing his stunning decision to Liberal MPs.
He rejected suggestions he was quitting because he thought the Government would lose the next election.
"There's plenty of talent in this party, there's no doubt in my mind," he said. "People grow and adapt, that's one of the strengths of the Government and I see no reason why that won't continue."
The 41-year-old moved to the back bench yesterday, where he will serve as the MP for Bateman until March next year and then hope to contest the Federal seat of Pearce in October, 2013.
Apart from causing a major headache for Premier Colin Barnett, Mr Porter's decision has dismayed some senior Federal Liberals, who said the move was about survival.
A senior Liberal, who has known Mr Porter for decades, said he had decided to flee to Federal politics because he had been "spooked" by the political ramifications for a new leader of a Government with a declining GST share and the global economic uncertainties.
"Christian has been speculating for months how difficult it would be to win the 2017 election as Liberal leader given the state of the Government finances," one said
While Mr Porter's Federal ambitions have not been a secret, many Liberals were worried it would reflect badly on the Barnett Government.
"This is a signal that he is jumping ship either because State politics is beneath him or because he thinks the State Liberals can't win the next election," one Liberal politician said. "Either way it does not augur well for the WA Liberals."
Within hours of Mr Porter's resignation, which he says was a consensus decision between he and the Premier, Mr Barnett was sworn in as Treasurer on a temporary basis.
Mines Minister Norman Moore became the temporary Justice Minister until the appointment of an Attorney-General in coming weeks.
The Premier said he had known of Mr Porter's Federal ambitions for some months, but it became a reality last week.
"I knew when we spoke about it last Wednesday that he was quite clear in his mind," Mr Barnett said. "I tried to persuade him to go one more cycle in State politics. My only disappointment is that Christian hasn't done what I would have liked and that would have been another term in State politics."
Opposition leader Mark McGowan attacked Mr Porter for abandoning the Treasurer's job before his State Budget - handed down last month - had even passed Parliament.
"(This shows) a major disrespect to the Parliamentary process, to the State's finances, to the future of Western Australia," he said. "My view is that the State's finances are more important than any single person's ambition."
Federal Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop welcomed Mr Porter's decision.
"He's a highly talented person and should he be pre-selected (for Pearce) I would expect him to have a bright future in Federal politics," she said.