Premier Colin Barnett fears the national royal commission into child sex abuse could destroy lives and various institutions around the country.
In a surprisingly frank personal assessment of the commission announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard last week, Mr Barnett said he held grave concerns about the legacy the massive inquiry might leave.
The federal government expects the terms of reference for the royal commission to be established by the end of the year.
Speaking on ABC Radio National today, Mr Barnett said those terms of reference were crucial.
“My concern would be that this seems to be a very wide brief and not restricted in any sense in time,” Mr Barnett said.
“It will cause a lot of hardship, it will cause a lot of destructive forces on many of the institutions in this country.”
Mr Barnett urged the government to “think very carefully” about the terms of reference and breadth of the inquiry, which he hoped would achieve positive outcomes.
“But I also fear for the negativity that could come out of it,“ he said.
“I think you will see many people's lives destroyed, I think you will see many of Australia's institutions - which may have been at fault - also destroyed, and great divisions in the community.”
WA held its own inquiry into child sex abuse this year, focused on events in the 1970s and 1980s at the St Andrews Hostel in Katanning, run by notorious paedophile brothers Dennis and Neil McKenna.
The inquiry was later expanded to St Christopher's hostel in Northam, Hardie House in South Hedland and St Michael's House in Merredin.
Former Supreme Court justice Peter Blaxell handed down his report on the abuse in September and Mr Barnett apologised to the victims, saying they could apply for up to $45,000 in compensation, an amount beyond Mr Blaxell's recommendations.
The abuse survivors marched on parliament earlier this month, threatening to sue the state government unless the compensation offer was increased - a demand the state government has refused.
Mr Barnett also said today that he was unsure about the prudence of potentially including historic cases in the national inquiry, and the effect it might have on the victims.
“This could be very divisive, and people dealing with issues that may have happened 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago - replayed that time later. I don't know exactly where that will lead us,” Mr Barnett said.
“I would urge ... a restriction on the time of this commission.”
Despite his reservations, Mr Barnett said the state would be co-operating in the inquiry.
“You can't oppose it, because a lot of people suffered and many are looking for the truth to come out and a sense of closure.
“We will co-operate but we will not be participating jointly in it.”