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Grylls a sell-out: Cowan
Warning: Hendy Cowan. Picture: Lee Griffith/ The West Australian

A founding father of the WA Nationals has accused leader Brendon Grylls of putting the party at risk by selling out on its traditional grassroots values.

Former deputy premier Hendy Cowan, who co-formed the party in 1978 after defecting from the National Country Party, said it was inexcusable for Mr Grylls not to be stronger on endorsed Nationals' commitments to keep more seasonal rail lines open. He said this mirrored reasons the NCP split in 1978.

Grain handler CBH wants to take over Tier 3 freight rail lines from Brookfield Rail and wants $30 million from the State Government to keep the lines open beyond October, when they are scheduled to close despite rural protests. Brookfield says $92 million is needed.

The Government and Nationals want the lines to stay open but have made no financial commitment.

Mr Cowan said Mr Grylls' Royalties for Regions package was a masterpiece and that he faultlessly represented his seat in the Central Wheatbelt.

But his "one blemish" was too serious to ignore.

Mr Cowan said an immediate review of Royalties for Regions spending priorities was needed.

And Mr Grylls should demand the deputy premiership and form a true coalition after the March 9 State election if he won the Pilbara seat and the Liberal Party retained government.

Asked if Mr Grylls had sold out on the Nationals' grassroots, Mr Cowan said: "Of course."

"If we go down that path again, the National Party can't survive," he said. "The very reason the National Country Party split was because the wishes of the grassroots were not listened to and now we've got this again.

"People feel very bad about the fact that there was a policy endorsed by the conference of the National Party and its leader to maintain the seasonal lines, irrespective of where they were, and it's now been reneged."

Mr Cowan said the Nationals' partnership with the Liberal Party, instead of a coalition, meant there was not enough political "bloodshed in Cabinet".

He accepted his brother Bill's decision to run alongside former Nationals leader Max Trenorden as a rural independent for the Upper House's Agricultural Region would be galling for some of his old party's supporters.

But he would vote for his brother and said some traditional supporters were angry that Mr Trenorden was not given an amicable exit strategy.

But Mr Cowan was convinced the Liberals would win the election.

Last night, Mr Grylls said he respected Mr Cowan as a "National Party icon". But he said he had held his line on all party commitments on the rail issue and the Government had satisfied all requests by key industry stakeholders to date.

He was adamant he had never abandoned the party's policies.

Mr Grylls said the Government had made the biggest investment in rail logistics in WA's history.

"I'm not quite sure how Hendy or anyone else can label this a broken election promise," Mr Grylls said.

"We asked the players to tell us what to do and we did exactly what they asked us to do.

"The reason the Tier 3 lines are open today and capable of carrying grain and still have the chance to be proved up for future investment is because I sit at the Cabinet table. .

"I'm not sure how we could have done any more any quicker."

Mr Grylls said he had no urgent desire to become deputy premier. He believed the degree of independence the Nationals held gave them an impact on the Government.