Barnett: WA grumpy with us

Premier Colin Barnett believes West Australians are grumpy with his Government after a luckless period in which "relatively insignificant" issues have accumulated to cause him political headaches.

And he is annoyed about his "Emperor" tag, saying it was "disrespectful" to the office of the Premier and "belittled" WA on the international stage.

Mr Barnett, who will meet Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in the Pilbara today, made the comments yesterday during what he termed a "warts-and-all assessment" of the state of politics to the 500 Club, the influential business group that supports the Liberal Party.

"I think it's fair to say in the community there is a fair degree of grumpiness at the moment," he said.

"When you're in a second term, issues that might seem to be relatively insignificant add up. They are cumulative.

"We've got grumpy pensioners over pension concessions and entitlements, a number of grumpy people over the price of housing or the cost of living. We've got people grumpy over sharks. We've got people grumpy over MP pay rises, even though they were broadly inflation, but that doesn't seem to matter."

Mr Barnett acknowledged the Liberal brand was "a little diminished. It's not at the high it was a year ago".

He also gave his firmest comments yet on the future leadership of the party, indicating that he had made it crystal clear to his colleagues that every ministerial position - including his own as Premier - should be definitively resolved one year out from the next election, set for March 2017.

The comments mean that if Mr Barnett remains Premier after March 2016, he intends to lead the party to the next election.

The date also presumably looms for his deputy Kim Hames, who has indicated he intends to retire in 2017, to stand down from Cabinet.

Dr Hames told _The West Australian _ last week he loved being Health Minister and had no plans to stand down.

"I've told my colleagues that I will want and I will expect that the Cabinet team will be in place approximately a year out from the election, including the leadership," Mr Barnett said yesterday.

"If there is a matter of succession of leadership, that also will be in place. We will go in fully prepared (for the election)."

Mr Barnett said critics who accused the Government of lacking appetite for reform were "naive and misinformed". He cited slashing the backlog of mining approvals, deregulating trading hours and the $9 billion capital works program in health as evidence.

He said the Government had a strong team.

Labor, which needs a 9 per cent swing or nine seats, faced a "tough ask" to win power in 2017, and Mr Barnett said he was "confident, all going well, we will deliver a third term (victory)".

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said last night that "Mr Barnett's comments show again just how out of touch he really is and that he has one eye on retirement".

Mr Barnett tackled head-on accusations from critics that he was running the State like an emperor. "Our opponents talk about broken promises: they're getting a bit of mileage on that," he said.

"They call me the Emperor. I can laugh, too, at a joke, and I've got a thick skin. But grow up, Western Australia.

"While it doesn't offend me personally, to use the term emperor to the Premier of WA is disrespectful to the position, not the person, and it belittles WA internationally.

"It's time to move on and display the sophistication, poise and confidence this State has."

The West Australian

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