Nationals leader Terry Redman has accused Colin Barnett of being "captured" by his "close links" to Chevron after the Premier gave the nod to the oil and gas giant's bid to back out of a commitment to house workers on its $30 billion Wheatstone project in the North West town of Onslow.
Mr Redman, the Regional Development Minister, lashed out yesterday after he was blindsided by Mr Barnett's declaration in Parliament that he supported a request by Chevron to instead house workers onsite at the gas plant, 25km south-west of Onslow.
In comments that represent the biggest and most public rift between the leaders of the Nationals and Liberals since they took government with a power-sharing arrangement in 2008, Mr Redman called the decision a mistake and a terrible outcome for regional development.
Chevron argues workers' safety is at risk if they are asked to drive to and from the plant after 12-hour shifts.
Mr Barnett told Parliament yesterday he supported the request, claiming it would add "two hours" to their working day if they lived in town.
Mr Redman told _The West Australian _ that Chevron knew how far the Wheatstone project was from Onslow when it made the commitment, which was a key part of securing community and regulatory approvals for the project.
"I think the Premier has got it wrong," he said.
"I think he hasn't thought this one through. And I think that he seems to be captured by the resource company in this case.
"I wasn't consulted on this decision. I'm pretty sure I knew the Premier's view . . . he also knew my view.
"As Regional Development Minister, I'm disappointed that the potential economic impact on the community hasn't be given the weight it deserves."
A Chevron spokesman said the company had committed $250 million for social infrastructure, including buying 50 lots and a 9ha superlot from Landcorp to underpin a 220-lot residential estate in Onslow.