Premier Colin Barnett has admitted he went too far in his criticism of a school principal who complained about levels of state funding in a letter to parents in May.
The Government has since given John Curtin College of the Arts $2.75 million for refurbishments, prompting the Opposition to call for Mr Barnett to publicly apologise for the rebuke.
Speaking on 6PR radio this morning, Mr Barnett said he had spoken to the school’s principal Mitchell Mackay since the row and regarded him as “a very good principal and a terrific guy”.
Mr Barnett took exception to Mr Mackay writing to parents to complain the college had not received funding for much needed capital works in the May Budget.
In a stinging admonishment on the floor of State Parliament, Mr Barnett said at the time: “I do not believe it is open to a principal to send an item of correspondence on school letterhead, which is clearly inflammatory.
“It is not the standard that this Government accepts, because it is not up to a principal to go out with a politically charged document like that.”
This morning, Mr Barnett conceded: “Maybe it came out a little bit more pronounced than I would have wanted.”
The Premier said he still objected to Mr Mitchell sending a “fairly charged and, sort of, emotional response to parents” and the principal himself had accepted his letter “probably went a bit too far”.
When asked whether he too had gone too far, Mr Barnett said: “Probably, yeah. Fair enough. I’ll cop that.”
Shadow education minister Paul Papalia said Mr Barnett’s concession did not amount to an apology, which he said the Premier should still deliver.
“The Premier’s attack on the principal was public, it was on the record in hansard and it was unwarranted and unjustified, as proven by almost $3 million worth of funding to address the health and safety issues raised at the time,” he said.
“The principal has been completely vindicated.”