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Rob Johnson. Picture: Sharon Smith
The West Australian Rob Johnson. Picture: Sharon Smith

Words like "poisonous" and "self-serving" peppered conversations with Liberal Party insiders in the wake of Rob Johnson's dummy spit.

Given 24 hours and a good night's sleep in a Melbourne hotel room to collect his thoughts, Mr Johnson decided the best course of action would be to dump on a Premier who had assiduously stood by his accident-prone Police Minister - until he didn't.

It was a vintage performance: defiant, strident and indignant, with some play-the-man whacks at his detractors.

He accused the Premier of betraying him, suggested his replacement lacked experience for the job and played the family card while talking about "very personal" public criticism.

The attacks didn't affect him, he insisted, but "I've got to tell you it affects my family, my children". There was also a tongue-lashing for the media, "some newspapers, and perhaps one (TV) channel in particular, that has attacked me constantly, over and over again".

"I think they're not representing the view of the majority of West Australians, they're representing the views of perhaps their editors, or their particular journalists," he said.

The question being asked in Liberal circles now is what the member for Hillarys will do next.

Because it has already endorsed him as the candidate for the next election, the party has painted itself into a corner. Mr Johnson will be 70 at the next poll - and he'll occupy one of the safest Liberal seats in Parliament.

MPs have for months wondered privately whether he would seek to destabilise the party if he was publicly spurned.

"He's entirely self-serving, he doesn't give a rat's arse about the Liberal Party," one elder statesman and former Johnson supporter said yesterday.

"He's not going to retire gracefully and he's going to cause mischief. The question is how much mischief he can cause."

Rumours that Mr Johnson had threatened to quit the Liberals and sit in Hillarys as an independent if he didn't get what he wanted: namely the police minister's post through to the next election and the Speakership after it, have been circulating.

Both the Premier and Mr Johnson denied this week that any deal had been done. But MPs are asking if yesterday's outburst, which overshadowed not one, but two good news announcements for the Government - free entry to kids for the Royal Show and the swearing in of three new ministers - is a sign of things to come.